Did you know that the North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture gets a say in death penalty procedures in NC? Think about that for a moment. The same person who oversees the regulations concerning what is and is not a proper and healthy weight for a pig also gets a vote on whether or not people sentenced to death around here are killed by lethal injection or by being tickled to death.
Let me try and compare this to something a little more front of mind. Every presidential cycle, much ado is made about what kind of staff and cabinet a potential president will surround themselves with. This year, for instance, we’re all terrified that Mitt Romney might appoint a bunch of folks who served under the Bush administration or, even worse, that Barack Obama will surround himself with exactly the same people he has been surrounding himself with already. The reason so much attention is paid to these potential appointments is that the people who get appointed are the ones who make things happen. Much of the regulatory structure that exists in the country is built and maintained by these people. For instance, take a look at the Patient Affordable Protection From Unicorns act. The phrase “as the Secretary shall determine”, or something similar to it, appears no less than 1,039 times in that stack of government paper. That means that 1,039 times the legislature basically said “this needs to be done, so the secretary will figure out how to do it”. The “Secretary” here being the Secretary of Health and Human Services, an appointed position by the Prez, and the head of the department that will be figuring out how to do all this crap.
Meanwhile, back on the Old North farm, the Council of State is kind of like that with the major difference being that each position on the Council isn’t appointed by the Governor or the state legislature. They’re all elected officials who have to run their own state wide campaigns independent of either the legislature or the governor’s office. And they’re all offices specifically focused in on one aspect of governance here in NC. These are all things that play very well into the hand of an alternative political party attempting to expand it’s message. Of course, I’m talking about the Libertarian Party.
Now, let’s get a few things out of the way before moving on. First off, these are probably the least libertarian-ish offices that get voted on. Everything they do is, thanks to the separation of powers laid out in the state’s constitution, mandated by the legislature. So they don’t exactly get to set their own agendas, which is something that rubs raw on the libertarian sense of individualism and the general screw-you attitude we take to top down authority. Second, the Libertarian Party struggles to run one state-wide campaign in a single election, let alone running ten (or possibly eleven if a national senate seat is up for contention). Mostly, this is due to a lack of funding and organization, but it would also be a problem because the number of people willing to take on a state-wide campaign is severely low. Hell, it’s hard enough just to find people who will run as Libertarians, much less find people who will run all across the state. Third, these aren’t high profile positions and as such aren’t attractive to people who just want to “promote the message”. I mean, really, when’s the last time you saw the NC Commissioner of Insurance in the headlines?
But, strategically speaking, I think these are positions that cannot be ignored. For starters, it would take a lot of pressure off of whoever is running for governor. As it stands, the gubernatorial candidate fielded by the Libertarian Party isn’t just expected to know Libertarian ideas for something like education inside and out, but is also expected to explain those ideas in full detail in a single response to a single question in a single location. But, if there was a Libertarian candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, then that responsibility would fall on them and their campaign, freeing the gubernatorial candidate to focus more on overall agenda statements in their answers. One can promote the line “we need to focus on personal choice in education”, while the other runs around the state explaining exactly how that could happen. The same could be said for more local races, with local candidates being able to focus their campaigns on implementing libertarian ideas to answer issues specific to their districts while the statewide candidates focus on broader policy ideas on an issue by issue basis.
And then there’s the off chance that a Libertarian candidate for one of these offices might actually win. This would put someone who holds the ideal of “minimal government” near and dear to their heart in between the actions of the state legislature and the citizens. Remember, these are the people who actually implement the stuff that Raleigh comes up with. So, sticking with the education theme, if the legislature mandates that every single course taught in public schools be required to have a standardized test, then the Superintendent of Public Instruction would be the one who figures out all the details. That represents a lot of power and a hell of a firewall between the State and the citizens.For comparison’s sake, imagine if it was a Libertarian deciding how to implement those 1,039 things in the national health care law.
It’s a big project to suggest for a political party that is underfunded and underexposed. It’s a little idealistic to even suggest, I know. But it’s my opinion that the North Carolina Libertarian Party should make it a goal to run candidates in all nine of theses races in the next election cycle. I’ll even volunteer myself to run for one if need be.
I may not know how to pull it off, but I at least realize that it needs to happen.