Richard Smith nailed it when he told Judy Woodruff and she asked him about how to describe Nelson Rockefeller’s politics with Smith saying that Nelson was a Progressive-Conservative. Which I know sounds like an Oxymoron like jumbo shrimp or hot ice, the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise. (Not to pick on Cleveland)
And I prefer the term Progressive Republican like a Teddy Roosevelt or a Newt Gingrich. Someone who believes in government action to create progress but who puts limits on government to doing only the things that government should be doing. Like helping people in need help themselves.
Nelson or Nellie wasn’t a hardcore Conservative or Classical Conservative, Conservative Libertarian. As Richard Smith said Nelson disagreed with Barry Goldwater who did almost by himself put conservative libertarianism on the map in American politics, on almost all the issues. But he was a Conservative similar to Teddy Roosevelt in the sense that he believed in conserving what worked well in America like our Constitution, diversity, and individualism, and yes our environment. But he also believed in using government to again create progress and make things better.
A true Conservative in a political sense believes in conserving. Which has nothing to do with bigotry, national defense, property rights, to use as examples. But someone who believes conserving what works well and what makes society strong. And yes, Conservatives tend to believe in conserving those things that I just mentioned, but generally conservatism in a political sense is about conserving the U.S. Constitution and our individual rights. Not using government to force people to live in a certain way because those are the religious and moral values of some faction of believers. Nelson Rockefeller was a Conservative in that sense. But he also believed government could play a limited but constructive role in seeing that progress was achieved and that society could be better.