Kristi Noem really screwed the pooch this time.
In a video posted to her Instagram page on August 25, the South Dakota governor explained why she doesn’t endorse the “COVID-19 Vaccine Freedom of Conscience Act.” This piece of legislation put forward by South Dakota state representatives Jon Hansen and Scott Odenbach is intended to block businesses in the midwestern state from being able to require employees to get vaccinated.
In her video, Noem explained, “I don’t have the authority as governor to tell them what to do.” That includes telling businesses they must mandate vaccines for employers and vice versa, i.e. telling businesses they can’t mandate vaccines to employees.
Noem, who has refused to mandate vaccines for state or government workers and who refused to institute any lockdown in her state as the China virus cases peaked in 2020, still feels that compelling private businesses on COVID protocol is a “slippery slope” that might result in future government dictates that Republicans don’t like.
Though, as other governors in the U.S. like Governor DeSantis (R-FL) are blocking businesses from demanding their employees get vaccinated or find other employment, some conservatives feel as though Noem’s approach in giving businesses the freedom to mandate is soft. Representative Odenbach pushed back against Noem’s criticism, saying his bill “isn’t more big government, this is exactly the opposite.” He added, “what you see so often are large corporations working hand in hand, with the government and especially the federal government. They become a de facto arm of the government.”
In Noem’s video response she insisted that telling businesses to not enforce vaccine requirements for workers is beyond her constitutional authority, and warned that if she changed her mind it would set dangerous precedent. “When leaders overstep their authority, that is how we break this country, and if government starts acting unconstitutionally, even if it’s doing something that we like, that is a dangerous path,” she claimed.
Noem added, “it is not conservative to grow government and to tell businesses what to do and how to treat their employees.” If nothing else, it’s nice to see a pol take a modest, deferential view of her power.
Though again, many of Noem’s conservative critics claim that this hands off approach leaves American citizens’ rights vulnerable to be exploited, and therefore barring private business vaccine mandates is about prioritizing those rights. After a July 31 tweet in which the governor argued the same point, conservative commentators like William Chamberlain and Steve Deace provided their counterpoints.
Chamberlain tweeted, You’re the Governor of your state. If you don’t intend to protect your citizens, resign, and let someone else do the job.” Deace tweeted, “Noem has now failed two major tests — protecting femininity from Rainbow Jihad and protecting workers from corporate fascism.” And conservative firebrand Mike Cernovich blasted Noem, saying, “You’re a coward and failure. Grifters who are awestruck by z-list ‘talent’ will tell you otherwise. You are a joke.”
Still, judging by the recent Instagram video, Noem is sticking to her guns despite the spirited conservative backlash. You decide: Is the DeSantis or the Noem approach the way to handle private vaccine mandates?