O.K., I've had enough. There's some crowing going around about the South Dakota Libertarian Party's "huge success" in recruiting candidates at its convention last Saturday. The Libertarians found warm bodies for six of the seven statewide slots filled directly by party convention nomination.
"Libertarians 6, Democrats 3," chortles Bob Mercer, referring to the South Dakota Democratic Party's embarrassing failure to nominate candidates for attorney general, treasurer, and commissioner of school and public lands. My friend and convention-goer Leo Kallis says the SDLP are "rightfully rejoicing." Ken Santema deems his party's achieving a status that Dems could not "somewhat notable."
You know what's notable? The South Dakota Libertarian Party nominated six candidates (the most prominent of whom, according to a check of the official state voter registration database after supper tonight is still a registered Republican and thus, under state law and per the Arndt precedent, cannot be certified as a Libertarian nominee) who didn't have to do anything more to qualify for the ballot that show up at the library and say "Why not?"
And did you notice I said they filled six of seven statewide slots? Let's not forget the one Libertarians left empty that Democrats didn't: lieutenant governor. The SDLP didn't nominate a louie-gov because they failed to get anyone to run for gov. All they needed to do was get one of those eager conventioneers to spend the winter lining up a measly 250 Libertarian signatures. The Democrats and Republicans both had two people manage that minor feat of organization and perspiration and undergo a statewide primary.
But that was too much work for the Libertarians, whose laggardliness will now cost them their status as a recognized party. SDCL 12-1-3 conditions party status on fielding a gubernatorial candidate who wins at least 2.5% of the popular vote in November. Whatever status Libertarians get from nominating more candidates at convention than Dems, on November 4, the SDLP will lose its existential status, because it couldn't put first things first.
But if we're really going to play this numbers game, let's look at all the numbers. The Libertarians have six candidates. Yay. Democrats have 70 (71, if we count Susy Blake for lieutenant governor separately). That's Weiland for Senate, Robinson for House, Wismer for Governor, Schultz for Secretary of State, Pierson for treasurer, Allen for PUC, and 64 candidates for state legislature.
That 64 still stinks, stinks, stinks considering that there are 105 seats in the Legislature, and I will be kicking in chairs and knocking tables at Democratic meetings asking why we can't fill that roster. But that 64 is (literally, mathematically) infinitely better than the big zero Libertarians have vying for Legislature. And I'm not even counting the dozens more Democrats who are running for county commissioner, sheriff, and other local offices, ballot lines from which Libertarians are also absolutely absent.
To top it off, some of our 70 Democratic candidates will win. None of the Libertarians will. Again, that's infinitely better performance by Democrats.
We South Dakota Democrats aren't rejoicing—we have lots of problems, and lots of work to do. But we Dems have far more real candidates than emerged from the SDLP's weekend pizza party. We have a far more real party.
And after Election Day, we'll still have a party, unlike the Libertarians. I'd call that somewhat notable.
p.s.: The SDLP convention also couldn't hold its quorum's interest long enough to finalize a platform. Santema reports the SDLP executive committee will paste something together later. We thus have six candidates on our statewide ballot who are unified by nothing other than a label that will become legally meaningless the day after the election.