(This was my response to an article by kos in DailyKos, Fascination with the history of the conservative movement. It got buried amid the usual flurry of responses, and deserves an entry of its own here, slightly edited.)
The problem with analyzing the" success" of the conservatives is that it revolves around political power, not political accomplishments. You can say that Goldwater conservatives "slowly took over the Republican party" except that Goldwater would be aghast at what he wrought. Reagan/Bush/Bush expanded government, went obscenely into debt, put sexual predators in charge of making the law for sexual predators, refuses to answer subpoenas, is racist, sexist, homophobic and owes a lot to the batshit insanity of the religious right.
Goldwater failed his party by not providing leadership. The party failed Goldwater's ideals.
Perlstein's book Before The Storm may be the next incarnation of The Prince in terms of the mechanics of winning elections, but it's a far cry from a book on how to govern well.
The reason "that liberal or popular historians don't seem to be very interested in conservative history and ideology" is because conservative history has been a disaster and conservative ideology has no moral compass.