Justin Amash: A study in vanity

So why is he running? The immediate explanation is probably that he concluded he couldn’t win his race for re-election to Congress. He’s younger than Barr or Johnson, and if he wants a future as a pundit, a third-party presidential bid serves him better than a humiliating defeat in his House race. Amash made headlines last year by quitting the GOP and throwing his support behind the Democrats’ impeachment effort. He won strange new respect from liberals and neoconservatives—not exactly the fanbase a principled libertarian craves, you might think. But since his moment of NeverTrump glory, he’s been a nonentity. A presidential bid, however futile, will raise his profile. It guarantees him a few more minutes of fame, and because he can be trusted to bash Trump more than Biden, the pro-Biden media (“Tara who?”) will give him a megaphone. A small one, but that’s as good as he can get, so he’ll take it…

But it turned out that Amash’s self-conscious separation from Ron Paul and the Tea Party was the beginning of a pattern. Again and again, Amash has made a point of pretending to be better than everybody else, especially those who work alongside him. He was too good for the Ron Paul movement, too good for the Tea Party, and ultimately too good for the Republican Party and the House Freedom Caucus. A humbler man might have asked himself why every other Republican — including equally or even more liberty-minded ones, such as Kentucky’s Thomas Massie — was opposed to impeachment. Your friends and allies might be wrong, but they’re presumably your friends and allies in the first place because you think they’re generally on the right side. And if you think they’re wrong in a particular instance, friendship and loyalty would argue that you should try all the harder to convince them to change, and not simply break off the relationship. But Amash isn’t about persuasion, he’s about preening his own feathers.