This past week, the self-described libertarian Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.) was showered with mainstream media kudos after his non-clownish questioning of Michael Cohen and his vocal opposition to President Donald Trump's emergency declaration along the southern border. The attention culminated with an appearance today on CNN's State of the Union, during which host Jake Tapper asked Amash, "Would you be willing to run for the White House as the Libertarian nominee in 2020?"
Amash replied: "Well, I'd never rule anything out," though "that's not on my radar right now. I think that it is important that we have someone in there who is presenting a vision for America that is different from what these two parties are presenting."
At Students for Liberty's LibertyCon in Washington, D.C., six weeks ago, Amash told Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward that the ideal third-party candidate "wears Air Jordans" (he was wearing Air Jordans at the time). While also declining to state his 2020 intentions, the congressmen then went on the sketch out specifically what an L.P. nominee should look like.
"The ideal candidate has to be very libertarian, because if you're running in the Libertarian Party, you better be a libertarian," he said. "But it has to be a person who is persuasive to other people, can bring Republicans and Democrats on board, or bring a large part of the electorate on board, because you can't just appeal to diehard libertarians and win the election….I think that too often the party has made concessions to have more sort of squishy Republican candidates run as the Libertarian Party candidate."
The latter comment was widely seen as a dig against Bill Weld, who at the time looked like the highest-profile Libertarian contender in the race, but has since launched an exploratory GOP primary challenge against Trump. The highest-profile declared candidates for the L.P. presidential nomination—which will be determined at the Libertarian Party National Convention in May 2020—are activist Adam Kokesh, controversialist Arvin Vohra, and man-of-mystery John McAfee.
In his CNN interview, Amash struck a note of national conciliation amid constant political warfare.
"Right now we have a wild amount of partisan rhetoric on both sides," he said. "And Congress is totally broken; we can't debate things in a clear way anymore. Everything has become 'Do you like Presisdent Trump?' Or, 'Do you not like President Trump?' And I think that we need to return to basic American principles, talk about what we have in common as a people—because I believe we have a lot in common as Americans—and try to move forward together, rather than fighting each other all the time."
Noted Tapper: "Sounds like a platform." (You can watch the whole interview at this link.)
In July 2017, Amash told me that he preferred the descriptor "libertarian" to "libertarian-leaning Republican," and said that "hopefully, over time, these two parties start to fall apart." Watch below: