US Representative Justin Amash (I-MI) is considering a run as a third-party independent.
You’d be forgiven by asking, “Who?” You’d also be forgiven for adding, “Why should I care?” Well, the answer to the second question is, “Maybe you shouldn’t, but…”
Amash is a former Tea Party darling who entered Congress as part of the sewage tsunami that overran Congress in 2010. He’s more libertarian than most of the right-wing bottom feeders, and in his own way, he has some integrity about him. Position-wise, he’s hard to pin down. He’s 100% against abortion in any form, but is also against the death penalty in federal prisons. Then, in February 2020, he was one of the four Congressional members to vote against a landmark anti-lynching bill. He opposes the EPA, doesn’t believe the government should take any actions to mitigate climate change, and even voted against providing funding for water provisioning to Flint, Michigan. There’s more, but you get the idea. He encapsulates the ideal of the far-right libertarian, actually better than libertarian darling Rand Paul (R-Thug), who is just a white supremacist who has Atlas Shrugged downloaded to his Kindle app.
At any rate, we don’t want him in government at all, even if he does have a sense of integrity that most of his (former) GOP colleagues totally lack. His ideology and policy stances are 175.2 degrees away from ours (that figure is a rough estimate, of course). But he did win some fans when, in mid-2019, he began telling anyone who would listen that he believed Trump had committed impeachable acts. No one in the GOP was surprised: Amash was always a Never Trumper, and has been targeted as one of Trump’s innumerable “enemies” since at least 2017. Amash supported the conclusions of the Mueller Report, and left the Republican Party shortly thereafter. He was the only non-Democrat in the House to vote for impeachment.
At least five Republicans are running to unseat Amash, so it’s no surprise that he may want to do something to either revitalize his House campaign or step away from Congress altogether.
On April 13, he tweeted that he was considering a run for the White House because “Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option.”
Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option. https://t.co/c7P2vOTyOe
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 13, 2020
Well, Americans deserve better than Trump, that’s certain. But they also deserve better than Amash.
Regardless. It’s pointless to analyze Amash’s potential for good or bad as president, because he won’t win. He may not choose to run. Certainly the Never Trumpers at The Bulwark (the conservative site headed by William Kristol and Charlie Sykes, among others) don’t want him to.
They are very clear on their reasoning: they love everything about Amash and would wet themselves in glee if by some electoral miracle he could gain the White House, but since that won’t happen, his “run could help reelect Donald Trump.” Yup. Authors Sarah Longwell and Tim Miller are very clear:
This isn’t an easy call. On one hand, we want to be for him — to have the joy and satisfaction of getting behind the constitutional superhero of our dreams. But on the other hand, there is a downside risk to his running and the price of a second Trump term is too great for anyone to be playing dice with it. Trump is not just a Bad Orange Man or guy with suboptimal policy preferences. He is a threat to pluralism, the Constitution, American’s health and safety, and the rule of law. He’s a threat to the very heart of our liberal democracy. We know all of this deep in our bones. And we know Justin Amash knows it, too. It’s the reason his moral clarity has been so refreshing the past three years. So the real question about his possible candidacy is a political one: Could we be certain that a third-party campaign from a Constitutional conservative would not help Trump get reelected? The answer, unfortunately, is no.
Remember, Liberty Project board member Reed Galen told a reporter in February that their resistance to Trump would only need to peel 1% of the Republican vote away from Trump for the Democratic candidate to stomp a mudhole in him.
I agree with that. I also think that Amash’s quixotic, ideology-driven campaign would more than likely sink without much of a trace.
But I also remember Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, the Green and Libertarian Party candidates in 2016. Stein got just over 1% of the votes cast in 2016, mostly from leftist hothouse flowers too pure and pristine to vote for Hillary Clinton. Johnson took 3.27% of the vote, largely from young conservatives who didn’t care for either Trump or Clinton.
The Johnson candidacy in particular worries me. Amash will not run as the candidate for the Libertarian Party (that honor is going to go to either some nameless stooge from a libertarian foundation or our favorite politician who wears a boot on his head, Vermin Supreme), so that’s something of a relief (though it’s possible the Libertarians will toss Vermin and Stooge over the side and nominate Amash by acclaim to head their ticket if Amash decides to run). If he remains an independent, I’m honestly not sure how many state ballots Amash could legitimately be included on if he entered the race at this late date.
But Johnson’s candidacy gives me pause. Amash is a lot more savvy than Johnson, who famously couldn’t remember where or even what was Aleppo, Syria, and prompted speculation that if he won, he’d be the first president to take bong hits while sitting at the Resolute Desk. If Amash gets some traction among the disaffected Never Trumper right — and that is a big fat blinking if — he could peel that 1% of votes Galen was talking about away from Trump, but also away from Biden.
I worry about things like this after the 2016 catastrophe.
Granted, I don’t worry that much about Amash. I didn’t run for the Maalox after reading the headlines about Amash’s contemplated run. But Longwell and Miller may be stocking up on the Pepto-Bismol. They’re looking at a poll that shows Biden with a 12% popular vote lead in Michigan, Amash’s home state, over Trump — a lead that shrinks to 6% when Amash is added to the list. Richard Czuba, who conducted the poll, told a Detroit reporter:
He will not take away Republican votes from Trump. What he will do is give independent voters who don’t want to support President Trump an outlet to not vote for the Democrat. And if you look at who or what would be moving toward Amash, it is particularly independent men.
The Bulwark authors build on Czuba’s findings:
In the end, [third-party candidates such as Amash] tend to give those people who weren’t going to vote for Trump anyway an excuse to vote for someone else, while not pulling many voters from the Trump column.
Yes, it’s one poll, and only in Michigan, where Amash would get an outsized percentage of the vote as compared to the other states and territories.
Still. This worries me. The authors agree that Amash should not take the chance of giving wobbly voters a third option. They’re all for Amash 2024, but for this year, they’re encouraging him to decline the opportunity.
Until Amash decides to help oust the Orange Nazi by not running, maybe I’ll just mask up and head out to the grocery store for some Tums. Just a roll or two. Just in case.