Recent political events have driven me to either reject the citizens of my country as a bunch of morons or find it within me to empathize with them in some way, so in the spirit of Kierkegaard's pseudonyms which he used to explore other viewpoints and with a tip of the hat to Schopenhauer the pessimist (whom we'll be reading after K.), I'm driven here to imagine what kind of conservative I might be, were I (politically) a conservative, which I am most profoundly not. So, enter Rightius Maximus, who neither longs for the good old days nor judges everything through a religious or Southern and/or redneck haze:
First of all, ideology is claptrap. Anyone who just looks at a problem and shouts a pre-determined mantra like "small government!" is an idiot. For any problem, describe a proposed solution to me and I'll listen. The problem is that large-scale government solutions tend to necessarily involve a tone-deaf approach to local situations. They bring in middle men (bureaucracy) that don't understand the spirit and intent of the law or program, who inevitably muck it up. A private organization, on the other hand, if well run (and this is key), can be managed to avoid these problems, and though the market is far from perfect in weeding out the inept, it tends to accomplish this on the whole and in the long run, whereas no comparable mechanism exists in the folds of bureaucracy, election of higher officials being a blunt instrument that does not adequately address this problem for a variety of reasons.
Now, being a rightie, that doesn't mean I advocate empty suits like George W. Bush, and I recognize that a lot of the God-talk and flag waving is just a matter of sucking up to the electorate, but that's OK, because the role of an elected government is to provide management so, e.g. the power grid stays on, technology keeps moving forward, the economy keeps humming, our communications keep flowing, criminals are not running around screwing things up, etc. We need efficient civil service, not overlords trying to remake the world a la Plato's Republic, Communism, the Reich, or any other grand scheme. A healthy philosophical skepticism should prevent people from being so sure about their social goals that they want to spray them all over the rest of us.
Pretty much all the great things that have happened to our society that have raised us above the level of cave people have been a matter of technological advance, and the role of government in this should be to give innovators room to do this, which can happen in a variety of ways, but in this particular historical situation, it mostly means staying away. Yes, government grants for basic research are a necessary component here, as industry can be too short sighted to attend to this enough, but in this case government should just be providing the funds, while private organizations set up on scientific merit, not patronage to a political party, do the work.
What about social justice, as in discrimination? That's a matter of social movement, and it can't be forced by government action. Yes, go out and argue about the equality of various groups, but progress is only made as people see with their own eyes that minorities aren't threatening. In many cases, realistically, you just have to wait for old generations with their hardened ways to die off.
What about protests a la the 60s? Largely ineffectual. Go do real things instead of complaining about it. So you think a business is discriminating? Go start a rival business across the street with better products and services that doesn't discriminate and drive 'em out of business!
What about helping those less fortunate? Private charities are in general going to do a much better job than government programs, and family ties are going to do a much better job than either. Be responsible and give freely; look after where your money is going and direct it so it'll work best. Even though with government action we're supposed to have an indirect way of doing this, i.e. voting for people who will provide the oversight to ensure that our tax dollars are well spent, this seldom works in practice. Government should be looking for specific gaps that due to the nature of the marketplace aren't being addressed by private industry, but in general and on the whole should be helping out by, e.g. information gathering re. these needs and providing grants to businesses and individuals who want to address them. For needs like emergency management and the military that private businesses and individuals can't realistically manage, sure, use government as a tool, but the point here is being able to respond to urgent needs, not looking for additional ways for government to "help out."
So, in conclusion, though I the rightie have no love for Republican party chuckleheads, at least they keep horrific damage to the economy in check and so are preferable to the alternative.
Now, I can think of plenty of counters to the above position, like pointing out the recent recession and blaming it on lack of regulation, or countering that it's unrealistic that we can change discriminatory or otherwise deleterious attitudes strictly through competition and working within the system. We could also point out specific successful government programs and try to draw Mr. Maximus into a discussion of, e.g. social security or public schools. Still, I think I've provided a foundation here for a view through which many specific issues can be reinterpreted; he surely has axes to grind about these supposedly successful enterprises and still thinks that the lazy government is in most cases better than the alternative. I wouldn't say he has no hope, but his hope does not lie with government solutions. Ironically, this means he would by no means serve in government or think it worth his time to rail against it overlong: no tea party activist or libertarian web site scrawler is he! He would give government only so much energy as is required to minimize its damage and focus on smaller things over which he could actually exert control: his own duties, career, artistic pursuits, maybe some charity work or the like. So no, I don't think I've just reinvented the Randian asshole here; this is not a character that I agree with, but it's one I could sustain as the protagonist of some novel I will someday write, probably involving Mr. Maximus as an intergalactic cheese salesman with an only recently expired license to kill.