Conservatism similar to liberalism, it depends on what you mean by it. Unlike with libertarianism where most people who follow politics probably have a pretty good idea what libertarianism actually is. And a big reason for that is how simple it is. Libertarians do not want government in their wallets or personal lives and be left alone unless they are hurting innocent people. But conservatism like Liberalism is a bit more complicated than that.
More people tend to get labeled conservative even if these people who are supposed to be Conservatives disagree with each other on what it means to be a Conservative. For instance Barry Goldwater who I believe is the father of modern classical conservatism, or at least modern conservative libertarianism who was famous for saying get big government out of my wallet and bedroom, he would be a Conservative today.
But someone like Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann who are both called Conservatives or Dennis Prager even, yet even though they probably tend to agree with Senator Goldwater when it comes to economic and foreign policy, but they would sharply disagree when it comes to social issues. Because they meaning Senator Santorum, Representative Bachmann and Mr. Prager believe in serious restrictions when it comes to what people can do with their personal lives.
If your idea of a Conservative is someone whose against big government both as it relates to the economy and as it relates to people’s lives and what people do in their privacy, which is what I believe and I’m a Liberal, than Andrew Sullivan is your Conservative in this debate. But if your idea of a Conservative is someone who believes in a strong national defense, small government as it relates to the economy with low taxes across the board, but traditionalism as far as Americans should live their lives and that government should even enforce that on society, than Santorum and Bachmann would be your Conservatives.
Because someone who also believes in a traditional way of life and when Americans moves away from that it is bad for the country a way of life from let’s say back in the 1950s and that we need legal restrictions on what people can do in their personal lives for the good of the country, to me at least would be a big government Republican or rightist. And Dennis Prager would be your Conservative in this debate if that is your idea of conservative. But he’s not a Conservative in the sense he believes in conserving freedom both economic and personal. As he is in conserving a certain way of life, even if that means in restricting personal freedom.
Again it goes to what you mean by conservative, but conservatism in a political sense is how Barry Goldwater and Ron Reagan even described it as, conserving freedom and allowing for people to live their own lives and making their own decisions. In other words conserving freedom, not that it is the job of government to decide how people should live their own lives. And for people who live differently and have different values, they need to be in prison for that.