There are of course honest conservatives. Hard for me to come up with anybody but perhaps Chesteron would qualify? Eisenhower is the only politician and Friedman is the only interesting intellectual who comes to mind. Please feel free to add further examples.
Yet the majority are reactionaries. The UK has been democratic for a long time but other countries like France and Germany haven't and there many conservatives have been opposed to democracy. In my own country there was a straight road from anti-democratic conservatism to fascism.
Since the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions in the eighties conservatives in the West have basically tried to undo social democracy. That is indeed gradual change but backwards into the Gilded Age and not forwards.
About traditions, I think that what you could call customs are very important. You cannot keep a society together merely via rules and laws. But many traditions are xenophobic, homophobic, racist or sexist (sorry but that's just how life was back in the days) and I couldn't care less about their destruction.