The question was direct and honest: what is the appeal of conservatism / Republicanism? The answer was less so. Honestly, I don't really know.
I don't like the tribal nature of politics today. I consider myself an independent. I don't like being put into a box. I think a lot of others are tired of it, too.
I have libertarian leanings but I'm not opposed to all government programs. I've voted for Democratic candidates, Republican candidates and Libertarian candidates. I've voted in Democratic and Republican primaries. I like to take things as a whole and I understand that things are complicated.
For conservative and Republican voters, I suspect the "big appeal" varies by individual, and then tribal mentality has a lot to do with why they go lock step with everything else. For some, that appeal is small government. For others, the appeal is a strong national defense. For others, the appeal is religious / traditional values.
Similarly with Democrats / liberals, I suspect the big appeal varies and that tribal mentality also applies. It may be economic equality, social freedom, the environment, peace efforts, etc.
One of the most mind-boggling things for me in watching politics is how the Democratic and Republican camps have so many like-minded thinkers in their respective parties. It makes absolutely no sense that a majority of one party would hold similar views on abortion, taxation, what to do about Iran and whether we should have a single-payer health system, while the other would have a majority of people holding opposite views on these same issues. These issues are completely unrelated! Yet is seems most Republicans all have similar views on all of them, while Democrats have opposite views. It's crazy.
Personally, I like seeing people take political positions based on value systems and applying some consistency. I might not always agree with the outcomes, but I can get how the position was arrived at.
For me, I fall into the "things are complicated" camp. Government is a tool. Let's use it where it works. Let's not use it where it doesn't. Let's reform it where we need to. Let's leave people alone where we can.
And let's get over partisan tribal-mentality, think for ourselves, and move forward with the best candidates and ideas regardless of who gets the credit.