I’d worry a lot less about trying to distill the “essence of conservatism” or whatever than just trying to identify the problems of the day, and figuring out practical solutions to them. Obviously, I’ve packed a lot into the assumptions of what we define as a problem, how we decide what makes a good solution, and so on. This isn’t an argument that we don’t need political philosophy, but rather an argument about the primary methodology for developing, or perhaps more properly, specifying, one in our current situation. It strikes me that the most effective way for conservatives to apply a conservative worldview and develop the next manifestation of conservative ideology right now is, ironically, not to be self-consciously ideological, but rather to attempt to be pragmatic., i.e., empirical and practical.
Which is to say: conservatism isn't really an ideology or even a philosophy. It's a philosophical view of practical life - and its paradoxical position is that those who actually live that life are better judges of what to do than those who think about it in the abstract.
Which is to say I will not give up thinking philosophically about these things; but that Jim is right that real conservatives will largely ignore me.