Donald Trump

Forget Keith Olbermann (Who?): Rand Paul and Justin Amash Push Back on Trump's Worst Instincts

"Libertarians emerging as Trump resistance," says Politico. Sounds about right.


Donald Trump is going to become president next January (sorry, Hamilton Electors), and he'll be working with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress (Congreff?).

From a libertarian perspective, there are some grounds for cautious optimism, but there are more reasons to be deeply worried by all this. Trump sounded distinctly authoritarian notes during the campaign and he's no fan of free speech, free trade, and anything remotely resembling open borders. On foreign policy, he's bounced back and forth from straightforward denunciations of 21st century interventions into the Middle East and North Africa as terrible and bragging that he'd "bomb the shit" out of ISIS. Which Trump will show up on January 20? Who knows? His tax plan would make national debt massively bigger and he's hardly a fiscal hawk, either. His daughter is already making calls to push a taxpayer-funded maternity-leave program and his infrastructure plans, vague as they are, have boondoggle written all over them.

So who is going to stand up to him? The Dems are a sorry lot as a group, whether they backed Bernie or were with Hillary. They put up no serious resistance to foreign-policy disasters under George W. Bush and Barack Obama and few of them gave a shit about civil liberties. Too busy pushing for higher national minimum wages during a crap economy and lobbying for student-loan relief for the relatively small number of in-debt brats of a middle-class too dumb or insecure to send their kids to relatively inexpensive state schools, I guess. And the Republicans? Come on! Beta-dogs such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are already cowed by The Donald and puckered lower lip. How many sad sacks in Congress were like Utah's Jason Chaffetz who cried "Never Trump!" for like 15 minutes before tweeting on October 26, "I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him." Most Republicans, bless their pointed little heads, just want to roll with a winner. They like being good little boys and, less often, girls. They'll go along with much of what Trump wants, especially if when it comes to Muslim bashing (and bombing), baiting immigrants, and taking it to those rapist Mexicans who stopped coming here around 2007 because their own country is a better place for them given what America has become. Lord knows that the last time the Party of Lincoln ran the White House and Congress, things went off the rails like a crazy train, at least when it comes to the size, scope, and spending of the federal government. Each of those things grew exponentially and here we are, with nothing to show for that binge other than a debt hangover the size of Mt. Rushmore.

With that as a backdrop, here's some good news, via Politico: "Libertarians emerging as Trump resistance." Katie Glueck points specifically to Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Justin Amash in her piece, among other elected officials, but gives props to the larger "liberty movement" as well. That's groups such as Reason, Cato, the Campaign for Liberty (which grew out of Ron Paul's presidential aspirations), and more. One of the reasons why such groups are in a good place is because they (we!) put principles before politics. The GOP doesn't exist to do anything particular as much as it exists to fill seats in Congress and elsewhere. Libertarians, who disagree even on who should be considered libertarian, agree that politics and policy is too important to be left to the folks elected to Congress and the White House.

Consider Amash first. He never endorsed Trump and he's not about to put up with demagoguery[*]:

When Trump started bleating about slapping 35 percent tariffs on goods produced by companies who outsourced jobs, Amash responded, "This would be a 35% tax on all Americans—a tax that especially hurts low-income families. Maybe the slogan should be #MakeAmericaVenezuela."

Here's a blast from Rand Paul about Trump's flirtation with naming former U.N. Amb. John Bolton to a big job at the State Department:

"My efforts to insert myself into the public debate are not to oppose Donald Trump, they're to support what Donald Trump said in the campaign," Paul said, speaking at a time when Bolton was under more serious consideration to lead the State Department (though Paul has reiterated his opposition to Bolton in any role since then). "Regime change made us less safe, and the Iraq War allowed for chaos. … I agree on those things Trump said. I would just hate for, at the very beginning, that those things he professed on the campaign trail to be diminished or besmirched by having someone in charge of the State Department who doesn't agree with Donald Trump."

Paul endorsed Trump and voted for him. But like Amash, Paul is drawing lines in the sand about what he will or won't support. In an interview earlier this week, Paul told me that he could never support diplomats or appointees who had failed to learn the lessons of the Iraq War, the Libyan intervention, and what's unfolding in Syria now. The key insight, he said, was that regime change almost always leads to "something worse than what we had." He also stressed that he will refuse to vote for any budget plan that never achieves balance—which the current Republican budget "blueprint" fails to do pretty specatacularly.

This is what real resistance looks like: Fighting members of your own "team" when they stray from the principles they claim to support and on which they were elected. I don't agree with Amash and Paul on everything (maybe not even most things), but I know that I'm happy as hell to see these guys brawling not with a bunch of loser Democrats over phony issues but with their own kind over Very. Important. Issues. And especially basic principles about the role and limits of government.

That will take us a whole lot closer to limited government than the sort of "resistance" that Keith Olbermann is putting up in short video clips at, arguably the last step before the gutter for a guy who bounced from ESPN to MSNBC to Current to…what next?

[*]: *Edited to remove misstatement that Amash had endorsed Trump.*

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