At this point the word “conservative” has lost its meaning. The people it’s applied to have made it synonymous with moneygrubbing bullies who have the moral code of an earwig.
Conservatism does have a dictionary definition, however. It’s obviously about conserving. The only question is what.
Officially, officially, they’re supposed to be just as solid on foundational rights as everybody else. They’re supposed to have the same respect for the Magna Cartas, Bills of Rights, Constitutions, and rule of law in the world as all the other stripes of democratic political thought.
They’re called conservatives because they’re supposed to place a higher value on conserving existing institutions rather than changing them when there’s not enough evidence that would solve problems. They’re not supposed to be against all change. They’re just supposed to be more cautious about fixing things that may not broken.
Anyone who’s aware of what happened with the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, ISIS/Daesh, Lord’s Resistance Army (which started out with some idealism!), and on and on and on, should be able to see why smashing the paradigm, or whichever buzzwords one prefers, does not necessarily end well.
Conservatism in the dictionary definition does have validity.
Granted, most of the systems in our current world are irretrievably broken. Start with the existential threat posed by climate change. On its own, even without the dozen other urgent problems, that requires changes in capitalism, social structure, and almost all industrial methods. (I have ideas on the full scope of that. Of course I do.) Climate change desperately needs a real, well thought out global revolution with funding levels appropriate to a global war. (See e.g. me twelve — 12! — effing years ago.)
Classical conservatism is not the solution now, but even now it is still good — it is always good — to tread carefully and to make sure that creative destruction is actually creative and not just destruction.
Modern “conservatism” is never a solution. It’s nothing but a grab to own women, weaker countries, anybody who doesn’t count. It’s conservative only in the sense that it’s the same thing tyrants have always done.
But it’s vital not to get carried away. It’s vital to remember that actual conservatives could have a point. In future, as the problems pile up and we get more desperate, it may be a very important point.