Kristi Noem sets off firestorm after saying workers can say no to vax mandates due to robust job market

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, already on thin ice over her battles with state Republicans over a bill to ban biological males from women’s sports, is once again facing intense heat, this time for refusing to ban vaccine mandates.

On Saturday, she posted a tweet ostensibly designed to cheer up private business employees who’re being forced to choose between either complying with their employer’s vaccine mandate or looking for a new job.

“Workers whose employers are mandating a vaccine for continued employment have the power to say no. Our robust economy and job market gives them the option to find a new employer that values personal choice and responsibility, and doesn’t force mandates on their employees,” the governor wrote.

Look:

The tweet provoked massive backlash from … conservatives.

It sounded to conservatives as if she was tacitly condoning those private businesses that have chosen to force a vaccine mandate on their employees.

Technically, her position is the correct one from a free market perspective. Businesses should be allowed to run their operations as they choose.

However, since the arrival of former President Donald Trump, the contemporary Republican Party has slowly been becoming more populist, and the populist position on this issue is that businesses DON’T have the right to force vaccines on employees.

And so for Noem to choose the free market position over the populist one — and for her to do so while in the middle of a pre-2024 election feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — was perhaps not the wisest move.

After all, DeSantis has taken the populist position and banned vaccine passports and mandates in Florida, making him extremely popular among the base.

Noem meanwhile is having her “Marie Antoinette” moment, according to Newsmax’s Jessie Jane Duff and others.

Look:

The anger is palpable.

All this comes only weeks after Noem throw a shot across the bow at DeSantis over the coronavirus restriction measures he’d briefly employed last year.

“Let’s talk about rewriting history. We’ve got Republican Governors across this country pretending they didn’t shut down their states, that they didn’t close their beaches, that they didn’t mandate masks, that they didn’t issue shelter-in-places,” she said at the latest Conservative Political Action Conference committee last month in Texas.

“Now I’m not picking fights with Republican governors. All I’m saying is that we need leaders with grit. That their first instinct is the right instinct.”

Listen:

Though she didn’t name DeSantis, everybody knew she was talking about him because he’s her number one competitor going into the 2024 race.

It’s true that, unlike Noem, DeSantis did pursue a brief lockdown. It’s also true that he pushed some occupancy restrictions on businesses. Still, his restrictions were relatively minor compared to the far more draconian ones pursued by some other governors. Some say he was being pragmatic.

In the South Dakota governor’s case, some say she’s being “extremely weak.”

Vivek Saxena

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