…and bring Gary Johnson to Rapid City Wednesday!
I don’t think there’s a conspiracy to push voters to vote No on all ten South Dakota ballot measures. But if there is, the South Dakota Libertarian Party is part of it!
In an interview with KELO Radio’s Greg Belfrage Friday, South Dakota Libertarian Party chairman Jon Boon McNutt said “personally” he doesn’t want to tell people how to vote but that “as a Libertarian, we pretty much will say, vote no all the way down on them.” Chairman McNutt singled out Amendment S, the redundant Nicholas/Glodt crime victims bill of rights, as “a little vague” and “wordy”. Asked specifically about Amendment V, the open nonpartisan primary proposal, McNutt ambivalated: “I don’t know if I’m for that, because I don’t think it helps third parties. I don’t know if it hurts third parties, either.”
I have faith that McNutt’s “No on everything” comes from fealty to the Libertarian principle of minimal lawmaking rather than the intellectual laziness certain Republicans encourage. I’ll challenge his assessment of S: the problem is not vagueness but clear overbroadness, which its sponsor, GOP consultant Jason Glodt, can only defend with vague appeals to judicial intervention. We’re close on V: I don’t think it hurts third parties, but I will stick by my math contending that an open, nonpartisan, top-two primary may increase the chances that an independent, Libertarian, or other third-party candidate may win the general election.
I will also contend that V need not trigger the anti-lawmaking urge of the Libertarians. As I responded to an anti-regulatory neighbor, Amendment V doesn’t create more government to regulate something that isn’t regulated now. Amendment V simply changes how government runs primary elections, something that the government already has to run. Arguably, Amendment V reduces government meddling in private affairs: instead of running separate primaries for each party and favoring a few private parties with automatic access to the general election ballot, V says parties can nominate candidates as they see fit, but they will all compete on an equal footing in a nonpartisan primary for two spots on the general election ballot. V is Libertarian in that it means government makes fewer decisions.
McNutt said he is happy to take advantage of frustration with both parties to build the Libertarian Party. He said, “On the surface level, I don’t mind the Libertarian Party being the island of misfit Republicans or island of angry Democrats.”* To emphasize potential cross-party appeal beyond momentary anti-Trump/anti-Clinton angst, McNutt challenged Belfrage’s characterization of the Libertarian Party as “extremely conservative”:
We are government conservatives, fiscally conservative, but socially liberal, socially tolerant, accepting people, so there’s not one overall broad term that can describe the Libertarian Party [Jon Boon McNutt, interview with Greg Belfrage, KELO Radio, 2016.10.21].
The split between Libertarians and contemporary conservatives may best be seen in the South Dakota Libertarian Party’s stance on immigration and bigotry. While Trump-conservative voters fill the Aberdeen Eagles club for anti-Muslim hate fests, McNutt and his Libertarians have condemned those meetings and called for peace and respect for immigrants. Libertarians have plenty of classical conservative thinking in them, but they also have plenty of classical liberal (as in liberty for everyone) thinking.
That mix can be seen in the issues pushed by McNutt’s Presidential candidate, Gary Johnson. The Libertarian Presidential nominee supports cutting the budget and taxes and eliminating the federal Department of Education, but he also says government is “ill-equipped to answer” the “intensely personal question” of abortion (hey! I gave that answer yesterday going door-to-door! the lady asking was not impressed) and devolving authority to legalize marijuana entirely to the states. On air, McNutt acknowledged that Johnson is polling low (the latest Real Clear Politics four-way polling average puts Johnson at 6.5% nationwide). But poll numbers don’t deter the Libertarian chair. Go ahead and vote for Clinton, said McNutt, “if you support the oligarchy.” Go ahead and vote for Trump, said McNutt, if you want a “reality-show bigot” as our President. The Johnson/Weld ticket, said McNutt, is a “really great option” with two two-term governors with a “good history in politics.”
McNutt’s ticket is working South Dakota harder than Clinton or Trump. Bill Weld visited Spearfish and Rapid City last week, and Gary Johnson himself is rallying in Rapid City on Wednesday. Johnson/Weld supporters, are holding socials to recruit volunteers and hand out Johnson/Weld loot at the Pizza Ranch in Aberdeen and at Cubby’s in Brookings on Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m.
The Johnson/Weld ticket is the only chance South Dakotans have to vote Libertarian this year. But if McNutt keeps hitting the radio, and if his party can use these Johnson events to expand their brand, we’ll see more Libertarians on the ballot in 2018.
*Update 12:00 CDT: I have expanded the quote in this paragraph to show the full sentence McNutt used on air Friday.