There are a few caveats which I should mention before ending this quick and dirty introduction to my take on conservatism. The first is that while conservatism itself raises some red flags conservatives as people are not an issue. Ron Paul is as close as we have come to having a well known libertarian politician and he was a social conservative (keeping things in perspective). I place more trust in him than I would Gary Johnson. Freedom and limited government can be viewed either as a means or an end and it is far more constructive to view it as a means. Strategically this plays into the hands of conservatives. Civil society, for example, will do just as well if not better in a minarchist state than it would in a crony state which subsidizes private organizations.
Practically of course this has not happened. The state is more interested in subsidizing its own organs for supposed progress and welfare of the masses. This leads to the second caveat which is that in the United States today progressives are winning. They have been winning since at least the new deal. Given the current state of affairs I would have no problem seeing even radical, dogmatic neoconservatives in the places of power if it meant weakening the secular, materialist socialists.
Simply put, I would like to see conservative people (any variety is good but some are better than others) in power but no conservative policies. Social engineering is just as much a disease of conservatives as it is of progressives. When conservatism becomes politicized we become just as bad as those people on the left. We ought to have a neutral regime with limited powers. I am not naive enough to believe that this ideal will ever be reached but the night watchmen state really is what we ought to seek.
And, if conservatism is really as great as some claim than this type of regime will only weaken the progressives while doing next to no harm to conservatives. Such a regime would cause the Department of Education to wither away while the Salvation Army would likely not be hurt.
I apologize for this very quick and dirty introduction but now it is out of the way. I was certainly painting in broad strokes but I think it was necessary to quickly explain the benefits of classical liberalism and he problem with politicized conservatism.