Justin Amash

Justin Amash Has Been Actively Pondering a Libertarian Presidential Run for 2 Months, and Will Decide Soon

Here are 4 questions the independent congressman and the rest of the country will have to consider

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Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) this morning completed his three-stage transition from not ruling out a Libertarian Party presidential bid, to hinting coquettishly at the necessity of a third approach to national politics, to now calling direct attention to his White House deliberations.

"In mid-February, Justin Amash paused active campaigning for his congressional seat to carefully consider a presidential run," his office emailed to reporters this morning. "He has been discussing the potential campaign with his family, his friends, his team, and others, and a decision can be expected soon."

The libertarian congressman now has 35 days to decide whether he is ready to navigate the idiosyncrasies of America's bronze-medal party and potentially subject himself to a half-year's worth of bottomlessly funded abuse from Democrats and Republicans busy whipping themselves up in a hate bath of negative polarization.

There are many unanswered questions that Amash, Libertarians, and Americans writ large have occasion to ponder in connection with a putative campaign. Here are four:

1) What impact would an Amash candidacy have on Trump vs. Biden?

Libertarians, Greens, independents, and nonvoters hate this question—who says my vote belongs to anybody, man??—yet sadly or fortunately, we neither run the world nor shape its political discourse. This will be the main consideration about an Amash run against a president who is loved by Republicans and loathed by much of everyone else. What scant preliminary evidence we have on the question is…mixed.

A May 28–30, 2019 Glengariff Group poll of 600 likely Michigan voters found Amash receiving 10 percent in his home state, compared to 45 percent for Joe Biden and 39 percent for Donald Trump, with 6 percent undecided. Intriguingly, Biden's six-point advantage doubled to 12 with the Amash option taken out.

Could it be that pro-Trump fervor eclipses its anti-Trump opposite? That Biden's vaunted enthusiasm gap makes third-partiers—especially one who was among the most persuasive voices in Congress in favor of impeachment—more tempting for nose-holding voters on the left? There just hasn't been enough polling on which to base an educated guess.

A GQR Research survey of 1,700 registered voters nationwide conducted in July of 2019 found Amash getting 7 percent, behind Biden's 49 and Trump's 41 (2 percent elected other). The question was not asked without the prospective Libertarian on the ballot. The same company presented 775 likely voters with the same choices Sept. 7-11, 2019, and got 48 percent for Biden, 41 percent for Trump, and 4 percent Amash, with 5 percent other/undecided.

So the last presidential poll that even had Amash's name in it was taken more than four months before the Iowa caucus and a lifetime before the coronavirus miasma we find ourselves swimming in now.

2) Does he really have a puncher's chance?

This is where opinions will vary the widest. The positive case looks something like this:

Amash, who turns 40 on Saturday, would be competing against the two oldest major-party presidential nominees in United States history. He is quick-witted and energetic; they are…Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Of the two old white guys, one made a lifetime of outgroup-unfriendly gaffes, the other has choked off the inflow of refugees and demonized people from various "shithole" countries. Amash, by contrast, is the overachieving son of two Middle Eastern immigrant success stories, one of whom was a Palestinian refugee.

It's not just personality that makes this path, it's context. We are only beginning to feel the ripple effects from the coronavirus, which are certain to get much worse. The 2008 financial crisis and policy response thereof produced not just one but two backlash political movements (the Tea Party on the right, Occupy Wall Street on the left); the rescue package passed last month is already more expensive on a per-capita basis than the 2008–2009 bailout/stimulus combined.

The persistently unpopular Trump, after effecting a hostile takeover of the GOP in 2016, continues to forge a Republicanism antithetical to traditional conservative values. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) may have failed twice now to take over the Democratic Party, but the unlovable centrists who bested him have been effectively saddled with most of his bad economics and almost none of his movement's enthusiasm.

Weak, increasingly statist parties led by off-putting ancients—why, it's like they're saying "Run, Justin, run!" Surely, he will tip the scales in the swing state of Michigan!

OK, that's the positive case for Amash to greatly improve on Gary Johnson's 3.27 percent from 2016. What's the counterargument?

Basically this: The conditions for nontraditional candidates in times of high negative polarization are particularly brutal, as we saw in the 2018 midterms. This is particularly true in cycles immediately following a razor-thin presidential race. Even people who love Amash are going to be begging him not to run if there is any chance of him impeding the all-or-nothing quest to drive Trump out of the White House.

3) Would he even win the Libertarian nomination?

While opinions vary here as well, and Libertarians don't take too kindly to coronations, my money is on yes, as I explain in this article today in The Dispatch.

An interesting parallel question is how Amash—or anyone else—will win, given the Libertarian Party's coronavirus conundrum, which is: The party makes 100 percent of its nominating decision by voting in person at the quadrennial convention, yet it's unclear at the moment whether that physical gathering will be allowed to take place next month in Austin.

"Currently, the plan for the 2020 Libertarian National Convention that is still in place is to convene in Austin, Texas at the JW Marriott on May 22nd," the convention web page updated yesterday. "This can and likely may change. We have been continually monitoring the situation through posted government orders, and have been communicating with both the venue and the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. It has been communicated to us that the JW Marriott in Austin plans to reopen May 8th, and that as current orders stand, they will be fully operational for our convention."

Libertarian Party Executive Director Daniel Fishman told The Dispatch Tuesday, "Many of our delegates have already had flights canceled….One way or another, I'm pretty sure that we're going to not be allowed to have our convention in Austin." The party will reassess on May 2.

4) Does this mean Amash has given up on winning re-election as an independent?

Don't be so sure. Amash out-fundraised his Democratic and Republican opponents in the fourth quarter of 2019. On one hand, he faces the difficult obstacle of competing in one of the few states that has the straight-ticket ballot option, by which voters can check one box to vote for every candidate from a given party ("Straight-ticket voting makes it prohibitive to run outside of the major parties," Amash told me in 2018). On the other hand, he enjoys the power of incumbency and has both the track record and cockiness of someone who has won one election after another in his district.

At the risk of taking a politician at least somewhat at his word, I reckon that Amash's calculation here in these final decision-making days is the same as he told Nick Gillespie way back in the summer of 2019, multiplied by the exponential power of the coronavirus: "If I can be most effective on the national stage spreading the message of liberty and the message of respect and love, then that's what I do."

You can watch that interview here:

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  1. He’s been actively pondering it for 9 months dummy.

    1. Reason has been peddling this loser for months. ENB gives us daily updates on his twitter feed and Welch and Boehm write breathy articles roughly once a week.

      He got a small place in the media spotlight for a bit as a never-Trump GOP’er. The poor lad thought it’d be permanent, but outside of the Reasonistas he’s a nonentity.

      I lost what little respect I had for Amash when he lied about the Mueller Report.

      1. Are we ready for the real Libertarian moment? Will Rep. Amash endorse open borders, legalized methamphetamine, and the civil liberties organization, NAMbLA?

        1. “NAMbLA?”
          Not sure if Hollywood is prepared to open membership in its favorite club to the hoi polloi.

          1. LOL!!! +1,000,000!

      2. Translation: He was disloyal to Dear Leader Trump.

        1. Translation: I make slightly varied versions of the same stupid comment about 100 times a day.

          1. Translation: I’m commenting on the same stupid Trump ass kissers, who never change their m.o.

        2. Translation: I can’t rebut the statement so I’ll try to change the subject. – t. Jeffie.

    2. If he run’s I’ll vote for him. Can’t stand Trump, and Biden’s an empty suit with an increasingly empty head.

  2. Great , Amash, another warmed over Republican loser.

    1. Worse, “Reason”‘s preferred warmed over Republican looser.

      “Reason” slobbers all over him for only two reasons: 1) he voted against border wall funding, and 2) he thinks Orange Man bad.

  3. I agree hed win the Libertarian nomination, but third parties arent winning a presidential nomination. The left will just see him as a republican who is fine with legalizing pot but doesnt support abortion or gun control. and the right is on Team Trump. Better just to keep fighting at the lower levels. And work up into the senate and house more.

      1. Oops, responded to the wrong post. Oh well.

  4. Damn i forgot,
    #RedWedding2, AmIRightWelch?

  5. Question 1: why should anyone care?
    Question 2: would you represent the US any better than you represented your district?
    Question 3: any plans for anything at all? The president needs to actually do stuff. He can’t just complain and cast meaningless protest votes.
    Question 4: when did you decide lame purity test positioning mattered more than people and more than trying to make small, achievable improvements for people?

    1. Just imagine how many post offices he could name as president!

    2. I will vote for him in a second if he runs. I know at least three other disaffected former Republicans who would do the same. If I have to I’ll vote for Joe Biden because we really need to get the current drunk driver out from behind the wheel, but I’ve been hoping Amash would finally commit to running. Go Justin!!!

    3. “The president needs to actually do stuff.” President George Washington would disagree with you. The problem now is that we have Presidents who act more like Kings. We don’t need activist Presidents. That is the problem!

  6. Amash could very well win his congressional seat as a member of the LP. That would be much better for the party than even a 5% showing for President.

    If Amash were to make the debates, then I think it would be worth the presidential run. I have almost no confidence that the 2 parties wouldn’t essentially shut him out like they always do though.

    Register LP now Justin. And focus on winning your congressional seat.

    1. I agree. If he’s a Libertarian he could have joined up when he left the Rs.

    2. Will Trump even allow the debates to happen?

      1. Lol. That’s what you call projection.

      2. Why wouldn’t he?
        You have to admit Trump handed Rubio, Fiorina and Christie their asses in the debates, and bullied Jeb! (poor Jeb) to the point of tears.
        Even pugilistic Ted Cruz lost out in a couple of tussles.

        He’d make absolute mincemeat out of great-uncle Scratch-n-sniff who is having a hell of a time forming coherent sentences lately.

        Will the DNC even allow the debates to happen? is a more pertinent question.

        1. Trump would trounce Biden so hard his children would be bruised. So hard, in fact, that Biden might win the sympathy vote. No one likes watching old people struggle to remember where they are.

      3. Are you suggesting that Trump would actively prevent an event where he gets to command the attention of basically every American, brag about the huge ratings it’ll get, and make fun of his political enemies in front of a captive audience?

    3. I agree that Amash winning his congressional seat would be better. That is doubly true in 2020. Libertarian idea are not going to be noticed at the Presidential level. This election will likely be nothing more that a referendum on President Trump. Libertarians would be better off skipping the presidential race and focusing on House seats. Controlling a small block of House seats could allow Libertarians to influence legislation. Would they get everything they want, no, but they could get somethings they might want. It would be far easier to demand a role call vote if you had 10 members asking for it rather than just 1.

    4. Agree. The LP is full of Don Quixote delusions. It needs an actual chance of success. And that can only happen locally with a candidate who actually has built a local organization

  7. As a libertarian, I’m glad Amash joined Democrats in supporting Drumpf’s impeachment. Now it’s time for him to do the patriotic thing and endorse Joe Biden. There’s no point in a third party vanity campaign.

    1. Lol. No.

  8. Well I guess I’m gonna have to say it since no one else has. So Dreamy!

  9. Regardless of who gets the LP nomination, the LP is going to do well this election. They won’t win it, but they’ll get 5% at least. Better than any LP candidate has ever done.

    Why? It’s the economy stupid! No matter how high flying we pretended to be last month, we are now facing the worst unemployment in our history. Worse than the Great Depression. Even using the fake numbers the government uses, it will still be the worst. And people out of jobs because the government made their jobs illegal aren’t going to vote for the incumbent. That might favor Biden, but he’s an incumbent too. Even overlooking that, he’s as boring as stale oatmeal.

    Our economy will be in the shitter and, rightly or wrongly, be blamed on both the Democrats and Republicans. People may actually look at their ballots and decide now’s the time to strike out and vote outside of bipartisan lines. People vote their pocket books.

    1. Do you have fresh pants delivered and how do you dispose of all the ones you shit up?

      I mean, there is no take less interesting than vapidly parroting unemployment numbers sans context. But you KEEP DOING IT.

      No one has any idea what will happen when the economy is started up again. Stupid pointless pontification based on competely different scenarios from the past (and the assocaited comparisons) are moronic and worthless. But you KEEP DOING IT.

      1. Hey, just like we knew Covid would kill 2 million Americans, models that have been validated against their assumptions using data that doesn’t exist prove that we are living in the worst of times.


      2. No one has any idea what will happen when the economy is started up again.

        If we’re using engine metaphors, I imagine it will stall.

        1. Put away the wrenches, the economy’s organic

    2. Somehow I don’t think a Libertarian message of “you’re on your own, no govt help at all” is gonna play well with millions upon millions of unemployed voters.

    3. What kills the Libertarian vote are some of their off the wall positions on a few issues. They are okay with abortion, for example. Live and Let Die seems to be their philosophy on that issue. There’s a few other really weird twists which will always keep them out in the cold and I vote third party/independent or write-in.

  10. Well, hes about 100 times as libertarian as Trump. Is that good enough for the mouthbreathing hillbilly Trump asskissers that have infested our fine comment section over the past 3 years? Probably not.

    1. Naming 2 post offices is the dream for most libertarians. Who needs reduced regulations, originalist judges, and the like. Post offices are way better.

      1. “mouthbreathing hillbilly Trump asskissers”

        is that the name of your PAC?

      2. And here comes a mouthbreather now.

        1. And here’s the fifty-center.

    2. You’d think- but yes, this site is infested with Trump cultists now. Heaven forbid anyone here actually like and support libertarian ideals. It’s all about the cult now baby.

  11. you guys are like Patriots fans with their ring-smooching Tom Brady man-crushes

    1. More like Bills fans.

      1. Yeah, Tom Brady actually accomplished something.
        Maybe more like Tony Romo.

        1. Yea, but Tony Romo actually knows what he’s talking about.
          I’d go with more like Brock Osweiler

  12. There has never been a better time for a Libertarian to run as as Independent for president.
    Yet the best they can find for a nominee is Amash?

    1. Keep in mind the exact same thing was said in 2016, and we see how that turned out.

      I doubt Amash would do any better than GayJay. Hell, at least Gary runs a business. ‘Former Corporate Lawyer’ for a few minutes sure screams ‘libertarian’ just like ‘pot business owner and state governor’.

      Credentials don’t matter, and a libertarian won’t get 5% because they aren’t promising gimmies to anyone.

  13. Amash/Gabbard 2020!

    1. Way better ticket than Trump 2020 or Biden 2020.

      1. Don’t fucking pretend you’re not pulling the lever for old uncle Scratch-n-sniff.

        1. Yes, because anyone who is critical of Trump has to be pro-Biden. There’s no other way the Venn diagram can work, right?

        2. Sorry, that was probably over your head. Venn diagrams are those overlapping circles that demonstrate logical concepts like unions and intersections of sets. Ah, forget it, trying to teach a Trump ass kisser logic would be like trying to teach a monkey not to fling poo.

  14. Democrats won’t vote for him, he is a former Republican and known conservative.
    Republicans won’t vote for him he is a traitor.
    Quit pondering an give it up.

    1. Most people in this country are not Democrats or Republicans.

      1. Didn’t say that quite right. More people are independent than Republican or Democrat.

        1. Oh look, Neutral Jeff’s pretending he’s not a Democrat again.

          1. Oh, look, you’re deflecting from the point by going with the pointless “sock puppet” accusations, again.

  15. I would be happy wirth progress, say 5%+. I’d say we have a few candidates who could get there now, but only if they’re in at least one debate. About the only thing we can do now, regardless of candidate, is to start the process of publicly shaming the officers of the Commission on Presidential Debates to ensure some integrity in the process: using only polls that fairly include all candidates who are on enough ballots to stand a mathematical chance of winning, from the beginning. Here are the officers, from their website. Evidently, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan are still as useful as ever:

    Commission Leadership
    Co-Chairs

    Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.
    Dorothy S. Ridings
    Kenneth Wollack

    Honorary Co-Chairs

    Gerald R. Ford*
    Jimmy Carter
    Ronald Reagan*
    George W. Bush
    Barack Obama

    Co-Chair Emeritus

    Paul G. Kirk, Jr.

    Board of Directors

    John C. Danforth
    Charles Gibson
    John Griffen
    Yvonne Hao
    Jane Harman
    Antonia Hernandez
    Reverend John I. Jenkins
    Newton N. Minow
    Richard D. Parsons
    Olympia Snowe
    Executive Director

    Janet H. Brown

    1. Holy shit, Newton Minow is still alive! I mean, good for him.

      Based on Wikipedia, he’s 94 now, he’s almost a Centurion!

      /deliberate misspelling

  16. Put up or shut already! Geez!

  17. It would be nice to have someone I could actually vote for in the upcoming election, but Leo et al. are right, he could probably do more good as a Libertarian Rep. than as a candidate for president.

    1. Nobody cares Lying Jeffy.

      1. So give me a specific example of a lie that I have supposedly told here at Reason. Not merely an incorrect statement, not merely something that you disagree with, but a deliberate falsehood intending to deceive. Go ahead.

        1. For the Trump mean girls, “liar” is code for “said something I disagree with.”

          1. To be fair there are some reasonable people who comment here who are also Trump supporters. I can have an intelligent conversation with someone who uses facts and logic and reason and principles in their arguments, whether they support Trump or Bernie or whomever. But the trolling brigade around here just gets to be too much sometimes.

            1. Chatting with your own sock like that is pretty pathetic Jeff.

      2. I care, and I don’t care that you don’t care, and I don’t care that you don’t care that I don’t care that you don’t care.

    2. Agreed.

      1. I mean, if the LP nominates someone sane, I could be persuaded to vote for that person.
        Otherwise, it’s 2016 again – leaving it blank.

  18. Amash seems like a decent, principled guy and I wish him well. But presidential runs are over-rated and quixotic. And Libertarian presidential runs doubly so. An independent’s seat in congress would give him a better perch to affect change and get his message out.

  19. Does the election law in Michigan prohibit someone from running both for Congress and President at the same time?

  20. And… Generalissimo Francisco Franco is Still Dead

  21. If he does he won’t get 1/2 the votes Gary Johnson received and Johnson while a good candidate made his huge mistake of Weld. He also appeared to lose interest once he could not get into the debates.
    Voting for impeachment on the crap presented by democrats was the day I turned on him. Nothing Libertarian about joining in an attempt at public lynching based on an investigation started by violating basic constitutional freedoms, 3rd party innuendo and other assorted BS.

  22. that dullard runs for Pres?..lol

  23. My balls have turned blue. Does that mean I am a Democrat now?

  24. Missing from the calculations is: Can he get the media attention necessary to make a viable run?

  25. Amash is a NeverTrump RINO; he’s NOT a Libertarian. The most dedicated Libertarian – REAL Libertarian, not just another anti-war leftist – is the science fiction writer L. Neil Smith of The Libertarian Enterprise https://ncc-1776.org/index.html. Smith says that Donald Trump has been the most Libertarian president in his lifetime, and plans to vote for him in 2020. I agree. I voted for Gary Johnson in 2016 (I live in California, so it doesn’t really matter WHO I voted for; Hillary was going to win here. But in 2020, I will MOST ASSUREDLY vote for Donald Trump.

    1. The great Libertarian saint throws in with the demokrat Nazis? Don’t make me laugh.

    2. You are going to vote for Trump in 2020? Why, did he do what he said he was going to do in 2016? Any Perpetual Wars ended? National Debt paid off? Fool you once, shame on him. Fool you twice, shame on you. I refuse to vote for the UniParty. Bailouts for Big Business, More War, More Debt. Nothing really changes, just the faces.

  26. So he’s obviously planning his retirement from politics…

  27. “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!”

  28. So, another phony libertarian running for President as a Libertarian.

  29. Over 95 percent of Americans do NOT support or will vote Libertarian. So do you really believe it is your candidates? Maybe your ideology is the problem.

  30. Nice cute story, but how about an examination of Amash’s voting record? Stop being like the MSM and just writing stories that are quick to write, but do no serious digging. I want to know how a candidate votes before he gets my vote. While I vote independent and/or third party, I still need to know something about the candidate(s).

    1. Amash’s voting record is probably the easiest to find of any sitting elected official. He posts all of his votes on social media with an explanation. You don’t need to wait for a Reason article.

  31. How is ballot access looking for ’20? The last I knew the LP was facing difficulties with COVID-19 restrictions coupled with the typical duopoly shenanigans. Might not be the best year for Amash to wade into the LP waters but his team probably looks into these things. Perhaps it’s turning out better than I thought for ballot access.

  32. His charisma is so great, he’d need a puppy and a pony with him at all times to get the popular vote.

  33. Amash is a sellout to the Chinese. If he is to become the Libertarian candidate, I guess I won’t be voting at all.

  34. One parent is a palestinian? Well there goes J Street, Wall Street, Hollywood and the Media…ha ha

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