You can’t be a constitutional conservative only when it suits you.  

We are now seeing a battle in the Republican Party between the populist wing and traditional limited government conservatism. So-called conservatives want to regulate businesses to prevent them from requiring a COVID vaccine as a condition of employment, but my beliefs do not allow me to waive the constitution because I disagree with a private business.

It is human nature to want to wield power, and a crisis adds to that impulse. As an emergency unfolds, many will insist that “somebody should do something” and governments, eager to pass laws and hire people with weapons to enforce them, step in. It’s up to pro-liberty conservatives to stand on principle and to stand up to government mandates.

To be clear, I don’t think businesses should require a COVID vaccine as a condition of employment. I also believe that government is too big, and mandates are not a conservative tool in forcing the behavior of its citizens. Since when did the Republican Party become the party of big government and social engineering using the power of government to force behavior? Once we, as a people, open the door to increased government power to put mandates on businesses, expect a Pandora’s Box of liberal mandates to hit in the future that touch on faith, the right to keep and bear arms, and the expanding list of genders the left has invented.

William F. Buckley once referred to the growth of government as “creeping socialism.” We are seeing a version today with both Republicans and Democrats calling on the government to mandate behavior they find acceptable. Even if I agree with a mandate, a mandate both limits freedom and sets a precedent for even more mandates, taxes, spending and expansion of government into the daily lives of average Americans who just want to be left alone.

Since March 2020, we’ve seen governors from California to New York declare that they have sweeping powers to ban activities, close businesses and strongarm sick people into nursing homes. These “leaders” must have temporarily forgotten the principle that the proper powers of government are limited, even (and especially) during a crisis.

On the federal level, power is granted and specifically limited by the Constitution. On the state and local level, power is limited by state constitutions and, frankly, common sense.  

For example, as governor last year, I refused to issue lockdowns or mask mandates. I did not shut down any business, nor did I close one church. I follow a principle: I am a limited government conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan. The government may have the brute force to declare a business “essential,” yet that is not a proper role of any government, federal or state.

Now, as a new COVID variant is spreading, some state legislatures and governors are trying to mandate that, in order to work in a private business, a person must provide proof of vaccination. This is a bad idea because no government has that power over the private decisions of small businesses.

In South Dakota, I used my valid power as governor to prevent the state from issuing Vax Passports. That means you won’t see a government-run vaccine passport system in South Dakota — under my watch, South Dakota will have a limited government.

Our policy allows individuals to make decisions and limits the decisions forced upon them by the government. Freedom cuts both ways, and the government doesn’t have the power to weigh in on either side of this. I’m going to make certain that we respect the limits of the state government. Small businesses won’t be forced to cede management decisions to a bureaucrat or politician.

I don’t believe that a business should require proof of vaccination to work there, and as a former business owner, I would not have imposed such a requirement on my employees. But my personal beliefs are irrelevant when it comes to the role of the state in what a business may or may not choose to do.  Government should not exercise its power to force a small business to agree with me.

Conservatives see that liberals are trying to use this crisis to expand the size and scope of government at every level. On everything from mandates to spending, the left wants more government. Conservatives must stand on principle and oppose big government in all its forms.

The coronavirus pandemic has tested how far politicians will go to use heavy-handed tactics to get their way. One reason why South Dakota is considered a great place to live, work, raise a family and do business is because we have a tradition of governance that respects individual rights and because we respect the limits of government power. These principles will allow us to overcome COVID, and to build the country we all want to live in.

(7) comments

Mr. T

Governor, does this mean that the South Dakota Republican Party will soon do away with the rest of South Dakota’s vaccine mandates?

Surely you must know current state law requires South Dakota children entering school to present school authorities with certification from a physician that their child is immunized against poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, rubeola (measles), rubella, mumps, tetanus, meningitis and varicella (chickenpox).

How are these mandates any different from a coronavirus vaccine mandate?

It’s very difficult to view you and your party’s inconsistent position as anything but a sacrifice of South Dakotans’ lives for partisan political reasons.




Governor, you talk out of both sides of your mouth depending what suites you. I hope your political career ends soon. You dont deserve a second term or any other office.


You obtuse Reagan Republicans live in an antiquated past when it comes to almost everything. What a joke that you won't even acknowledge what is now understood to be true about gender. Are all of your constituents Boomers and right-wing "Christians" who believe some guy wearing a robe made Adam and Eve? LOL Evolution would like to leave you all behind, but instead, your stupidity is going to lead to our collective demise. Yay!


Of the 10 states with the most covid cases per capita in recent days, nine voted Republican in last year’s presidential race and nine are led by Republican governors.

At our expense, Covid Queen Kristi is well positioned to be the next Presidential candidate of the Party of Death.

I’m so proud


The governor wants everyone to oppose big government but she wants things her way always.

Gimmy A. Breake

Conservative Principles and Government Restraint;

whatever that means with Kristi it ain’t

nothin’ but what can serve her belief

that she should be our next Liar in Chief,

And if more have to die to realize that day,

well tough luck for them who get in her way.

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