Justin Amash

Justin Amash Is Running for President as a Libertarian

The previously independent five-term Michigan congressman joins the L.P. and takes aim at the septuagenarian competition.

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More than three years after first seriously contemplating it, one year after coming out in favor of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, nine months after leaving the Republican Party, two months after hitting pause on his congressional reelection campaign, and just 22 days before the Libertarian Party (L.P.) is scheduled to select its own nominee, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, the most libertarian member of Congress, has decided to form an exploratory committee about running for president.

"Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people," the congressman tweeted Tuesday night. "We're ready for a presidency that will restore respect for our Constitution and bring people together."

The 40-year-old son of Middle Eastern immigrants (mom is from Syria, dad a Palestinian refugee) now seeks to become the limited-government standard-bearer against septuagenarian big-government competitors Donald Trump and Joe Biden. He would certainly be the most high-profile presidential candidate, and the first to concurrently hold elected office, in the Libertarian Party's half-century of existence.

Amash, an F.A. Hayek–quoting five-term incumbent from Grand Rapids and former co-founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, became a sustaining member of the L.P. some time over the past two weeks, thus meeting the party's minimum nominating requirements. He now has three weeks—or perhaps more, should the Libertarian National Committee at its May 2 meeting decide to reschedule a national convention whose physical and legal status is in coronavirus limbo and whose Austin hotel abruptly canceled the event on Sunday—to convince wary delegates for a fourth consecutive election to select a candidate who has won office only as a Republican.

Like former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in 2012, and former-and-future Texas congressman Ron Paul in 1988, Amash is currently arguably the favorite nationally known politician among both small-l and big-L and libertarians. He has long been touted as the heir successor to Paul on Capitol Hill, has described himself as "the only libertarian member of Congress," and told Reason back in July 2017 that he prefers the descriptor "libertarian" over "libertarian-leaning Republican." He has led congressional attempts to deconstruct the surveillance state, restore legislative-branch responsibility, and stand athwart the federal firehose yelling "Stop!"

Yet that does not make him a shoo-in for the nomination.

Future of Freedom Foundation founder Jacob Hornberger, an anti-war/anti-Fed stalwart who has been the dominant candidate thus far in non-binding Libertarian primaries and caucuses, has been withering in his critiques ever since Amash publicized his interest in the party's potential 50-ballot prize two weeks ago.

"How many LP conventions has Congressman Justin Amash attended in the last year? None," Hornberger wrote last week, in the fifth installment of a series he titled "Justin Amash, LP Interloper." "How many LP presidential debates has Amash participated in? None. In fact, the very obvious reason that Amash has not attended LP state conventions and participated in LP presidential debates is that he does not want to subject his conservative positions to scrutiny, examination, and challenge by LP members and the other candidates for the LP presidential nomination."

Hornberger's critique reflects his self-interest, but it will nonetheless find resonance among even Amash-enthusiast Libertarians, who have become snippy about the congressman's long Hamlet act. Anarchist activist Adam Kokesh, for one, has been energetically campaigning for president at least the beginning of 2018.

At the January 2019 LibertyCon conference in Washington, D.C., Amash, with several L.P. officials in attendance, told Reason Editor in Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward that the ideal Libertarian candidate "wears Air Jordans" (he was wearing Air Jordans at the time), should not be a "squishy Republican" like controversial 2016 L.P. vice presidential nominee (and later a failed 2020 GOP challenger) Bill Weld, and should 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 appearance, as well as several high-profile moments ever since—especially his July 4, 2019, declaration of independence from the Republican Party, which he decorated with such sentiments as that "the two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions"—made L.P. members salivate over the prospect of a long, full-throated presidential campaign by one of the most eloquent and newsworthy members of Congress. Instead, it's been 15 months of Hornberger, Kokesh, political satirist Vermin Supreme, and more than a dozen other candidates competing to represent the Libertarian wing of the Libertarian Party.

In the only 2020 three-way poll thus far, Morning Consult on April 14–16 found just 1 percent of 1,992 registered voters saying they'd vote for Amash over Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Two national polls in 2019 had Amash averaging 5.5 percent. His potential impact on the presidential swing state of Michigan is something both parties will be looking at with interest, though a highly polarized political climate following a razor-thin presidential election tends to be numerically brutal for minor candidates.

There is no word yet on whether the congressman will officially withdraw from his own reelection campaign, though he cannot seek both offices come November.

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  1. Breaking news from last year.

    1. His first campaign promise… name all post offices. He has the background. He has the focus.

      1. ???

        1. It is what he accomplished in 10 years in the house. 2 naked post offices.

          1. Named ones as well.

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          3. The great thing about the executive is Amash can do a great deal by doing not much. If he were president he would wield the executive veto, the ultimate check on a frivolous legislative body. By simply refusing to sign legislation he could force Congress into doing it’s job.

    2. “Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, the most libertarian member of Congress.”

      Just ignore his tacit support of a corrupt IC.

      1. “Justin Amash of Michigan, the most libertarian member of Congress.”

        Did Tom Massie die or something?

        I suppose I should be grateful that Reason hasn’t anointed Massie as the great Libertarian hope. With the exception of Rand Paul, most of those guys have turned into giant disappointments: Amash, Mark Sanford, Jeff Flake.

        1. They hate Massie because Massie isn’t for open borders and one-sided free trade with an authoritarian nation attempting to destroy our economy.

          1. What a silly thing to claim! You obviously failed Econ 101 to not understand how unilateral free trade helps the economy with the zero tariffs. You obviously failed Common Sense 101 if you think China has anything to gain by destroying the US economy.

            1. Being in a unilateral abusive relationship is great for everyone involved!

              Why did we stop evolving trade theory in the 1800s? Even now you refuse to look at the external costs such as supply chain even in the face of Chinas actions this year. Instead you run back to simplified models that ignore externalities. You continue to ignore game theory calculations and tit for tat responses in order to equalize trade foundations.

              But please, tell me how china ordering ships carrying sold market goods to return to china was a good thing.

              1. Nothing abusive about free trade. Try learning some basic economics before you make shit up.

            2. Maybe if we were actually a capitalist state but not in our present mixed economy situation.

          2. Glad you agree that Amash is more libertarian.

            1. To a simpleton sure. Tell me what liberty Amash gained you in 10 years that is even close to marching the deregulatory efforts under Trump.

        2. Amash is more libertarian than Massie. It is known.

      2. #LibertariansForTheDeepStateCoup

    3. What he think . Please check status

      Very nice Jaat status 2020

  2. So dreamy…..

  3. Has Amash changed his party registration from Independent to Libertarian? Do we have a Libertarian congressman?

    1. Another Republican carpet bagger running as the LP nominee.

      I look forward to Amash discrediting the #DeepState Globalist “libertarian” grifters.

  4. He is running as the Vanity Party candidate.

  5. If he wants to do something actually useful, why doesn’t he stay in Michigan and help get rid of Whitmer?

    1. The next Michigan election is in November 2022, so he can still make that bus.

    2. Yes, exactly. The LP candidate will not win the Presidency this year unless both Trump and Biden die or are caught with dead male hookers (or each other). He must think he hasn’t got a chance to win his next district election, or else he is so bored and/or frustrated with butting a brick wall in Congress that he’s decided to go out with a bang. I wonder what his real plan A is that makes this time wasting longshot run worth it.

      1. Well, both Trump and Biden are in the prime COVID-19 demographic.

  6. I guess I’m looking at this election more than usual in a two-party frame – how would his presence in the race influence people who would otherwise be disposed to go for Trump or Biden?*

    I don’t think voters “belong” to any particular party, but for those such as myself who oppose handing over the country over lock, and barrel to the Democrats, and who sadly and reluctantly acknowledge that the only way to achieve this is to vote for Republicans, then I am interested in the question of who Amash will, quote, “take votes from,” unquote.

    *Or whichever Democrat gets nominated in place of Biden, assuming that happens.

    1. Most folks, myself included, are in a partisan state where the electoral votes are pretty much a lock already anyway. I’ll probably vote for whoever the L.P. puts up; if Kansas were to go blue in the election, then that pretty much means the Republican candidate wouldn’t have stood a chance nationally anyway.

      Honestly, I don’t know why the L.P. has never used that campaign strategy. Focus on the partisan states with the message “Your vote doesn’t matter, might as well throw it away on us.”

      1. Good suggestion. California is the same. Biden will win, so any vote is a waste, may as well vote LP.

      2. Bingo.

        Votes only really matter in 4 or 5 states, with a very small handful of exceptions (the last governor race in KY was much closer than it would have been due to a unique hatred of the incumbent), but those types of votes are pretty rare. Those states may evolve over time, but in a given election, most people’s vote doesn’t mean much, which is fine by me. It’s the way the system is designed to work.

      3. Most folks, myself included, are in a partisan state where the electoral votes are pretty much a lock already anyway. I’ll probably vote for whoever the L.P. puts up

        Regardless of whether or not your state is a lock, your individual vote is never going to swing the state anyway. So vote for who you actually prefer — the end result is going to be the same, but you’ll feel better.

  7. Meh fine go ahead and run. The best the LP can do is not enough to remove Trump or counteract the marxist-democrat machine which put up a dementia patient and serial sex abuser.

    This is not a popularity contest. It requires getting electoral votes, and no LP candidate has gotten a single one EXCEPT through a faithless elector. If that is your gold, go in peace.

  8. Oh look…the Libertarian Party found a pro-China candidate to run in a year where China just unleashed a pandemic on the world. That’s the kind of super-smart move that we’ve come to expect from the LP.

    https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2019/05/18/republican-justin-amash-calls-for-impeachment-while-holding-personal-business-interests-in-china/?fbclid=IwAR1WOztKL18RF3sGBKj6shu3VZSphqp18VZOwLrfMenZ3jZccKAHeKPMexk#more-163923

  9. And once again, the Libertarian Party looks to a failed Republican to drag their banner through the mud.

    1. Jumping the gun there, bud.

    2. No, they should instead nominate a think tank loser who spent his life savings on tin foil.

  10. I’d rather have that reform where you can rank your candidates in order of preference, and if the first choice candidate doesn’t win, then your vote goes to your second-choice candidate.

    Of course, this would add a bit of complexity to the system and perhaps make fraud easier, so I’d have to be assured on that point.

    But other than that fairly major reservation, I’d love the idea of sending the message that the duopoly is a second choice for me, but *within* the duopoly, the Republicans are just a tad less insane and evil. It would boost the idealistic first-choice preferences of many voters while communicating to the major-party candidates a key message about the enthusiasm level (or lack thereof) of their voters.

  11. Amash should wait until ’24. Seek the LP nomination during the entire cycle, attend the state conventions & meetings and help with the ballot access drive.

    He’s a better candidate than Gary Johnson but Johnson did put a lot of effort into his campaigns despite the poor spending habits and associating with the scumbag Weld.

  12. Hornberger is as philosophically pure libertarian as David Bergland was in 1984. Will he do better than Bergland’s 250,000 votes?
    The vast bulk of the LP’s votes (esp. in 2016) come from voters who are pissed off at both of the two party choices, not from people who have carefully read the LP Platform and agree with most of it. If the LP wants eyeballs from voters, in the hope that any of the LP’s views will sink in, maybe it should best go with some semi-recognizable candidate with at least a weak history
    of being covered by the media? Maybe getting 3 or 4 million voters to get into the habit of voting Libertarian in consecutive elections is worth more than Hornberger convincing 15 more folks that 65 million social security recipients need to be cut off tomorrow?

  13. “Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people”

    I’m pretty sure Americans, as a whole, are ready for Uncle Sam to print them a voucher for food and a voucher for housing redeemable at their nearest Prosperity Office.

    1. Well, it’s not like we’re in the situation we are now because there wasn’t enough government (see France, Italy, Spain to name a few). It’s that there was too much STUPID Government.

      1. So some government, then?

        There is very little they can touch, even only slightly touch (as if there’s such a thing) and not shit everything up.

  14. Wasn’t planning to vote in November since VIrginia is pretty much in the dems’ pocket, but now maybe I will. Waiting for the usual chorus of Trump tossers here to try and convince me that he is the most libertarian candidate.

    1. The LP candidate will*probably* be more libertarian than Trump.

      In the sense that Trump isn’t a libertarian. And the LP tends to nominate libertarians except maybe in 2016.

      Like I said above, I’d love to have that reform where you get to vote your first and second choices, and if your first choice doesn’t have enough votes, your vote goes to the second choice. Then the major-party victor will know that many of his voters preferred someone else.

    2. Not in Virginia, but I’ll vote for Amash, too. If he gets the LP nomination.

      1. There’s no way KY does any worse than 65/35 in favor of Trump.

        I generally don’t vote, but if Amash is running, I’ll make an exception that day and throw him a bone.

  15. A Google search for accusations of rape against Amash turns up empty, so right there that’s a plus over the two major party candidates.

    1. Amash raped me. That was easy.

      1. Is this comment section google-indexed?

  16. Meh. Amash could have been great but he fell in with the corrupt Dems during impeachment.

    1. I’m not sure I’d call “agrees with them on a particular issue” a case of “[falling] in with the corrupt Dems.”

      Trump was never in any danger of impeachment. Don’t let the perfect (and mind you, always supporting Trump is not a perfect quality to have) be the enemy of the good.

  17. He’s a self-important twit who (yes) endorses libertarian positions, has no chance of being elected, has nearly zero chance of getting exposure (CNN, MSNBC, CBS, WaPo, NYT, ABC, etc; as much chance of coverage as Biden’s finger-fucking that gal).
    Plus, he’s blown any possibility of getting support from anyone other than Welsh, who cares?
    Trump, for all his many faults, has done better for us than Amish could ever hope to do.
    Fuck off, pose before the mirror with your oh-so-serious expression, and hope your dog still likes you.

    1. I wonder why he’s really doing this. He can’t be stupid enough to think he has a real chance at becoming President. He needs a job; does he think he has no chance in his district this election? Wants to go out in style? Found he’s got terminal leukemia? Wife wants a divorce and this is how he will avoid alimony?

      1. As a platform to speak out against what the Republican Party has become? It would be consistent with his recent rhetoric on his former party.

        1. And as good a reason as any, especially after the nearly $3T bender all republicans have supported with various C-19 bailouts (not to mention not 1 penny has been cut from spending since Team Red taking over congress).

        2. So fake moral superiority is his platform? He did side with the IC on its pursuit of someone it didnt like. I dont know why we are supposed to blatantly ignore that.

  18. The 40-year-old son of Middle Eastern immigrants (mom is from Syria, dad a Palestinian refugee)

    Well, at least he probably knows where Aleppo is.

    1. That was funny!

  19. Sorry I skipped all your comments because I had a good reason to get drunk tonight, but hasn’t Reason already published this article?

    1. Shhhhh. He so didn’t start running last year when he became “independent. ” nobody said this was his exact end goal last year.

  20. Since when is attending conventions a qualification for anything? Amash is likely to top Gary Johnson’s vote tally, and that’s good enough for me.

    -jcr

    1. Guessing your point. Matt Welch said something snarky about conservative writers so that justifies everyone in the comments section acting like jerks.

      1. Pointing put Amashs flaws is being a jerk? Lol.

  21. Does anyone else get the impression that the LP really doesn’t care?
    It seems like they put no effort into anything

    1. The LP is small and has little money. Nardz could help rather than criticize.

  22. Have the Republicans (or Democrats) started a birther movement to claim that he was actually born in Palestine?

    1. His family dependence on China is more than enough to point out his flaws.

  23. Okay, so which party from our two party system does he wish to drain votes from? He voted to impeach Trump, so I can only imagine his strategy is to maybe get 1% of voters who would have otherwise voted for Trump and get Biden the victory?

  24. Where is John McAfee?

    Last I heard he was spotted in Iceland.

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  26. This is great news and it gives me hope. If he gets the LP nomination I’ll campaign for him and certainly vote for him. Given that he is running against Trump and Biden he might actually be our next President.

  27. Hah! You’ll never pry my vote away from the one and only Vermin Supreme!

  28. I suppose this is good news for the anti-Trump camp, if Trump decides to run for president later this year. Any votes going to Amash will more likely come from Republicans than Democrats, regardless of whom they decide to run.

    I’m a bit disappointed by the news. Amash seems like a principled guy and this move is quijotic and wasteful. It could raise his profile (though that hasn’t worked for Johnson or any other ex-Libertarian candidate) but I council patience. Once Trump passes from the scene, and he could drop dead today, Republicans will be looking for someone who’s not a toady to replace him. Amash’s dalliance with a 3rd party might spoil his chances.

    1. Disagree. There is not much indication of Republicans being disillusioned with Trump. His polls among Republicans are very high.

      The reason dems are lashing out at Amash is they have internal polling show they are the ones with disaffected voters due to the primary and they are worried Biden won’t persuade them and Amash gives them an out to hate Trump and Biden.

      1. “There is not much indication of Republicans being disillusioned with Trump.”

        Amash is not the only Republican to decline to run as a Republican, or just decline to run, period. There is even a name for Republicans who oppose Trump. Look up ‘never Trumper’ to get more details.

        “and they are worried Biden won’t persuade them”

        My spider sense tells me that Biden won’t be their man. It also told me that Clinton wouldn’t be their woman, so take it with a grain of salt.

        1. There is even a name for Republicans who oppose Trump. Look up ‘never Trumper’ to get more details.

          Amusingly enough, they’re the ones who appear to be the most irritated about Amash running.

  29. What are his various conservative (and specifically non-libertarian) positions Hornberger refers to?

  30. Maybe the LP should split into two parties. One can focus on possibly actually winning an election some day. The other can be for circle jerking over who is the most “libertarian” crackpot

    1. Are you arguing that Amash has a chance to win? Maybe we should split into libertarians willing to do the hard work to build a base like conservatives did in the 40’s, 50’s, culminating in taking over the Republican Party in 63-66.

      Meanwhile, libertarians looking for a flashy loss while pointing to paltry popular vote totals as wins.

      The debate here is not ideological circle jerk vs. winning elections. Amash ain’t winning. He can’t even win as an independent in his own district which is why he’s going to sucker Libertarians into giving him a larger platform to sell his image while losing. In fact, no one will blame him for losing the presidency whereas his career would be over if he lost as an incumbent in his district. This is career saving for him. Again don’t know what libertarians get out of it, but Amash is making a smart political move.

      The real debate is what it takes to win long term. Some of us argue it takes a long hard slog winning people over and pushing the policies. Others think you find whatever relatively famous name from other parties that needs a landing spot. We’ve been trying that way for a while with not much success.

  31. Buy stock in Amash book deals and media hits for a few months. I don’t know what libertarians get out of this, but Amash will be flush with cash for a bit.

  32. Might as well run under the LP banner. With most GOP voters going full retard over an anti-market New York blowhard bs-artist adulterer, he’d probably lose his seat in Michigan anyway.

  33. I live in Michigan; no way I’m wasting my precious little vote on specious virtue. Who knows, it could come to do a virtual equivalent of a hanging chad, or two.

  34. This is a mistake. He would challenge Gary Peters for the Senate seat. Imagine this dream scenario: One party has 49 senators and the vice president, the other has 50 senators. The 100th senator? Amash. It would give him unprecedented power. Maybe we’d actually get change for a change.

    Peters isn’t polling that well among independents:
    https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/02/20/poll-shows-gary-peters-leading-john-james/4820919002/

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  36. I would vote for Amash if his reason for leaving the Republican Party had been almost anything other than the Russia/Ukraine BS. Trade/economics, Government overreach, and even Supreme Court/judicial issues would have been legitimate complaints from the libertarian side. But since his tipping point occurred after only he was fooled by tabloid nonsense, I really don’t think I can trust him to be the president.

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