Sometime today, check out Walter Hudson’s “Fighting Words” podcast. I’m appearing on the show, along with Senator Brandon Petersen, talking about the “Liberty Minnesota” legislative scorecard. I’m speaking in the dissent. Sort of.
We’ll come back to that.
First Things First: Kudos to “Liberty Minnesota” for doing what too many “liberty” groups won’t; at least starting to get its hands dirty in the world of policy and legislative process. Too many “liberty” groups, or at least too many “liberty” people, seem to think that sitting respendently above the fray snarking at activists to “Vote Harder!” and “Hey, how’s changing the party from the inside going for you?” with knowing, clubby chuckles amongst their fellow echo-chamberites is striking a blow for liberty.
So credit to Liberty Minnesota for doing the scorecard.
Now, the criticisms of the scorecard basically broke down as follows:
- The final tabulation showed that Republicans and Democrats were tied at 33%.
- The selected votes were cherry-picked to make Republicans look bad and Democrats look…not as bad as they are.
- The selected votes were naive and betrayed a certain innocence about politics.
Let’s address each of them.
How’s That Again?: Now, to be fair, the first comparison may be more properly leveled at some of “Liberty MN”‘s “liberty” supporters, who promptly took to social media and said “Look! We were right! There really is no difference between Republicans and Democrats!” and, in one particularly absurd factoid, “Tara Mack is worse for liberty than Phyllis Kahn”.
And my observation – and it’s only a personal observation – is that “Liberty MN” is pretty diligent about documenting and castigating Republican shortfalls on liberty issues, while glossing over the DFL’s crimes pretty lightly. Again, it’s a personal observation.
Still, to the best of my knowledge, that’s not the line Liberty MN has taken in re the scorecard.
But even using “Liberty MN’s” numbers exactly as they are, from their scorecard (manually transposed to a spreadsheet), it’s not quite so close (while allowing that there might be some frictional errors from my manual transcription of numbers):
- Entire Legislature: Republicans 39% – Democrats 28%
- Senate: Republicans 48% – Democrats 19%
- House: Republicans 36% – Democrats 33% (Either I made an error with the numbers, or Liberty MN did).
Among leadership, by the way, it’s even more lopsided:
- Senate: Dave Hann 65% – Tom Bakk 19%
- House: Kurt Daudt 50% – Paul Thissen 33%
Hemp In, Raw Milk Out: Still – any scorecard that shows the GOP and the DFL tied for “liberty” scores in the House must show us a problem – mustn’t it?
Take a moment to look at the issues that “Liberty MN” scored:
Click on it to see it full-size.
If you read the list, you notice a couple of things. The issues certainly are “liberty” issues, all right; there’s a grab bag of economic, privacy, First, Second and Fourth Amendment, freedom of choice, tax and spending, environmental and other bills.
And at first glance, I observed that…:
Battle Lines: These are not issues that largely break out on partisan lines. Sunday Liquor Sales and the keeping of License Plate Reader data and many, many others among them break down on different lines; religious/union versus liberty, rural versus urban, religious/union versus free-market, Phyllis Kahn versus serious people – very few of the selected issues broke out by party. Which is fine – as the estimable Walter Hudson says, it’s good to measure politicians on liberty issues qua liberty issues.
But it’s certainly not like 2013-2014, when many liberty issues – gun grabs, MNSure, forced daycare and PCA unionization, advancing business taxes and spending – did largely break out on partisan lines.
Still, I could cut the results some slack – except that the results are being used to try to wedge the GOP. But then that’s not really Liberty MN’s fault. What is their fault is the next two bits:
Take Two Freedoms: Not all “Liberty” issues are included. I’m not just talking about the omission of four of the five gun bills, including the Emergency Powers restriction, which struck me as by far the bigger liberty bill (but was also fairly bipartisan).
But you wills scour the “scorecard” in vain for any mention of:
- The gas tax – a crushing attack on economic freedom, especially for the poor. The GOP voted against it; the DFL supported it.
- E-Cigarette regulation – a pointless regulatory assault on a legal, safe product that many are using to quit smoking – which may be the real reason for the assault.
- Mandatory Pre-Kindergarten – perhaps “liberty” people don’t have kids. Maybe they all home school. I don’t know. But I do know that the move to jam more kids into the public schools is not a position libertarians should support, it is a position the DFL supports, it was DFL Governor
Tina Flint-Smith’s Dayton’s short list of “Top priorities”, and it was at the very least a politically motivated appropriation and at most an expansion of state indoctrination.
- The battle over the Pollution Control Agency’s Citizen Review Board, which is essentially an appointed, unaccountable group of environmental extremists who have veto power over mining – ergo “economic freedom” in Northern Minnesota
- Any mention of efforts to reduce the power and scope of the Met Council. Granted, none of those measures got anywhere in the Legislature – but then, neither did many of the issues that “Liberty MN” did select, like Phyllis Kahn’s bid to lower the voting age to 18.
- The budget. It certainly grew. The GOP participated in the growth – although they controlled one chamber, and there’s a DFL governor, so the GOP’s power was limited. And let’s be honest; it grew less than in either of the two DFL-controlled sessions; it was the third smallest increase in the past forty years. That’s not ideal, but it’s not chicken feed under the circumstances.
Four of those six are, by my reckoning, fairly vital liberty issues. All of them but the budget were pretty much GOP initiatives. Several were flat-out GOP victories. Including any of them would have changed the voting, especially in the House of Representatives.
Not sure if Liberty Minnesota thinks that’d be a feature or a bug, but I do plan on finding out.
I Wanna Make Some History: So because of the bills selected and, arguably, not selected, you have all sorts of unintentional comedy.
- Alice Hausman, a woman who never met a gun she wouldn’t grab or a private-sector dollar she wouldn’t seize, tied with laissez-faire Tea Party firerand Cindy Pugh.
- Rena Moran, who would jam a single-payer healthcare system down your throat with both of her feet, outscoring Tony Cornish.
- Tax hiking, gun grabbing govenrment power pimp Jim Davnie outscoring Kelly Fenton.
And on, and on, and on.
And so because of this selection of largely nonpartisan bills, The scorecard gives, intentionally or not, the impression that the GOP – a party that his lip service, often very imperfectly, to liberty – it’s basically the same as the DFL, Minnesota’s softcore Socialist party, the party that historically pimps for tax hikes, bloated budgets, high regulation, suburbs subsidizing intercity spending, gun control, The party that opposes school choice and economic development in the iron Range, when a cursory reading of history shows what an absurd Lee that is.
Question: do you think if any votes on the six issues above – all of which had at least as much visibility in the legislature this session as some of the bills “Liberty MN” selected – had been considered, any of those absurdities would have persisted?
Clubbing: Oh, yeah – about the title.
A liberty supporter might say “liberties are liberties – we’re not going to pick and choose between them”.
And in the abstract, and for those of “liberty” groups, that may be perfectly fine.
But do I think the gas tax and mandatory pre-kindergarten or the Met Council affect more liberty for more people than, say, Sunday liquor sales? I certainly do, and I’m going to guess most people do too. Do I think a fourth amendment issue like license plate reader data is more important than a lifestyle issue like lowering the drinking age? I do – and I’m going to guess most people who pay attention to the ongoing decay of the fourth amendment do, as well.
Liberty people may not give weight different liberties. I do – and I think the failure to do so is a critical witness of the sort of scorecard.
I think that especially with as large and broad a swathe of votes as Liberty Minnesota used for their scorecard, they might have done well to break the issues up into categories – Personal Freedom, Economic Freedom, Social Freedom, Limiting Government and the like, and giving sub-ratings to legislators by category. That may be counter to Liberty MN’s purposes; I think it serves Liberty in Minnesota’s purposes.
But To Summarize: Again, I applaud Liberty Minnesota for doing this. I hope it’s a step toward mobilizing some actual political clout on behalf of liberty issues in the legislature, and at election time – something the “liberty movement” in Minnesota has largely avoided so far.
Furthering the Discussion: I’m currently looking forward to having Karl Eggers of “Liberty Minnesota” on my program on July 11 to discuss this. And if you’re reading this, Karl, I just telegraphed my punches. Merry early Christmas.