Last night Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.), that libertarian Capitol Hill fan favorite, cryptically tweeted out this passage from The Two Towers, the middle volume of J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings:
"The counsel of Gandalf was not founded on foreknowledge of safety, for himself or for others," said Aragorn. "There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark."
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) March 27, 2019
To be clear, this passage is about Aragorn, the heir of kingly men; plus Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf processing grief at the discovery of a massacre of Orcs that they suspect (wrongly, it turns out) includes the now-burned bodies of their captive hobbit pals Merry and Pippin. Gimli had previously lamented that the wise elf Elrond hadn't wanted the two hobbits to join in their Fellowship of the Ring; Legolas rejoindered that the wizard and Fello
wship leader Gandalf had, to which Gimli not unreasonably pointed out that the wizard's foresight in these matters was not spotless, given the recent unpleasantness with the Balrog.
So in one sense Aragorn's aphorism is just a little c'mon lads pep talk to keep his comrades' spirits and searching activities up despite the short-term darkness and despair. But the deeper meaning that makes this one of Tolkein's most quotable quotations is that even knowingly hopeless and perilous quests are worth the fighting for.
And so, the hashtags sang, #ItBegins (or shall we say…#ItBaggins?). Is this, at long last, the appropriately nerdy pre-announcement that #Amash2020 is about to leap off the GOP train and compete against President Donald Trump under the Libertarian Party (L.P.) banner?
"Well, it's more on my radar every day, because I keep getting asked about it now," Amash told Lions of Liberty podcaster Marc Clair in an interview posted last week. "I think there were just some people sort of talking about it on social media, and then Jake Tapper must have picked up on that and asked me the question, so now more people are talking about it. So obviously I'm thinking about it a little more." More:
I just think it's important that we offer some alternative. And I think we need someone out there who can be a bridge for people, who can present a libertarian message but also bring people together. And I think the libertarian message is one that unites people across the political spectrum.
I think of it as a fairly moderate approach to governing, the idea that we follow a Constitution, we follow the rule of law, and we uphold liberty. I think this is a moderate approach to our government, and it's I think what most people want. Most people who aren't politically active, who are just at home and don't want to have to think about government, they kind of want our government to just stay out of their lives for the most part, stop messing things up, and stop dividing everyone.
Amash told Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward in January that the ideal third-party candidate "wears Air Jordans" (he was wearing Air Jordans as he said this), and that the L.P. nominee "has to be very libertarian, because if you're running in the Libertarian Party, you better be a libertarian." However, "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."
That statement, made at LibertyCon in Washington, D.C., attracted the attention of senior L.P. National leadership, who have been on the lookout for high-profile presidential contenders after the defection from the party by 2016 vice presidential nominee Bill Weld.
The former Massachusetts governor is busy tromping through the early primary state of nearby New Hampshire, and expects to make a final decision about whether to compete in the GOP primary against Trump by the end of April.
The current Libertarian 2020 presidential field is bereft of candidates with much name recognition outside the party, with the possible exception of international fugitive and professed whale enthusiast John McAfee. On Saturday I asked one of the better known remaining names, the self-described "abrasive…A-hole" Arvin Vohra, what he thought of an Amash candidacy. "He wouldn't be my second choice," Vohra said. (Adam Kokesh, a fellow anarchist, would be Vohra's second choice.)
More from Vohra:
Now I have said many times, and I still say today, that Justin Amash is the best member of Congress, no question. I don't think he's the person for a national level cultural war….He's done what a great congressional politician does, which is he has kind of shifted the needle. He hasn't irritated too many people. He's shown himself to be nice and decent and friendly. And the really hard things, the really hard libertarian positions, he's actively avoided.
And that's what he should do. I mean, that's what I would do in his position. He's doing the right thing for that position. But if he's going to do this, if he's going to take on a culture that believes that government school is the best thing on earth, that thinks that income taxes are totally fine, that would cringe if you said something like, you know, "Fire all government workers," that would freak out if you said that speeding tickets are theft….Justin Amash, I don't think, is the person to do that.
Meanwhile, on Amash/LoTR Twitter, the Michigan congressman can do little wrong:
— Richard M. Castaldo (@Castaldo2018) March 27, 2019
Twenty-one months ago, Amash told me why he prefers to be called a "libertarian" rather than a "libertarian-leaning Republican." Watch below: