Michigan Congressman Justin Amash spent three weeks as a potential presidential candidate. He conversed with potential voters, appeared on podcasts and Libertarian Party-friendly outlets, participated in one debate, and won the Libertarian Party of Kentucky’s Putative Delegates poll in the sixth round. Ultimately, Amash passed on seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination and dropped out of the race yesterday.
Amash listed his reasoning on Twitter heaping scorn on traditional media outlets “dominated by voices strongly averse to the political risks posed by a viable third candidate” and the current political polarization climate where blindly marching to a political party’s tune is more important than having one’s voice heard. The Libertarian Congressman noted fundraising issues due to government-halted economies and the general public’s understandable concern about coronavirus, jobs, and their own livelihood as steep cliffs too high, at the moment, for a legitimate alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties.
I waited 24 hours to process Amash’s decision to step out of the presidential race. He was “my candidate” because I believed his messaging could gather in more voters tired of seeing old people telling them how they should live their lives. The idea of a Libertarian Party candidate completely different from the others on stage in policy is intoxicating for those who value freedom and liberty above everything. Especially if that candidate possesses the important trait of electability. Do not take this as a criticism of the remaining LP National presidential candidates, as decent ones remain on the ballot, but an explanation of why Amash is better than the rest. His name generated the most publicity given his role in Congress as someone not beholden to any party. He resonated with younger voters and explained his votes as thoroughly as possible on social media. FreedomWorks’ Jason Pye called Amash “principled to a fault” in Rolling Stone last year, a compliment if there ever was one despite its double-edged nature.
Yet, Amash’s reasoning to eschew a 2020 run contains logic. His late entry into the field ruffled feathers, especially of those who spent months drumming up support (Adam Kokesh and John McAfee began their campaigns in 2018 while most of the rest started early last year). LP presidential candidate Jacob Hornberger quickly labeled Amash an “LP Interloper” looking to put him as just another Republican looking to keep their political career alive while so-called real libertarians toiled in the shadows. Amash, as much as I like him, is a politician so there’s likely a shard of truth to the label. Hornberger was nicer to Amash after his exit commenting he’s glad Amash is staying in the party. Other Amash detractors within the party opined he expected a coronation and found the fight too bruising for his mettle. An unlikely summation, given the Republican primary fights Amash won in Michigan where he destroyed his more establishment opponents.
He always termed his run as an “exploratory committee,” a phrase used by potential candidates not ready to commit full-bore to a project. He possessed an out if too many challenges popped up thus mostly avoiding the unseemly “failed candidate” stamp. It gives him the chance to make more inroads within the fractious Libertarian Party and soothe whatever bruised egos sit beneath the porcupine-quilled exterior of the party. He might end up a coalition candidate in 2024, should he pursue a true run, despite certain policy questions on congressional immigration votes and abortion (Amash is pro-life which turns off some libertarians). Amash’s desire for victory in November, instead of a Quixotic 3%, likely played a factor in the hesitancy of pursuing the LP nomination full bore. Moral victories in Congress are one thing. They don’t exist in elections where there are winners and losers.
A bit of hope glimmered in Amash’s announcement despite its disappointment. His full-throated endorsement of the Libertarian Party itself and the work done by people including Nicholas Sarwark, Jess Mears, Kryssi Wichers, Free the People, and Reason magazine can be a boon for politically homeless individuals looking for a true electoral representation of their beliefs. Not some squishy “No Labels” group whose policy goals barely deviate from those of either major party, save for social issues, and the occasional spending bill. A group that endorsed freedom and limited government, and whose actions and words agree.
Amash can help the Libertarian Party achieve its goals: by winning re-election in Michigan’s 3rd District if he decides to make it his refocus. His presidential exploratory committee may be over, but the real work’s just begun.