Conservatism used to be about resisting change, or at least slowing down change, 'conserving' the status quo. It used to be about fiscal responsibility, running the country like a business, balancing the budget. And it was pro-business, with the idea that if businesses did well, everyone would benefit.
Liberalism was more about people, protecting their rights, increasing opportunity, and using the government to provide the greatest good for the biggest number of people--i.e. education, helping people own their own homes, helping with access to health care, legislating against discrimination, etc.
The Republicans and Democrats used to represent conservatism and liberalism respectively, but in the last few decades they have really both gone off course. Ronald Reagan issued in a new age of conservative thought, the idea that government is evil, that it -can't- work, so the less government we have the better. And that tax cuts are more important than a balanced budget. The Democrats have sold out to the same corporate special interests that used to drive the Republicans, and in fact GW Bush's presidency is seen as such a failure that the Democrats are raising more funds than the Republicans, which is a very unusual situation.
The real problem is that money has gotten so important in politics. In the 70s a presidential campaign cost 20-25 million dollars. Today a candidate spends that in a couple of weeks. The primary season is way too long--especially this year--and candidates have to travel and buy TV time in every market. So fundraising becomes the most important thing, and candidates have to sell out to get their name out. The candidate who raises the most funds is acclaimed by the media as the presumptive winner, and all the other candidates get short shrift.
The media are not doing their job. They are biased towards candidates who are already leading. This is partly because they like to show the election as a horse-race rather than a battle of competing ideology, and also partly because they like the candidate with the most money because where does he spend that money? On TV ads!
The upshot of this is that by the time you even hear of a candidate, he has already sold out for money.
I am independent because neither of the major parties really represents me. I'm trying to make this message not about my own political ideas. But as I see it, this election represents a choice between 'the same' and 'change'.
None of the Republican candidates this time around were allowed to criticize Bush, to admit that he made mistakes, or to say how they might do things differently. This means that none of them can really offer us anything more than four more years of the same. If you like how things are going, it doesn't matter WHICH Republican gets the nomination--the agenda is the same. (Ron Paul was the exception, but you could see how both the GOP and the media hated him.)
Obama and Hillary, neither of them are my ideal candidate. They are both sellouts, more corrupt than I think a president should be (though not NEARLY as corrupt as the other party).
But as I see it, the question is: Which party is closest to your own ideas? Which party can do a better job? And to me that's no contest. I am really unhappy with Bush and though I think McCain is more respectable, I don't think I'd be any happier with him. I don't think he will be allowed to implement his own ideas or agenda, I think he will push the same old party agenda, as he has in his campaign.