Libertarian Justin Amash’s bid for presidency shakes up 2020 Election

Michigan Congressman Justin Amash announced his campaign for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination on April 28. A former Reppublican, Amash was the only non-Democrat to vote in favor of impeachment against President Trump.  The 40-year-old became enthralled in politics during George W. Bush’s term as President; he came to Washington to fight “for the heart and soul—and future—of the Republican Party,” according to Politico. He told his colleagues if the Republican Party could not redefine their image, the “rise of a third party was inevitable.” Yahoo News reported that during his time as a Republican, he frequently clashed with the GOP, was a major critic of the two-party system and officially left the party in July 2019. Now Amash hopes to secure the Libertarian nomination and challenge Trump and Biden as an independent in November. 

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Amash said his campaign is largely focused on the common thread of “individual liberty.” He is focused on issues such as criminal justice reform and Congress’ legislation process. He believes Congress needs to step up in terms of foreign policy and constitutional war powers. In addition, Amash is committed to fiscal conservatism, saying he would like to get spending under control. He has been critical of the coronavirus response, saying that “government is spending money in an ineffective way and not caring at all about the debt.” He strongly believes in giving more power to local and state governments rather than all to the federal government. Overall, the Washington Examiner described his agenda as focused on issues where “big government is crushing the little guy.”

Amash’s odds of winning the election are relatively slim considering attempts by independents in the past. According to Yahoo News, independent Gary Johnson received only 3.3 percent of the vote in the 2016 election. But Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein each earned enough votes to cover Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton in several key states in 2016. This raises concern that Amash will steal key votes from the major party candidates, but not enough to secure him the election.

Congressman Amash; Source: Wikipeda Commons

Some people believe Democrats would be hurt the most by Amash’s run. Ultimately they predict a repeat of the 2016 election, where defection from major party candidates hurt Hilary Clinton. Although he will not win the election, he could errode support for Biden and ultimately give Trump the win. This camp believes Amash will be particularly appealing to center-right republicans who are tired of Trump, but like conservative values. However, he would have to overcome the reality that a third party candidate has never gotten more votes than a major party candidate in a US election. New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie believes that “in practice, under the current system, the only way that Justin Amash—or any third-party candidate—becomes president is for a major party to collapse, and for a minor party to take its place as the other dominant coalition.” 

With Trump being largely unpopular outside of his party and Biden riddled with sexual assault alligations, Amash could be an appealing candidate to many “on-the-fence voters.” Amash’s campaign could be successful if it resonates with voters who are sick of the extremism of the two-party system and if he can convince a large section of voters that they are a part of that group. Some believe Amash will be particularly appealing to those who are not fond of either Trump’s or Biden’s political personas. In a time where the media is focused on the coronavirus, the campaigns of Trump and Biden are struggling to get through to voters outside of impersonal, polorizing news stories. Amash stands a good chance for those who are fed up with the extreme polarization of this age and percieve him as a welcome change.

Amash told the Washington Examiner, his life would be much easier if he didn’t run for president, but he believes the American people deserve to have an alternative and change the system. He said his run is based on “his commitment to limited-government principles and his frustration with the political establishment.” It remains to be seen whether the Amash campaign is doomed effort or the beginning of a radical shift in the two-party system.

What we want to know at Quibbl:

Will Justin Amash win the 2020 election? Vote here.

Will political pressure cause Justin Amash to drop out before November? Vote here.

Will Justin Amash get more than 15% of the votes in the general election? Vote here.

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