Justin Amash

Amash's Likely Primary Win Will Vindicate Libertarian Politics

Justin Amash's expected victory next week will prove his conservative district likes the congressman's libertarian brand just fine.


Justin Amash
Reason TV

If current polling is any indication, liberty-friendly Rep. Justin Amash will coast to victory over his establishment-supported challenger in the Michigan Republican primary next week. An Amash victory would be a win for libertarian candidates everywhere, and a clear sign that independent and conservative voters prefer the limited government message to the pro-war, pro-corporate platitudes of Republican Party leadership.

Amash was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, riding into office on a wave of Tea Party opposition to President Obama's policies. He quickly earned a reputation as a libertarian Constitutionalist, voting against renewal of the PATRIOT Act, NSA surveillance, foreign military entanglements, and countless spending bills. His refusal to compromise his principles and fall in line behind GOP leadership won him plaudits from libertarians, though it soon drew the ire of House Speaker John Boehner, who had him kicked off the House Budget Committee in the wake of the 2012 election.

If that was supposed to be some sort of warning, it didn't work. Amash remained as committed to his principles as before. In July 2013, he succeeded in bringing forward a vote on a House bill to defund the NSA. The vote failed by a mere 12 votes, despite opposition from the White House and leaders of both parties (regular Americans, perhaps unsurprisingly, oppose the NSA's surveillance tactics). Consequently, GOP hawks became serious about taking out Amash once and for all.

Three months after the NSA vote, West Michigan businessman Brian Ellis announced his primary challenge to Amash's re-election efforts. Ellis drew support from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, hawkish Republican leaders like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), and PACs and lobbying groups.

Pundits have described the race as a particularly ugly one, though that ugliness has been entirely one-sided. Ellis repeatedly distorted Amash's voting record in an attempt to portray him as out-of-step with his conservative district. Republican establishment king Karl Rove came to bat for Ellis on national TV, describing Amash as a liberal Republican and voting ally of Minority Leader Nancy Pellosi. Ellis himself signed off on the preposterous statement that Amash's attempts to defund the NSA and close Guantanamo made him "al-Qaida's best friend in Congress."

It's the sort of blatant propagandistic demagoguing of libertarian national security sentiments that might have worked in the heyday of the Bush and Rove years. But with Amash up by 20 points and less than a week left to go in the campaign, it seems voters are well aware that Amash represents a different brand of Republicanism: one they like better.

Slate's Dave Weigel spent some time in Amash's district and reported that the people there "agree with libertarians about the NSA." He wrote:

It was impossible (in a short time, anyway) to find voters in Ionia who disagreed with Amash's NSA bill, or at least the way they'd heard it described.

That's not really surprising: Voters are increasingly inclined toward libertarian views on a host of issues.

Amash told Reason that his party has to pay attention to his successes and adapt. He said that Republicans elected in recent years understand that better than their older colleagues and "are increasingly likely to fight to protect civil liberties, to oppose corporate welfare, and to allow things to be handled at the state level," all policy positions that are popular with conservatives, independents, and younger voters.

Amash has also done more than virtually any other Congressman to explain his ideology and political positions to the masses. He hs won praise for routinely and personally justifying his votes on social media.

"A lot of representatives give thier accounts to their staff and let their staff Tweet," he said. "I think it's a lot better and more authentic when it comes directly from the member of Congress."

This tactic defends Amash from unfair attacks, since people can decide for themselves what they think about him by simply browsing his Tweets and Facebook posts. It also spreads libertarianism; there is always at least one member of the House giving a libertarian distillation of a current bill.

Ellis, meanwhile, has remained steadfastly committed to un-libertarian programs like Common Core and the Export-Import Bank. His support for the latter, in particular, was a prime factor in the Michigan Chamber of Commerce's decision to back Ellis. For organizations that want to protect their subsidies, the difference between the candidates is clear.

But it's also clear for West Michigan voters. Prospective libertarian candidates should take note: Their ideas are catching on, and they don't have to sell their souls to the Republican establishment to get get in office—or to stay there.

NEXT: Lerner Called Conservatives 'Crazies,' 'Assholes'; Obama to GOP: 'Stop Hating'; Gaza Gets Uglier: P.M. Links

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  1. It speaks well of his district’s voters.

  2. that might have worked in the heyday of the Bush and Rove years

    Err what?

    McCain won the primaries in 2008. What the fuck are you even talking about?

    1. PS When was the last time Rove was right about something?

    2. Was it because of those particular tactics? I got the impression that it was a very weak field.

    3. Yeah, how did that McCain thing work out? Oh yeah, I love my new healthcare. Not.

      McCain was wrong in 2008 and Romney was wrong in 2012. Hopefully the GOP doesn’t go three for three.

      1. JEB BOOOOOSH!!!!1111!!!

  3. I’d prefer something other than his “internal poll” though. Every incumbent, including Cantor, has an internal poll with a big lead. Definitely pulling for him.

    Interested to see what happens with Mike Rogers’ replacement, too.

    1. Rogers represents my district. I’ve given up voting in nat’l elections, so I’ll be interested to see who my neighbors elect, too.

      I’ll be voting on the MI ballot initiatives, the township board positions, and the school board.

      1. I’ve given up voting in nat’l elections decided to be a poseur.

        All non-voters are stupid poseurs.

        1. …and Cytofascist takes the bait, as expected.

          Soooo predictable, Cytofascist.

          1. Stringing together words like ‘fascist’ and ‘bait’ is the way of child. How stupid of you.

            1. My question is why would someone interested enough in politics to frequent and comment on a Libertarian website not vote?

              1. There are a number of reasons why I consider voting a waste of time:

                1. In the vast majority of elections, a single vote is statistically worthless. In a small handful of elections, it rises to being statistically insignificant. The chance that, in my life, a single vote that I had the chance to cast will determine the outcome of an election of any consequence is basically zero.

                2. There is no integrity in the voting process. Fraud is commonplace, and attempts at reform have proven futile. A voter has little to no way to verify that his own vote was actually counted and that his vote was not undermined by fraudulent votes.

                3. Even if the votes were being counted honestly, the elections process is byzantine and perverse. By gerrymandering the districts, politicians have outsized influence over the outcomes. In first-past-the-post voting, if no candidate gets a majority, then the candidate with the most votes wins, despite having been opposed by a majority of the population.

                4. The two major parties have repeatedly shut out third-party candidates with arcane and often hastily imposed rules that they rarely are held to themselves. Their candidates are typically poor representatives for libertarians, yet we must choose one of them in most elections, and even in elections with third-party candidates you are stuck in “lesser of evils” scenarios because of how the system works.

              2. 5. This is the weakest point in some regards, but assuming that my vote was honestly counted and had an effect, that places a responsibility on me for the outcome. There have been many politicians who have seemed ideal or at least palatable on the campaign trail only to turn out as mediocre or even horrible once in office. In the US at least, recalling or impeaching politicians is extremely rare. Voting is thus by proxy an exercise of power over my fellows (and indeed myself), and that fills me with some trepidation about the act.

                Now, as to the apparent paradox of being politically interested without engaging in the voting process, even in undemocratic societies the consent of the governed plays a role. It is to my mind a better use of my time to better understand the issues and be better able to argue about them and convince others than it is for me to participate in the stilted exercise of governance known as voting.

                Nevertheless, I will vote if I find a sufficient reason for doing so: a particularly important matter is being put to vote in a referendum, or a particularly good candidate is up for election. I will typically abstain from voting in referenda or races I don’t know much about, although that isn’t always possible mathematically (even though I cast no vote, the fact of my participation was used as part of the calculus to determine the outcome).

                1. All that is true, but surely commenting on a political site is just as pointless. They’re both mostly expressive actions.

                2. ^^ kbolino, I’ve often made these same arguments to explain why I don’t vote, but rarely if ever with such eloquence. Bravo.

  4. How would an Amash win be a victory for Libertarian candidates? Amash is a Republican.

    Why do you all keep forgetting stuff like that?

    1. Uh…because he’s a libertarian Republican? Duh? Are you really this obtuse/dense?

    2. How about ctrl-fing the article and noticing that he didn’t use a capital L Libertarian a single time?

      1. Who didn’t use a capital L ?

        The writer or Amash ?

    3. He’s a Republican.

      He’ll be elected by Republicans in his district.

      All the libertarians in congress are Republicans and “gay gamer” Jared Polis, who is constantly being held up as an example of this from the other side is a dyed in the wool statist.

      That is why this annoys me.

      Democrats hate libertarians because of what libertarians believe.

      Republicans get annoyed at libertarians because libertarians are slowly taking over their party as more and more Republicans abandon the vestiges of statism that tarnish the party.

      1. ” libertarians are slowly taking over their party as more and more Republicans abandon the vestiges of statism that tarnish the party.”
        How is this a bad thing? Who gives a fuck what the non-statist party is called? Are you some sort of team orange cheer leader?

        If Team Red becomes some flavor of libertarian that is a triumph. That would fuck-over the statists. Call it a win.

        If Team-Blue decides to follow suit, and abandon the progressive bullshit because suddenly they cannot win an election, then guess what – the progressives will be reduced to meeting in Bill Ayers basement and that is really all for the good.

  5. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

    He appears to pass the duck test.

    1. GOOSE!

      *starts running*

  6. Dude makes a lot of sense man, WOw.


  7. It says a lot more about his district than it does about the potential success of libertarian leaning politicians. If Nancy Pelosi wins her primary, it doesn’t validate the idea of the ascendancy of the far left. It means an entrenched and powerful incumbent is well liked, or at least not hated, by the Team Blue folks in her district.

    1. While it does say something about his district, I don’t agree. With the Pelosi analogy. She is not doing anything to upset the party machine.

  8. Good on West Michigan if they keep him in. It’ll be a good blow against authoritarian crony scum.

  9. its awesome,,, Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. http://www.Fox81.com

    1. but what does anon bot do with his 100/day allowance?

  10. How much of Amash’s lead is because he is an incumbent as opposed to his liberty-friendly politics? As much as I would like to give his voters credit, I think that a lot of recent Republican races show that republican voters are as sheep-like as their democrat counterparts.

    1. Well, 20% is pretty significant. I mean, incumbency can’t account for much more than 10%, can it?

      1. It does seem to surpass the “incumbency bump” but then again, as has been pointed out, that is an internal poll so who knows what the real number is.

  11. I am stuck with that MoFo Keith Ellison as my Rep (greater Minneapolis) so I decided to give money to Amash and make him my honorary Rep.

    I am still in the Republican party, but it is guys like Amash and Rand Paul who at least force the conversation to include Libertarian ideas. It ‘s a start.

    1. its better then having clinton love pal Dan Maffei who never replies to anything you write to him instead sends an automated very generic fill in the blank response and signs you up for his propaganda letter to be sent monthly to you. i was amazed at how they played the war on women thing to get his lame ass elected, when he was running against a self made single mom, no bullshit, it was astonishing all because she wanted to split rape into categories of severity based on the brutality of the crime so that a drunk incident wasn’t treated the same as a knife wielding psychopath… yes war on wiminszzzzzz

  12. It’d be great if true. I just hope that we’re not the ones living in an echo chamber at the moment.

    Good luck Justin! Good luck Michigan! Good luck America!

  13. Libertarian?????? LIBERTARIAN??????????? This clown is no Libertarian. He is a radical religious extremist. He is about as Libertarian as Massa’Bama.

    1. what things has he done to create this viewpoint? Dont just hate on the guy cite examples of how he is like Obummer maybe you have information the rest of us are lacking?

    1. Then the site that you’ve linked is stupid. Amash has been a consistent part of the 30-40 Republicans that have joined with Democrats to pass pro-pot legislation in the House this year. (Respecting state laws on marijuana, mostly.)

  14. Um…one libertarian victory (by, let’s remember, a libertarian who’s registered as a Republican) in one House district in a political environment where being seen as part of the “establishment” is toxic doesn’t exactly meet my definition of “vindication”.

  15. Fuckin’ take what you can get, whiners – damn. Amash is one of the few shining libertarian (notice the small l) stars in Congress.

    Are you a libertarian because you believe in something, or because you just like to bitch? If the former, I’d imangine you’d think an Amash win is a fantastic thing because it further the principles you believe in – even if it’s one rep, and even if it’s under the GOP banner. If the latter, then I guess the negativity makes sense.

  16. I follow Amash pretty closely and my mother lives in his district. I can tell you some Western Mich. conservatives like her are kind of freaked out by by the opposition to Amash from Michigan Right to Life. Even though the ads are unfair. Also (to address a point raised above), one of her friends, a former GOP office holder, told Mom that “Amash is a libertarian, he’s not Republican.” I’m working on her!

  17. He talked to a Libertarian supper club here a couple of months ago, and sounded pretty (small-l) libertarian to me. Talked to him for a while afterwards and liked him. The Repub. establishment has been campaigning shrilly against him here, and I think that has backfired on them. Wish I could vote for him, but I live too far East.

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