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The South Carolina LP’s Battle Over James Smith

The South Carolina Libertarian Party is being attacked for the simple reason that they are not nominating Democrat James Smith for governor.

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During the first week of August, James Smiththe Democratic Candidate for Governor of South Carolina, filed to seek the nomination of the state’s Green, Libertarian, and Working Families parties.

South Carolina allows fusion tickets, meaning a candidate for one party could also become the nominee for another party. As a result, they get their name listed on the ballot multiple times. Though on August 3rd, he withdrew from seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination, his relations with the party didn’t end there.

A Firm Vote of Disapproval

The South Carolina Libertarian Party already had planned an executive meeting for that Saturday, August 4th. Despite James Smith withdrawing his filing the day before, South Carolina LP Chairman Stewart Flood, along with the rest of the party’s leadership, decided to hold a vote on his possible nomination to ensure that they would be safe from any possible violations of state law that could shut the party down.

Party leadership was also under the impression, from their conversations with election officials, that Smith could not withdraw from seeking party nominations that late into the process. However, South Carolina election law states that the deadline for gaining ballot access through a political party was March 30th and that any additional nominations by other parties would come on August 15th. Smith already had ballot access via the Democratic Party. So, third-party nominations were still in play up until the August 15th deadline.

When I asked Alex Thornton, Vice Chairwoman of the South Carolina Libertarian Party, if she believed that the state officials lied to party leadership, she replied, “I don’t want to use the word lie, because I think that the state is so bloated and so big that they can’t keep their stories straight.”

South Carolina is a “sore loser” state, meaning that a candidate cannot be on the ballot for a race if any party denies the candidate a nomination, even if he or she receives another party’s nomination.

When the vote concluded, it was clear that the LP did not support James Smith. In fact, all 16 of the present county representatives voted for “None Of The Above”.

A Legal Case Against James Smith

After those events unfolded, the party waited to see the South Carolina Election Commission’s response. The commission met and decided that they would not disqualify Smith from continuing to run.

In regards to holding the vote on Smith’s nomination, Shane Sweeny, Second Vice Chairman of the state’s LP, stated, “The law reads that he should not have been allowed to withdraw, forcing our hand to vote. The election commission assured us that he couldn’t withdraw, contrary to their public statements and actions.”

The most vocal critic against the Smith incident was Matt Wavle, Chairman of the Greenville County Libertarian Party. In a guest opinion piece for Being Libertarian, Wavle laid out the events that unfolded and what he believes should have actually happened.

The Unwavering Critic

Wavle states in his article that the voting county representatives “[claimed] to represent libertarians from all over South Carolina, but who actually only represent at best 16 out of 46 counties and are in number less than one out of every 3,000 of us.” It is important to note that he was not at the meeting to represent his county.

In the article, Wavle also states that “a good person doesn’t ask if something is legal or illegal, they ask rather, is this right or wrong.” He then proceeds to quote the Libertarian pledge, which is, “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.”

In a section of his article titled “Excuses Run Wild”, Wavle writes, “‘But the ‘Sore Loser Law’ is not our fault, it merely exists, and we’re all subject to it.’ While that is true, couldn’t the exact same thing be said of all illegitimate laws, and their unlawful enforcement?” Essentially, Wavle makes the case against obeying the law because of its legal status. This point is common among libertarians.

A Firm Response

Both Vice Chairwoman Thornton and Second Vice Chairman Sweeny stated that they do not support South Carolina’s “Sore Loser” laws. Thornton, as well as County Representative Matt Hicks, insisted that the possible removal of James Smith from the ballot was a “side effect” of the actions taken that day.

Thornton and Sweeny also stated that the primary motive for holding the vote was to ensure that the South Carolina Libertarian Party would be safe from any legal action. They also affirm that they chose “None Of The Above” for a reason. The party did not want a nominee that supports policies that require violence to enforce.

Matt Wavle believes that the South Carolina LP should have recognized James Smith’s right to withdraw. Similarly, they should not have shot down his nomination.

James Smith: A Second Nomination?

However, this could have created an interesting situation. What if the party did indeed support his right to withdraw? A couple of days afterward, James Smith could have sought the nomination again.

The party was lucky enough already to have their executive committee meet after he sought their nomination. If he did seek it again, the party would have to meet the August 15th deadline or risk legal consequences. And given the willingness of the state to hinder third parties, such a reality would not be surprising. Can the party say they did the right thing in this scenario?

The author states that the actions of the party were “a bit like shooting your neighbor’s dog, because the cops shot your dog, and then claiming it was somehow in self-defense since it wouldn’t be fair unless we were all equally oppressed.” Matt Hicks believes that this comparison is inaccurate and that in the terms of shooting a dog, “that dog came into our yard and started biting at people.” James Smith did not have communications with the Libertarian Party beforehand. He also did not attend the party meeting to vouch for himself.

Hicks also states that “the author suggests that we can shake our fists at the sky and that the laws would be changed by people finding out about it that way.” The South Carolina Libertarian Party made statewide news with their choice to not nominate James Smith. It moreover brought attention to the state’s “sore loser” laws. This may have impacted a major party candidate, which would have surely started a discussion of the law’s validity.

Wavle’s Misguided Action

Throughout his article, Wavle links 7 pieces of text, 3 of which are links to personal Facebook pages. Towards the end of the article, he states, “Every individual must ask: are the principles of liberty currently being properly represented by those claiming to represent the ‘party of liberty‘? If liberty and the party of liberty don’t match up, which one ought to change?” He then proceeds to link to a Facebook page representing himself.

Wavle wrote this piece against the South Carolina Libertarian Party, entirely with secondhand knowledge of the events that occurred. In fact, it looks more like an advertisement of Wavle’s organizations masqueraded behind a misguided crusade of principle.

Both Matt Wavle and the leaders of the state Libertarian Party are at fault here. Matt Wavle did not back up his statements with the opinions of the leadership of the SCLP. If he had done so, he would have recognized that election officials misled party leadership. Neither the chair nor vice chair had any ill intent in their actions at the meeting.

The leaders of the SCLP trusted the opinions of election officials and did not read up on fusion ticket laws. Had they done so, they would have realized that James Smith could indeed withdraw. However, by voting “None Of The Above”, the party did take the safe route. In doing so, they ensured that the only party that supports liberty could stay around longer. Though they supported the state temporarily, the South Carolina LP cemented their future to fight for liberty.


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  1. First let me say, the focus of this comment really needs to be on the most significant issue that my friend James Sweet III got completely correct. **The vote was NOT necessary.**

    This vote (not the outcome of the vote, but the vote itself) was my biggest complaint. The rush to make it happen, and the lack of leadership that hides behind excuses and couldn’t be bothered to scout out the truth before presenting it as fact to others…
    In order to understand this article, and the corrections needed to make it factual, honest and a little less biased, let me encourage you to stop right here and read the article that precedes it:
    Read:
    https://beinglibertarian.com/james-smith-and-the-south-carolina-governors-race/
    Then come back to these comments.

    LIE #1: “The South Carolina Libertarian Party is being attacked for the simple reason that they are not nominating Democrat James Smith for governor.”
    TRUTH:
    – Review the part of my article called: What Should Have Been Done, parts 2 and 4
    Namely: stand behind the candidate’s right to withdraw, discourage anyone else from suing and challenge others to leave it alone.
    – as seen later in James Sweet III’s article:
    “Though on August 3rd, he withdrew from seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination, his relations with the party didn’t end there.”
    — Why Not? Why vote on someone who had already withdrawn from the race? Look back to LIE #1, then ask yourself, could WE (the SCLP) have even successfully nominated someone who was NOT running, and who had already withdrawn?
    — **IF** that were the REAL complaint (or reason for ‘attacking the SCLP’ [in truth, just 16 followers that NEED to start thinking for themselves]), then shouldn’t my disapproval or frustration be aimed at a candidate that I preferred (which I don’t/didn’t) for withdrawing and not giving SC Libertarians the chance to actually nominate him as our candidate?
    — By reading MY article, it’s amazingly clear that while my suggestions of how it should have been handled greatly differ from how it was actually handled, at no point do I even insinuate that James Smith would have made a good LP candidate for SC Governor. (I would have loudly objected if anyone had even suggested it because James Smith is a socialist, not a libertarian!)

    MY CLAIM:
    The vote was NOT necessary, as such taking a vote sent the wrong signal, and we become no better than those other parties that we are competing against for members.
    THEIR COUNTERCLAIM:
    1st – The vote WAS necessary, followed by lots of crazy, hairbrained justifications, and mental gymnastics.
    2nd – “We were lied to, or mislead by some still-yet-to-be-named “state election official”.
    Later in the article:
    “When I asked Alex Thornton, Vice Chairwoman of the South Carolina Libertarian Party, if she believed that the state officials lied to party leadership, she replied, “I don’t want to use the word lie, because I think that the state is so bloated and so big that they can’t keep their stories straight.”
    “In regards to holding the vote on Smith’s nomination, Shane Sweeny, Second Vice Chairman of the state’s LP, stated, “The law reads that he should not have been allowed to withdraw, forcing our hand to vote. The election commission assured us that he couldn’t withdraw, contrary to their public statements and actions.”

    LIE #2:
    “Essentially, Wavle makes the case against obeying the law because of its legal status.”
    TRUTH:
    – My article is not in favor of disobeying a necessary law, but rather in simply reaffirming the candidates right to withdraw. Since the vote was NOT necessary, there was no application of state election law that required a vote… BUT even if there were, and even IF that would have done harm to the voices of hundreds of thousands of our fellow SC voters (suppression of freedom of speech), then we’d do much better to abstain, and encourage a withdrawal if we knew that he would not have gotten our nomination, and IF it would have meant being removed from the ballot completely as a Democrat. NONE of these “IFS” were actually in play.

    3RD EXCUSE:
    “Thornton and Sweeny also stated that the primary motive for holding the vote was to ensure that the South Carolina Libertarian Party would be safe from any legal action.” – This is utter nonsense, and shows a complete lack of good leadership, as one simple web search would have shown that the election commission, on their own SCVotes-org website had already, in writing, accepted James Smith’s withdrawal.
    — This is nothing more than running for Political Cover where thinking minds would offer none.

    LIE #4:
    Referring to James Smith, Matt Hicks says: “that dog came into our yard and started biting at people.”
    TRUTH:
    – Really? Where are the ‘bite marks’? False comparisons are just plain silly, and overstatements ruin any credibility of what might otherwise have been considered potentially valid objections.
    – This is much more like a door-to-door salesman knocking on your front door in the middle of the day, and for whatever reason, perhaps because of his seeing a “no solicitation” sign in the window, or perhaps by assuming that no one was home, he decided to leave and walk back down the driveway and back out onto the public sidewalk. Then we rush out of our door out to the edge of our property and shoot a shotgun towards his back, attempting to do the ‘unwelcomed and uninvited trespasser’ some great bodily harm. – Thank God we missed, or we were shooting blanks! But what do our neighbors think about us now? What do our children think about us? How do OUR actions invite new friends or run off good ones?

    LIE #5:
    “the author suggests that we can shake our fists at the sky and that the laws would be changed by people finding out about it that way.”
    TRUTH:
    – Read again the part called: What Should Have Been Done, Parts 1, 4, & 5. Reading is not the strong suit of the individual making this silly false claim.
    – One would have to miss all three of these to come to such a false conclusion based on false assumptions.

    LIE #6:
    “it looks more like an advertisement of Wavle’s organizations…”
    TRUTH:
    – Judging someone’s intent shows bias, judging it falsely and without asking the author’s intent first, shows extreme bias.

    LIE #7:
    “Matt Wavle did not back up his statements with the opinions of the leadership of the SCLP.”
    TRUTH:
    – All of my statements of FACT are backed up by the truth. The biggest truth that was misrepresented at the time of the vote, was that the vote was NOT necessary. This was verified with minimal effort, and the ease at which it was verified makes the case that the SCLP suffers from a serious lack of good leadership.
    – As noted later, the “opinions of the ‘leadership’ of the SCLP” were found to be faulty at best, and without the value added that would have come from just thinking for themselves, and doing some due diligence. Opinions don’t determine facts, verifiable truths do.

    LIE #8:
    “election officials misled party leadership”
    TRUTH:
    – The claim is that they were mislead by some still-yet-to-be-named “state election official”. That claim lacks any written proof and really stretches the imagination as to who would go against what was already in writing from their very own agency.
    – Judging an unknown as if it were fact shows bias, giving a benefit of the doubt in spite of a lack of evidence, shows extreme bias.

    LIE #9:
    “Neither the chair nor [either of the two] vice chair[s] had any ill intent”
    TRUTH:
    – Doing harm to both the Democrat nominee and the Democrat Party of South Carolina, and making it impossible for hundreds of thousands of voters in South Carolina to have their first choice on the ballot was their stated intent. The chair mentioned these goals directly in multiple venues and on record. Depending on who you ask, this would constitute ‘ill intent’.
    – both of the two vice chairs are quoted, admitting to a failure to do due diligence. There’s a fine line between evil and incompetence. To the victims of either it matters not, and those that suffer due to mental laziness of others are only slightly more forgiving than those who know that their ‘leaders’ where easily conned or ‘mislead’. In any case, ‘intent’ ought to be irrelevant to the fact that good leadership was needed and was sorely lacking, which was highlighted in this case. The whole purpose of vice chairs is as a balance, a backup, or a challenging force to provide immediate accountability to the chair. By being ‘yes men’ to the chair, this whole purpose has been destroyed.

    FACT:
    “The leaders of the SCLP trusted the opinions of election officials and did not read up on fusion ticket laws. Had they done so, they would have realized that James Smith could indeed withdraw.”

    LIES #10, 11, & 12:
    “by voting “None Of The Above”, the party did take *(10) the safe route. In doing so, they ensured that the only party that supports liberty *(11) could stay around longer. Though they supported the state temporarily, the South Carolina LP *(12)cemented their future to fight for liberty.”
    TRUTH:
    – There’s a good case to be made that the SCLP took the ‘least safe route’ **IF** their true destination includes growing an effective party to fight for LIBERTY. (People with an up close perspective seriously doubt that this is really the true goal of those who are currently at the top of the SCLP’s leadership pyramid)
    – ‘ensuring that the only party that supports liberty could stay around longer’ would BEST be accomplished by being boldly different than the others by displaying a strict adherence to ALL of the principles of Liberty ALL of the time. Just like our motto says, “ALL of your Liberties, ALL of the time.” Not, “MOST of your Liberties, except when it’s politically expedient to deny them.” As such, this unprincipled behavior, pretending to be principled, while hiding behind many layers of manufactured political cover, only draws in the most naive, and the least principled followers, instead of highly principled leaders.
    – ‘cemented their future’, ‘to fight for liberty’. More like a race towards irrelevancy and a show of political gamesmanship that ought to make any of the standard duopoly-type politician proud. FYI, this is NOT Liberty. The phrase ‘cemented their future’ sounds like the cement slab being installed over either a grave or a septic system.

    CONCLUSION:
    – “are the principles of liberty currently being properly represented by those claiming to represent the “party of liberty”? And if not, and if liberty and the party of liberty don’t match up, which one ought to change? Why the LP of course. Liberty is a constant.
    – Which matters more, principle or party? If you say party, then what have you gained if unprincipled politicians win seats in your party’s name? We already have some of the most unprincipled politicians in power. Instead we need those who will advocate for Liberty (for ALL, not just for the illusion of political power for the SCLP)
    – Would you strongly encourage the enforcement of current oppressive laws on your political enemies? Or, would you apply the timeless principles of liberty, even to those who would not do so for you, in the hopes to show all a better way?

    Reply

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