"Properly understood," he says, in a George F. Willian manner, "conservatism is an attitude of realistic prudence toward politics and society, not a rigid position on any single issue." This is true enough, and a sentiment to which Edmund Burke would give a hearty, "Amen." But his argument falls apart the longer it proceeds. Ronald Reagan, he claims, raised taxes and prospered. Well, yes. He raised taxes. But is they why he prospered?
Dyche's main argument is that, while it is consistent with conservative principles to oppose taxes at the federal level, such anti-tax sentiment is out of place on the state level, on account of federalism. Opposing taxes on the federal level makes sense, he says, since the federal government is bloated. On the state level, however, it's a different story.
It is? Has he visited Frankfort lately? I suggest visiting the Cabinet for Families and Children building. See if there is any other place in the state with a bigger parking lot. State government gets accused of a lot of things, but it is a rare thing for it to be called efficient. It is an even rarer thing to be called efficient by a Republican. And even rarer when it is a "conservative" Republican.
Why, argues Dyche, is a tax on cigarettes a good idea? Because it would have good consequences, that's why. Oh, is that right? Now I've never heard the argument that taxes can be used for good except by ... Democrats. Liberal ones.
Dyche somehow thinks that the Republican opposition to new state taxes is inconsistent with conservatism, and he laments the passing of an earlier, more "diverse" Republican Party:
Why is it that anytime anyone invokes "diversity," it is never in an argument for the consideration of conservative ideas? Dyche wants to make a "conservative" argument for state level taxes, just like he makes "conservative" arguments for casino gambling. Oh, and there are his "conservative" arguments for same-sex marriage too. In fact, there are an amazing number of liberal positions for which Dyche seems to have conservative arguments.
Kentucky formerly featured more philosophical diversity among its Republican politicians. Many will argue that is the very reason why the GOP was so long in the minority. Perhaps aggressively pairing an inflexible anti-tax stance with fundamentalist Christian positions on social issues is the key to a renaissance of Republican political success.
But nothing in the conservative intellectual tradition requires any such linkage. And little, if anything, in Kentucky's quality of life or future prospects proves that the commonwealth is better off because of it.
This stagnant state is in desperate need of a new "third way" alternative to its current partisan political gridlock. Pragmatic Republicans with the courage to reclaim real conservatism from the misguided ideology that has consumed it can point the way.
To say that an absolutist anti-tax position is not a conservative position is not outside the realm of plausibility. Conservatism, as I have argued elsewhere, is not an ideology. But Dyche doesn't even come close to making a case that it is time for tax increases on cigarettes or anything else so long as there is a government that drastically needs trimming. I don't know about Dyche, but my state tax bill is a shocker every year, and I see very little of it that helps me, and whole lot that seems to benefit the able-bodied guy who lives across the street from me who doesn't work and is too lazy to even clean up his yard.
Dyche is an intelligent and articulate writer. He's a gentleman too: last time I lambasted him about something, he wrote me a nice note (Don't you hate when people do that?) But it would be nice if every now and then, instead of spending time offering conservative arguments for liberal positions, he would offer conservative arguments for conservative positions.