Justin Amash

It Probably Wouldn't Be Particularly 'Grueling' for Justin Amash To Win the Libertarian Party's Presidential Nod

Vanity Fair overstates the work it takes to be the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee.

|

In an otherwise smart Vanity Fair feature musing on Rep. Justin Amash's possible political future as a Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Tina Nguyen writes that "the path to the nomination [for the Libertarian Party] requires a grueling campaign, wherein Amash would have to win over the majority of a thousand-plus delegates from across the country, culminating in a convention next May."

The word "grueling" ain't necessarily so. The Libertarian Party is unique, as national chair Nicholas Sarwark explains in an email, in that its "national bylaws explicitly prohibit binding delegates prior to the convention or any kind of rule/block voting….All delegates must be able to vote their conscience.  That's one of the things that makes our convention interesting in comparison to the two old parties."

So while candidates for the presidential nomination can spend lots of time campaigning directly to Libertarians across the nation, they don't have to. All they have to do is convince a bare majority of the delegates in a room in Austin in May 2020 to vote for them. (The total number of delegates will probably be around a thousand.) Given his national profile, there is every reason to believe Amash could do about as well making that decision a week or two before the convention as he would doing anything "grueling" between now and then.

David Bergland, for example, won the Libertarians' 1984 presidential nomination without having even intended to run until around a week before the convention. Bergland, granted, was an old party hand at the time, having held many positions in the organization and served as the 1976 vice presidential nominee. For a closer analogy to Amash's current position, consider Bob Barr in 2008. He was also a former Republican congressman, from Georgia, and one with more heresies in his past than Amash. Barr didn't fully announce his intention to seek the nomination until a couple of weeks before the convention in 2008.

Yes, the idea he might do so had been circulating for months before—but then, the idea Amash might is already circulating now. Just this morning on CNN, 2016 Libertarian vice presidential nominee William Weld, who has called Amash a "hero," said it is his guess that Amash will seek and win the Libertarian nod.

Barr did win the nomination in 2008. But Libertarian Party delegates don't always behave in ways that an outside political observer would consider obvious. It might seem like a given that of course a small third party would be thrilled to be courted by a figure with national political experience such as Barr. But Barr's victory was hard won, on the sixth ballot, and even then with just 51 percent of the vote.

For that matter: Even after having won the Libertarian presidential nomination in 2012, even after earning what was then the party's largest raw vote total in its history, and even with his executive experience as the former Republican governor of New Mexico, it was no cakewalk for Gary Johnson to win the nomination again in 2016. Most of the media had pretty much preemptively declared Johnson the winner, but it took two ballots for him to get the 55 percent needed to squeak ahead of Austin Petersen, someone who had never held or even run for any office before seeking the Libertarian presidential nomination.

My point: Because of the unique nature of the Libertarian Party's selection process, the only thing a candidate needs to do is get in front of the maybe 1,000 or so delegates at a convention, let them know he or she wants their vote, and get 500 or so of them to give it. That can take "grueling" months of shaking hands at 50 state conventions where the delegates who get to vote for president at the national convention are selected. But it doesn't have to, especially if you have a name and reputation that most of the delegates will already have heard of, which Amash certainly does.

Ron Nielson, Johnson's 2016 campaign manager, tells me that his team deliberately kept the idea of Weld as Johnson's VP under wraps as long as they reasonably could, in order to slow down any possible whisper campaign dinging Libertarians' willingness to give him the vice presidential nod (which is a completely separate delegate vote, one it took two ballots before Weld squeaked to a 50.5 percent victory).

So there is a strong possibility that Amash would not be harming his chances, and might possibly be helping them, by not openly entering the Libertarian scrum until the last minute. But even then, a more likely path to victory would be not instant acclamation but a hard, though short, fight.

That said, Libertarian delegates are a cussed and curious lot. There would almost certainly be some feeling that a last-minute Amash is a carpetbagger who hadn't earned his Libertarian stripes by doing any retail-level campaigning for Libertarian hearts.

As Nielson says, "People who put in a lot of time and effort want others involved to put in the same amount of time and effort. There can be a reluctance to allow someone to come in at the last minute and get this prized possession." So Neilson thinks waiting too long to announce could be "a foolish choice" for Amash. It ultimately depends, he thinks, on the other choices before the party when the convention comes around.

NEXT: Backpage Prosecutors Want to Seize Assets First, Answer Questions Later

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Vanity Fair overstates the work it takes to be the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee.

    You have to show up AND fill out a form.

    1. When you’re talking the typical LP presidential candidate, those are pretty high bars.

    2. And then if you don’t have blue skin and don’t remove your clothes while addressing the convention, you probably have a pretty good shot.

      1. So Tobias Funke has half a chance?

        1. Analyst+Therapist business card may be funniest thing ever on tv

      2. Wait, you’re racist against blue-skinned people?

        With people like you, no wonder they invented the blues.

    3. So they are trying to keep John McAfee from getting the nomination. Typical political party bullshit! Just because the man can’t get into the US without maybe being arrested.

    4. He’s gonna have to get past McAfee and his special hammock first.

    5. ….with clothes on

  2. >>>But it doesn’t have to, especially if you have a name and reputation that most of the delegates will already have heard of, which Amash certainly does.

    this is the ’20s before tv or the ’70s before the internets?

  3. “Barr didn’t fully announce his attention to seek the nomination until a couple of weeks before the convention in 2008.”

    But it was pretty much an “everybody knows” situation, where he wasn’t officially running, but was actively going to state conventions.

    With Amash’s official departure from the GOP, I think this makes a presidential run LESS likely. Running for reelection may be difficult as an independent in Michigan, but he at least has an implied advantage of being the incumbent.

    He may or may not want to align with the LP in his congressional race. The key thing being ballot access. If the hurdles for an independent candidate for congress getting on the general election ballot are the same as for the Libertarian Party, he’ll likely stay independent.

    Not to say that he’ll eschew any association with the LP, but adding the LP brand to his congressional campaign would not be much of a help to him. Adding the Justin Amash brand to the LP would be great for the LP, but unless there’s any direct benefit for him for doing so, he won’t.

    That said, he’ll likely benefit from the buzz of the possibility of him running. The possibility of him becoming a wild card in the presidential race encourages those who don’t want him to do so make sure that his campaign for reelection is viable enough to prevent that. Expect no final word on his running or not running for the White House for quite a while, as he milks it for all its worth.

    1. but unless there’s any direct benefit for him for doing so, he won’t.

      Yeah, I don’t know about that. How did leaving the GOP directly benefit him?

      1. name mentioned 800 million times more since July 1

      2. It means he doesn’t have to face Trumpette primary candidates and shoot directly for the General.

    2. Maybe he wants to get out of electoral politics and is just doing this as a last hurrah. Of course he isn’t going to be president.

  4. Since Justin Amash is anti-abortion, he, in effect, wants to make young women baby machines for HIS particular religious views. I do not consider this stand the least bit libertarian. Since I have been a libertarian activist since 1964, I think I am entitled to have an opinion about what constitutes a libertarian and Amash isn’t it. If some of the libertarian men are willing to throw women under the bus to have a “sexy” candidate, shame on them. Many libertarian women stand with me.
    Sharon Presley, PhD
    Executive Director
    Association of Libertarian Feminists

    1. Was Ron Paul, the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1988, a libertarian in Dr. Presley’s opinion?

    2. I am sympathetic to that view. I really am.

      But at this point, to be honest, abortion politics seems to be mostly out of the hands of the executive and legislative branches. The next fights are going to be in the courts, and at the state legislature level.

      I understand if you can’t support him for that reason – I couldn’t support Gary Johnson for his position on gay wedding cakes. It was just too far. But I think it’s worth at least a second look.

    3. Abortion may well be the single issue of least agreement among “real” libertarians.

      As I see things, rights — properly understood — cannot be in conflict. My rights only begin where another’s rights end, and recursively vice versa. Thus, and remembering that pregnancy can result from rape, a fetus cannot have a right to life until that right would no longer be in conflict with its mother’s preexisting right to self-ownership/bodily self-determination. So, not until it could be viable outside the mother.

      But (and unlike many of the newer “libertarian” posters are here lately), some of the otherwise strongest libertarians I know disagree with me on this issue. And, I while I think their reasoning has a critical flaw, I can see how the “government ought only exist to defend those who cannot defend themselves” line of reasoning (as opposed to the “muh rulijin” argument) is compelling and persuasive to many.

      I guess my point is, I don’t think legal abortion is in serious jeopardy, and as long as that remains the case I’m not going to throw the baby of otherwise solid libertarians out with the bathwater of their desire to impose government on unwilling mothers. The perfect is the enemy of the good and all that.

      Admittedly, I’m not a woman.

      1. “throw the baby…out with the bathwater”

        Phrasing!

      2. So you’re against third trimester abortions then, since most neonates are viable at that point (though, like me, your rule is probably a case specific one rather than a time based one).

        That also means that as technology progresses, so too does the point of viability recede, so that once we have effective fully artificial wombs abortion is always prohibited, right?

    4. What’s libertarian about killing kids, you monstrous ghoul.

      Did you earn your “PhD” interning with Mengele?

    5. As another long time Libertarian, I disagree. Abortion comprises conflicting rights: the mother’s right to control her own body, and the right of a child/fetus to not be killed. So there’s no good answer, and you’ll find libertarian arguments for both sides. As further evidence, Ron and Rand Paul are both against abortion, and Ron was the Libertarian presidential nominee in 1992.

      As for myself, I’m pro-choice, but against federal funding of abortions.

      1. I’m sympathetic to people who genuinely believe that life begins at conception, or at any point prior to birth, and see that as a being that has inherent rights which need protecting, like any individual.

        But I’m less sympathetic to people who want to use the force of government to apply their own personal moral or religious views onto others by law.

        There might be a solution to this if we can, as a secular society, determine at what point during a pregnancy that the fetus achieves ‘personhood’, or ‘viability’, but we can’t seem to conduct a reasonable discussion about that. You have one side that wants to ban abortions before the potential mother even knows she’s pregnant, and the other side seems to want it to be allowed up until the delivery date. As far as I see it, you legally become a person with rights on the day that you are born, but I think there’s obviously some room for discussion there.

        If your goal is to reduce the number of abortions, the best libertarian option is to remove the barriers people face for alternative contraception options. I have enough faith in people to believe that if they have easy access to non-abortive birth control – the pill, condoms, morning-after-pill, whatever – that they will naturally tend to choose those options first and only rely on a potentially dangerous and invasive surgical procedure as a last resort.

    6. But isn’t abortion a breach of contract?

      A mother who gets pregnant through her voluntary actions makes a contract with the father and the human-to-be that she will carry the human-to-be to term and either raise it to her ability or adopt it out to someone who will. If the mother wants to breach the contract, the human-to-be is entitled to specific performance, as monetary damages cannot compensate for the costs the other would be if they’re terminated.

      If the mother didn’t want to enter into the contract, she could have a) not “signed” it (no sex), b) had sex with a sterile male, c) had sex with a woman, d) used birth control (though this only lessens the risk of accidentally agreeing to the contract). Since the woman had a choice to enter into the contract with the human-to-be and had alternative options she wasn’t coerced into it, though rape of course is different, and we already have remedies for that.

      Libertarians tend to be strong supporters of contracts as they are the ultimate expression of free will. You seem to be more of a libertine on this (which many conservatives claim applies to all of us, so thanks a lot).

    7. Oh common, Sharon. I’m sure you’re well aware that someone can be personally opposed to abortion and still be a Libertarian as long as that person is not advocating laws that prevent a woman from controlling her reproductive options. Can you point to any laws that Amash has advocated limiting such choice? That’s the real Libertarian litmus test.

      1. “that person is not advocating laws that prevent a woman from controlling her reproductive options”

        Or, to say it another way, “that person is not advocating laws that inhibit a woman from escaping the consequences and responsibility of her choices”

    8. Libertarian position has been pretty consistent on this, as I understand it – even though members may be either pro-life, pro-choice, anti-abortion… and whatever else: the government should have no role in it. One can be pro-life and feel the best political stance is promoting one’s own belief through moral suasion.

  5. Yeah, as others have said, as long as you keep your clothes on and fill out the right forms, how hard could it be to be the LP candidate?

    I would absolutely vote for Amash/Not Crazy Person for president.

    I would like to actually vote for president in 2020 this time.

  6. I predict the Libertarian party in 2020 will end up stealing votes from itself.

    1. Amash will depart the LP like he departed the GOP.

      Amash who?

    2. As someone who voted for the Libertarian nominee since 1980, I’ll probably be voting for Trump in 2020 because IMHO, he’s the most libertarian president we’ve had in 60 years.

      I read Amash’s letter, and as a Libertarian, I’m disappointed in it. He even gets this wrong: “The Republican Party, which controls all three branches of government and yet is addicted to whining about its own victimhood, is now the party of situational ethics and moral relativism in the name of winning at all costs.” Amash wrote this letter when the Democrats control the House of Representatives, so the GOP doesn’t control the legislative branch. Further, he seems to side with the Democrats on Kavanaugh and on the Russian collusion investigation, where IMHO, the Democrats have really misbehaved: lying about Kavanaugh to personally destroy him for their power, and likely wide treason with many involved in spying on Trump during the election. IMHO, it’s the Democrats who’re “the party of situational ethics and moral relativism in the name of winning at all costs”. Not that the RINOs controlling the GOP are much better.

      IMHO, Amash is just trying to boost his name recognition and hopes to take advantage of the anti-government sentiment that helped elect Trump. I wish him well, but I expect to be voting for Trump. Trump could use his help, rather than his disparagement.

      1. I don’t want to vote for Trump. I didn’t last time – I went Libertarian even though our candidates were kinda Libertarian-Lite. They were still better than the major party candidates.

        But I won’t vote for Amash, either. And I can’t vote for anyone who is basically a Socialist, so most of the Democrats are out. It’s going to be a difficult choice.

  7. Justin Amash is not only antagonistic to women’s rights, he is an opponent of environmental regulations and a skeptical of the international scientific consensus concerning human activity as the primary cause of global climate collapse.

    He will never have my vote, but even if he manages to become the Libertarian Party nominee, all this will do is further marginalise the Libertarian Party in the minds of the people as a party of no substance and great hypocrisy.

    1. Is Gemma Seymour the new “Liberaltarian” satire handle?

    2. So, he’s not a leftist? Is that supposed to upset libertarians?

    3. When did the climate collaspe? I must’ve missed that…

  8. Amash isnt Libertarian.

    Why would any Libertarian vote for him when Trump has accomplished more Libertarian-ish things than any Libertarian politician…ever.

      1. Yup. Amash is pretty funny for his latest antics.

        ROFL.

    1. Don’t you just LOVE trolls?!

  9. “national bylaws explicitly prohibit binding delegates prior to the convention”

    They were supposed to follow that rule at a certain meeting I could mention, but they ignored the rule. Hopefully the libertarians will be more faithful to the rules than a bunch of cardinals.

    1. Cardinal Fang! Fetch —- the comfy chair!!

  10. “Just this morning on CNN, 2016 Libertarian vice presidential nominee William Weld, who has called Amash a “hero,” said it is his guess that Amash will seek and win the Libertarian nod.”

    Now there’s a kiss of death. It’s like getting an endorsement from Benedict Arnold.

  11. Trump is no libertarian, but I think it’s likely that most LP members (and according to most polls, a majority of voters) do not agree with Amash’s views on impeachment. If Amash becomes the LP presidential nominee, I suspect that the LP will needlessly lose a boatload of votes over this issue.

    1. Why would Libertarians have a problem with impeaching a mentally unstable statist? Nice try, Trumpist.

      1. How are Libertarians going to impeach anybody?

      2. New troll bgarst. Same nonsense.

  12. Donald Trump is very “libertarian” compared with likely Democratic candidates. I’m voting for the guy who’s given us less regulation and a much lower corporate income tax. The total fiasco that was the last libertarian run has me looking at the actual libertarian actions of this President, greatly flawed though he may be. Amash should have stayed in the Republican party and pushed for libertarian policies to the best of his abilities, as has done Rand Paul. He’ll get precious few votes in a three way election between Trump, Elizabeth Warren, and Amash. I’m betting he’d get less than 1.5% of the popular vote.

  13. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $30h – $72h…how? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

    Heres what I’ve been doing… ,,,

    CLICK HERE►► ONLINE WORK

  14. […] theirs, that the LNC would clearly be delighted if he ran, and that—due to the party’s idiosyncratic nominating process—the congressman could conceivably announce his presidential candidacy on May 20, 2020, and still […]

  15. […] theirs, that the LNC would clearly be delighted if he ran, and that—due to the party’s idiosyncratic nominating process—the congressman could conceivably announce his presidential candidacy on May 20, 2020, and […]

  16. […] theirs, that the LNC would clearly be delighted if he ran, and that—due to the party’s idiosyncratic nominating process—the congressman could conceivably announce his presidential candidacy on May 20, 2020, and […]

  17. […] dwarfs theirs, that the LNC would clearly be delighted if he ran, and that—due to the party’s idiosyncratic nominating process—the congressman could conceivably announce his presidential candidacy on May 20, 2020, and still […]

  18. It is possible Amash could be deja vu of the Bob Barr campaign, where he comes in late and takes the nomination easily, in large part because so many delegates are delighted to have an actual and well known former congressional representative as their candidate.

    He will face special opposition from pro-abortion choice activists because of his view abortion should be banned after the third day of pregnancy, as reported in local Michigan papers and by reason.com in 2013. He probably will want the party’s “keep the government out of the abortion issue” plank deleted.

    Hard core libertarians and sex worker and LGBT activists will fear the price of his being the candidate is further gutting of the platform of content, similar to what happened when Bob Barr ran. As an Orthodox Christian and social conservative, Amash might not want to run on a platform that would cost him conservative campaign contributions and election day votes. Amash is a more hard core anti-interventionist but some factions will dislike the prospect of a son of a Palestinian refugee who has not consistently voted for pro-Israel laws in congress.

    Trump probably will continue assaulting Amash and take aim at the Libertarian Party, if Amash runs. If Amash can stay away from the LP platform, emphasize non-interventionist and freedom issues, and not promote his abortion prohibitionist views, he might bring some publicity to the party and the movement.

  19. […] theirs, that the LNC would clearly be delighted if he ran, and that—due to the party’s idiosyncratic nominating process—the congressman could conceivably announce his presidential candidacy on May 20, 2020, and […]

Please to post comments