We’re fewer than 200 days out from the presidential election, and the Libertarian Party just gained its presumptive nominee for president of the United States. Michigan Congressman Justin Amash announced his candidacy Tuesday evening and, in so doing, made it ever more likely there will be one less pro-liberty voice in Washington, D.C.
If we want more liberty and smaller government, then Justin Amash should have just stayed in Congress.
Since his resignation from the GOP on July 4, 2019, Amash has remained the only Independent in the House, and has faced constant scrutiny from both sides of the aisle. NPR claimed that “standing alone is rarely a good thing” in D.C. Donald Trump called Amash “one of the dumbest and most disloyal men in Congress.” But despite this criticism, Amash has remained committed to the principles of small government and transparent leadership.
Those qualities are exactly why his voice is so badly needed in Congress.
Everyone knows that a Libertarian presidential win is a long shot. The Libertarian Party simply lacks the critical infrastructure needed to win this race. Amash spent $770,000 on his 2018 reelection bid. For comparison, Libertarian party nationally has around 15,000 dues-paying members and brought in only $1.7 million in the entirety of 2018. Even with that money, the party ran a $237,000 deficit.
Libertarians are wildly behind. At CPAC 2019, I had the chance to hear Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, talk about 2020. With 614 days until the election, Parscale said he had “one volunteer for every 13 people the campaign needs to reach.” Compare that to the Libertarian Party, which won’t even make a formal decision on their nominee until May 25 — only 162 days to the election.
As Amash launches this exploratory committee, Republican nominee Donald Trump and shoo-in Democrat challenger Joe Biden are already in the home stretch of their candidacies. Now, even if this exploratory committee finds there’s no viable path to the White House, will Michigan’s 3rd district voters still support Amash for Congress? Despite outraising all his challengers, combined, this foray onto the presidential stage could be damning to his career, illustrating a distraction from his work in Michigan. Yes, joining forces is the right move to help the Libertarian Party grow, but it remains to be seen whether this is a wise move for Amash himself.
Ultimately, the Libertarian Party’s problem is structural. Smaller parties need more time to organize, not less. Where the Libertarian Party moves in fits and starts, both major parties never really stop campaigning, and it pays off.
Amash’s one shot lies in the possibility that the public is as fed up with the establishment as he is. Trump has faced harsh criticism for everything since he got in office, and now he’s being excoriated for his handling of the COVD-19 pandemic. Biden, too, is trying to shrug off a rather delayed #MeToo moment that could potentially unravel his campaign. Against both older and power-hungry men, Amash would be a radically different and much fresher voice on the debate stage.
At the end of the day, America needs more independent candidates. Voters are hungry for something different but have struggled to pull the lever for anyone but a major party candidate. Amash’s transparency is endearing across party lines. While other members of Congress are facing charges for enriching themselves during COVID-19, Amash has published a clear explanation of every vote he has ever taken in Congress. That kind of honesty is precisely what could make America great again. But Amash would have to get the chance.
Sadly, the odds of that happening are rather low. Of course, many liberty-loving Americans will keep their eye on Amash’s narrow window to presidential viability with hope. But Amash will probably not win the presidency, and that means we’re just set to lose one of the few true defenders of liberty Washington, D.C. has left.