Michigan Congressman Justin Amash set some liberty-minded hearts aflutter yesterday with a tease of a presidential run. Non-Libertarian Party members, and some LP members, lusted over the thought of an Amash presidential bid since 2017. Matt K. Lewis with The Daily Beast called for Amash to seek the presidency last year noting he was “one of very few politicians today that I could support in good conscience. And the good news is that—because he has already demonstrated his moral courage—he might just be crazy enough to do it!”
The former Republican turned Independent’s dalliance with the White House appeared more theoretical than anything else. Amash told CNN’s Jake Tapper three days after declaring his independence from the GOP he wouldn’t rule anything out but suggested, “[i]t’s not something that’s right on my radar right now, so I couldn’t tell you.”
Yet, Amash appeared serious this time about a run or at least considering one due to the current presidential circumstances. Yesterday’s executive branch gesticulation in President Donald Trump’s “the authority is total” claim may have been too much for the constitutionalist Amash.
Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option. https://t.co/c7P2vOTyOe
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 13, 2020
Amash later indicated he was “looking at it closely,” possibly with a decision this week.
The factors in his decision are likely two-fold: the fate of his own re-election bid in Michigan’s 3rd District and his chances of grabbing the Libertarians Party’s nomination.
Both factors remain hazy.
Political prognosticators, like Larry Sabato and The Cook Political Report, put Amash’s district either ‘Lean Republican’ or ‘Toss-Up.’ Nathan Gonzales categorized the race ‘Tilt Republican.’ Amash enjoys a nice fundraising lead although the Republican primary isn’t until August. It’s anyone’s guess how much cash will flow towards the district for a likely nasty November election campaign between Amash, the Democrat, and the Republican.
The Libertarian Party presidential nomination remains unsettled. Judge Jim Gray announced his own presidential bid on Monday with party darling Larry Sharpe as his running mate. Gray previously supported Lincoln Chafee’s failed bid for the nomination. Adam Kokesh, Vermin Supreme, Jacob Hornberger, and John McAfee are still running although McAfee endorsed Kokesh in a statement to Reason yesterday. Kokesh also endorsed McAfee for vice president. Any Amash Libertarian Party presidential run has to come before next month’s LP National Convention in Austin, although Reason’s Matt Welch noted coronavirus and the current stay at home orders across the nation put everything in flux.
There’s also no guarantee Amash will find the confines of the Libertarian Party friendly. Membership eyes defectors of any stripe with a healthy dose of skepticism. Amash’s pro-life stance may not necessarily go well with certain factions of the party despite his ideological bonafide. The factional chaos of the convention, virtual or physical, may scuttle Amash’s quest for the presidency forcing him to embark on an Independent bid. That might make it an easier pill to swallow for any former Republicans not wanting to cast a ballot for the Libertarian candidate but limit ballot access.
Yet, Amash is possibly the best candidate for the Libertarian Party. His adherence to the Constitution and liberty isn’t in doubt, nor is his belief in limited government. An Amash presidency, if he successfully seeks 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, potentially slows the creeping tendrils of an elected monarchy into the federal government. He is a politician, after all, and may find the lure of absolute power too much to deny. Those who clamor for Amash, or any Libertarian, in the White House, need to remember it’s unwise to let them go forth without some sort of constituent check.
It’s also worth considering whether Amash’s voice, lonely as it may be, is better served in Congress. His bulldog-like adherence to liberty and the Constitution allows him the chance to gum up the works through roll call votes and legislative shoves on issues such as surveillance reform and spending. Although Congress’ role these days appears to be nothing more than elected advisers who throw in the occasional vote to reassure constituents they’re doing their duty to help their state. This bastardization of the legislative process cannot stand if the United States seeks to avoid a dark drop into tyranny.
Amash likely gets my vote in November were he to obtain the Libertarian Party nomination or run as an Independent. (I am not a member of the party itself because I prefer to not be a member of any political party.) It may be a suicide quest but one worth embarking on when the alternatives are so repugnant to those who desire smaller, weaker government.