Conservative Theory and Conservative Humbug
What about the small government claim? It's true that modern American conservatism wants to shrink some government functions - any such that attempt to protect the citizenry from the depredations of the rich. Of course they are also quick to attempt to regulate the most fundamental aspects of private life - anti abortion fanaticism is one of the key motors of the current conservative dominance.
Conservatism has two key kinds of supporters: far less numerous but far more important are the ultra wealthy, who can afford to give millions, tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions to elect their preferred candidates; and more numerous, the many driven by racism, anti-abortion, anti-immigration, and other resentments of modern life. The former see the latter only as pawns, convenient for their purposes.
Governments, a side effect of agriculture, arose in human history for the purpose of protecting the privileges of the elites. The key privilege has always been property, originally land, but now so expansively defined that Disney owns a billion dollar property that was created in a book by a long dead author. Naturally the less elite found it irksome to spend their lives enriching the lives of the more comfortable, so most societies created a third class, or sometimes more, to serve as convenient targets for the resentments of the less privileged. Whether the chosen fall guys were slaves, Irish, untouchables, or something else, they all served the same purpose.
Lyndon Johnson once said "tell the lowest white man that he's better than the highest black man, and he'll let you pick his pockets." That, and its obvious generalizations, is the real intellectual core of conservatism.