Few were caught by surprise when former Tea Party Congressman Justin Amash (I-Michigan) who is one of the few remaining consistently admirable officeholders in Washington, announced he was running as a Libertarian for President earlier this week.
Let me preface this article by saying, I oppose Amash’s positions on a large number of issues including Gun Control (he’s pro second amendment) and reproductive choice (he opposes it). But in a nation of growing partisan polarization and non-ideological politics, Amash is the very best of what Americans should emulate – a highly intelligent, original thinker who is consistent in his ideological beliefs and values system.
It’s those values that drove him, once the star of the huge GOP Freshman Congressional class of 2010 into the never never land of being a homeless political independent. Critical thought and consistent ethical values aren’t permitted in today’s hyper-partisan landscape which is filled with the hypocrisy of “conservative” activists backing the most vile human being to hold the Presidency in generations (not to mention he’s probably had the most left-wing economic policies since at least Nixon, maybe Johnson) and liberal activists who claim to be feminists having a horrible #MeToo conflict.
Amash, also as a first-generation American probably did not feel particularly comfortable in today’s GOP.
On paper, Amash should impact the conservative major party and its nominee far more than the liberal major party and its nominee. But these are not ordinary times, and it’s tough despite political partisans claims of ideology to attribute “left,” or “right” to either major party right now. Both represent a hodgepodge of contradictions and personality-driven candidates, operatives and activists. If one principle ties them all together, it is that they like money and attention.
Amash is unlikely to get more than 1% or 2% of the national electorate, but that might be enough to throw the election one way or another- or he may simply take a small amount of votes from either side and turn out voters that were disgusted by the major parties and not planning to vote.
I was processing the Amash challenge when Krystal Ball, not always the most rational thinker, but typically more consistent than others on the left tweeted this:
Justin Amash opposes background checks, is anti-abortion, opposes Dreamers, and is a Koch/Heritage style libertarian. That Dems think he will take more of THEIR voters than Trump’s tells you everything about how the entire Dem party has collapsed to just Never Trump.
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) April 29, 2020
Fewer truer things have ever been tweeted on Twitter, the social media platform that has made Fake News the most mainstream form of “journalism” imaginable.
Ball hit on it – The Democrats move to the right in the world of #NeverTrump #Resistance politics as well as the general non-ideological, personality-driven drift of party activists makes Amash a very real threat.
The Democrats have more overtly tried to appeal to Libertarian-styled fiscal conservatives with a liberal social bent (ie. into woke liberalism and identity politics) as well coastal economic elites as Trump’s populist GOP has sought traditional Democratic working class votes and that or suburban and medium-sized town Catholics.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has the ability to win back Catholic voters because he’s a throwback and a true liberal. Biden however is an exception as the party overall has gone in a different direction, openly hostile to religion and seemingly disinterested in working class types if they aren’t working in the new “gig” economy in the large metro areas.
It’s worth once again reminding the readers Joe Biden WAS NOT the first, second or probably even third choice of the Democratic elite this cycle but were forced to prop him up when he was the only alternative to a leftist takeover of the party via Bernie Sanders. So while I continue to defend Biden’s liberalism (despite my obvious qualms about him in the wake of the Tara Reade allegations) his ideology is generally not shared by the party he now leads.
Traditional fiscal conservatives should at least in theory be disgusted with President Trump, whose tariffs, subsidy juiced-economy, and seemingly monthly interventions in the monetary market had him drifting left on economics BEFORE COVID-19. That Trump and some GOPers like Josh Hawley have openly mused about socialist solutions to the economy since March 11, should alarm them even more. So Amash might be a landing spot for those conservatives.
The flip side of that is that #Resistance politics depends on personality and a downplaying of ideology. Since the anti-Trump movement has appealed directly to economic and cultural elites, wouldn’t Amash personally jive with those elements better than Biden? Besides, it seems more and more libertarian type voters have drifted away from the GOP lately and toward the Democrats.
So Amash with his Generation X exuberance, ideological consistency and libertarian instincts perhaps is a greater threat to the Democrats of 2020 than to the GOP?
Or is Amash, the fiscal conservative with a consistently highly ideological, non-partisan voting record a bigger threat to the GOP?
We don’t know yet. Stay tuned.