Justin Amash

Rep. Justin Amash Attempts to Rally Libertarian Conservatives to Sen. Ted Cruz

An endorsement that emphasizes points of agreement.


Justin Amash
Gage Skidmore / photo on flickr

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) has consistently been in Sen. Rand Paul's corner both in Congress and during the senator's run for president. Now that Paul's out of the running, who does Amash think libertarian conservatives should look to in the race?

Amash answered that question today in an opinion piece at the Independent Journal. He is throwing his support to Sen. Ted Cruz, noting that while he doesn't agree with Cruz (especially in civil liberties and foreign policy), the senator treats limits in government authority more seriously than some other candidates. Here's some of his reasoning:

Take, for instance, Ted's opposition to cronyism and corporate welfare. Unlike his competitors, Ted understands that when we allow the government to pick winners and losers, the American people lose. He isn't afraid to challenge the rampant corruption in Washington, and he isn't afraid to champion economic freedom. Ted won the Iowa caucuses with a principled stand against subsidies, even though pundits warned that no one could win the state without pandering to the ethanol lobby.

On civil liberties and foreign policy, Ted and I don't always agree. But he was one of only ten Republican senators to stand up for our rights by supporting Rand Paul's amendment to kill the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015—also known as CISA—a cyberspying bill that violates the privacy of all Americans. And Ted has been a stalwart defender of our Fifth Amendment right to due process, strongly opposing the government's asserted power to indefinitely detain Americans without charge or trial.

Like me, Ted believes that the United States must be well defended and respected around the globe. He stands with our troops and will not put them in harm's way unless necessary to protect our country. Unlike some other Republican candidates, Ted opposed intervening in Libya and voted against arming Syrian rebels, and he will not use our Armed Forces to engage in nation building.

But will other libertarians come along? The problem may be that Cruz appears to be compromising some of the more libertarian-leaning elements of his platform in order to try to dig into Donald Trump's populist authoritarian appeal. Just in the past 30 days Cruz appears to have backtracked and turned against much-needed federal sentencing reform to reduce mandatory minimums, said Apple needed to comply with the FBI's demand that they provide access to San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook's iPhone, despite the potential privacy repercussions for the rest of us, and just last night declared that he, like Trump, would attempt to deport 12 million illegal aliens, an utterly impossible (and unpopular) goal. And let's not forget he recently called Edward Snowden a "traitor."

Cruz has been clearly making a play for libertarian conservatives like Amash, and Amash does make some good points about where Cruz has historically been good on issues of liberty. But even though Cruz has occasionally been an ally of Paul's in the Senate, Paul himself has declined to endorse him (or anybody else) after dropping out of the race.

Read Amash's full endorsement here. And check out Reason magazine's April issue, hitting the stands now, for Matt Welch's lengthy interview with the congressman. If you're a digital subscriber, you can read it right now, in fact. If you're not, it's only $15 a year ($10 if you're a magazine subscriber) and you can get such insights as this from Amash:

reason: You've been standing athwart attempts to extend the surveillance state and yelling stop. Tell us a little bit what the hell happened at the end of December.

Amash: What happened was they put together a gigantic bill and decided at the last moment to sneak in a surveillance bill. It's a surveillance bill that they've always presented under the guise of being a cybersecurity bill, but if you talk to experts in this field, they say this isn't going to help cybersecurity. It's primarily going to advance government surveillance of Americans. Under the new cyber bill, basically anything you share with a private company can be shared with the government without any liability to the company. So the company could put out a user agreement saying they're not going to share your information and then go share it with the government, and they're totally immune from liability.

There are people who will tell you false things about how it's not anything other than zeros and ones and that kind of data. That's not true. Under the bill, you can share whole email messages with the government. You can share metadata. You can share text messages. The good-faith standard is so low that they can share it as long as they don't know that it contains personally identifiable information—and the only way you'd know is if you actually looked at everything. So as long as they dump things they don't know, they're good to go.

Sneaking it in at the last minute represents everything that's wrong with Washington. It was over 100 pages long in a 2,000-page bill, and most of my colleagues didn't even know it was in there. I worked hard to spread the message. Maybe some significant portion figured it out before they voted, but certainly at the beginning most of them had no clue.

To give you an example of how people are left out of the loop, I asked the chairman of Homeland Security whether the cyber bill was going to be included in the omnibus. And he didn't know.