Commentary: To save our republic, choose freedom over authoritarianism

Walz’s mistake during COVID, along with several other political figures in this country, is that he assumed a leader must be authoritarian in challenging times, instead of humble, courageous and trusting in individual freedom.

A protest Saturday outside the Minnesota governor's residence.

Imagine hearing a year ago that Minnesota would have a governor who orders the citizens of the state to comply with his unilateral mandates or face 90 days in jail. That idea would have seemed outrageous. But here we are 250 days into Walz’s self-declared emergency powers and the future of our republic is being threatened by a man who believes he can rule over us.

According to Walz’s Executive Orders 20-96 and 20-99, Minnesotans are prohibited from most social gatherings, like having friends over for a backyard campfire or playing darts at the local bar. The state, through unknown law enforcement resources, can fine citizens up to $1,000 or place them in jail. Attorney General Keith Ellison can investigate our misdeeds and recoup the costs of investigation by fining violators up to $25,000. He can even go after people who “threaten” to violate the orders.

When did we give our state’s head politician this kind of power? Our republican form of government doesn’t get eradicated because Walz decides so. COVID, on its own, is already a stress on our life. Why does it mean we also lose our long-held system of government?

According to our Constitution, which still exists last time I checked, laws come from the legislative branch. A governor’s role is signing bills into law or vetoing them; that’s it. Both he and the Legislature are confined by what they can do because we have a Bill of Rights in Minnesota that specifically states “no member of this state shall be disfranchised or deprived of any of the rights or privileges.”

The issue at stake is liberty. I believe liberty is an ideal worth fighting for, even if a pandemic is plaguing the nation. Americans have faced extreme challenges in our past like natural disasters, war, and economic depressions. This pandemic is just another set of challenges, but like the others, can still be managed inside our beautifully designed system of government.

Walz’s mistake during COVID, along with several other political figures in this country, is that he assumed a leader must be authoritarian in challenging times, instead of humble, courageous and trusting in individual freedom. We don’t know what the right course for Minnesota is in combating this virus. Just like we don’t know the right course on all political matters. That’s why we have a system of government that requires multiple branches to go through a process of making law. Hasty decision-making can be wrong; Tim Walz has been wrong many times.

Walz can’t state with certainty that adopting his measures will reduce the impact of the virus. Although he’ll make you believe that. However, we do know that limiting freedom by shutting down businesses will lead to more business closures and more economic issues. Bars, restaurants and gyms are now closed for four weeks. What are we supposed to do about that?

We also know that deteriorating economic conditions and reducing social gatherings leads to an onslaught of mental health problems. And we’re making young adults shoulder the burden. A recently published Harvard study showed a 10-fold increase in young adults who had “thoughts of death or suicide” during the lockdowns back in May. In 2013-14, the rate of suicidal ideation was 3.4% in the same age group. In May of 2020, it shot up to 32.2%. The study also found that 47.3% of young adults showed “at least moderate depressive symptoms in October.” There are real, dangerous consequences to Walz’s prohibition on social gatherings and youth sports.

The organization I lead, Action 4 Liberty, has been fighting against Walz’s clear abuse of power since April when we saw him adopt authoritarian measures instead of trusting in freedom. We feared that if politicians grabbed hold of new powers, they would not relinquish them in the future and we would lose our republic.

Each month, the governor is required to call back the Minnesota Legislature to determine if he can keep his emergency powers. We successfully got the Senate to pass a resolution in June to end his emergency powers and were able to get five Democrats on board in the Minnesota House before the election. After informing voters in several districts across the state, four Democrats who stubbornly rubber stamped Walz’s emergency powers in every vote lost their re-election battles.

But we had a hiccup last week when the Legislature met. Senate Republicans refused to bring forward a vote on the End Walz’s Emergency Powers Resolution. Instead, they held a quick session where they elected a Democrat to preside over the Republican-controlled chamber, then adjourned sine die, protecting Walz’s powers for another month.

As the media continues scaring us about the rising case numbers, we know Walz will continue to resort to his extremist, power-grabbing moves. When in reality, a governor should lead Minnesotans by protecting the laws of the land, while also providing guidance in combating the virus. He can do both. We can determine for ourselves how best to adapt our lives to these important challenges. And so can businesses. Freedom works; tyranny does not.

Minnesotans have a real battle ahead of them. Unfortunately, Republicans and Democrats alike will be the obstacles in the way. The question our Legislature faces when they show up next is one of the most important questions of our lifetime: Will Minnesota continue to be governed by one authoritarian figure, or will we retain the republic and give the voice back to the people, trusting in freedom once and for all?

Action 4 Liberty will be there, fighting this battle for the future of all Minnesotans’ liberties. We refuse to be ruled by Walz and our focus will be on returning Minnesota to a Constitutional Republic once more.

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Jake Duesenberg is the president of Action 4 Liberty.