Permit me to offer a definition of "conservative." It is a person who expects and loudly insists that the federal government confine its activities to those allowed to it by the US Constitution. By extension, he expects all levels of government to stay within their legal bounds.
On a gut level, I define "conservative" as one who has read and understands the importance of "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers and "Conscience of a Conservative" by Barry Goldwater. Extra credit for knowing the works of Allen Drury.