To start with, there is a general philosophy which can rightfully be called "conservative" and it revolves around the concept of freedom.. To me, neither conservative nor liberal is linked to freedom- libertarianism, the worship of individual liberty, holds that place. Liberal is also about freedom and liberty- but restricts it, as the original Rerum Novarum would have us do, through governmental means, to the protection of the citizenry (Paragraphs 47-52).
But the root of Conservative is different- to conserve. I suggest instead of conserving freedom, that the proper role of conservative government is to conserve good- encourage that which is good, discourage that which is evil. This moves the example of the ultimate conservative from Ronald Reagan, governor of California in the 1970s, to a different Republican governor in the 1970s- Tom McCall of Oregon, who expanded the state parks program, gave us the bottle bill (a slight tax on beverages to encourage people to recycle), and the bike path program.
The GOP could learn a lot from the example of true CONSERVatives at this point in time- especially on the protection of the family unit. Likewise, the Democrats, if they are going to survive, need to turn away from evil for the sake of profit like abortion; and come back to the Liberal idea of freedom for the sake of good alone.