A New Libertarian Candidate Has Emerged: Justin Amash

Photo Credit Brittany Greeson for The New York Times

A 40-year old congressman representing Michigan, is the latest addition to the list of presidential candidates for 2020 election. On 28th of April, Justin Amash announced his candidacy as a 3rd party candidate and launched an exploratory committee to run as a member of the “Libertarian Party”.

“Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people,” he said in his announcement. “We’re ready for a presidency that will restore respect for our Constitution and bring people together. I’m excited and honored to be taking these first steps toward serving Americans of every background as president.”

He used to be a lifelong Republican; until July of 2019. He left the Republican party and declared his independence. He wrote an op-ed in Washington post and explained his reasons for quitting the party: “Our politics is in partisan death spiral. That’s why I’m leaving the GOP.”

Prior to that, After Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report was published, he was the only House Republicans who was in favor of impeaching President Trump based on those documents.

In a Town Hall meeting in Michigan, he talked to his constituents about this issue and said : “I’m confident if you read volume 2 [of the report], you will be appalled at much of [Trump’s] conduct. I was appalled.”

He was received by mixed reactions. Some found his honesty and non-partisanship refreshing, but some others did not approve of their representative.


INDEPENDENCE, ON 4th OF JULY

On July 4 of last year, Amash announced he was leaving the Republican Party for good.

“The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family. In recent years, though, I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.”

He tweeted a picture of the American declaration of Independence along with his message; drawing parallels between his ‘freedom from the GOP’ and ‘America’s from the British’!


WHO IS JUSTIN AMASH?

The former Republican, turned-Independent, turned-Libertarian, has been in the congress since 2011. Even though he was a registered Republican, he has always been a leaning Libertarian and advocated their traditional policies.

He stood out from many of his House Republican colleagues with opposing expansive federal surveillance powers and American intervention abroad.

A rigid proponent of limited government, Amash has been consistently willing to take controversial votes aligned with his views.

He has stringent and consistent views of following the Constitution. When The New York Times once asked him to explain his approach to voting on legislation, he replied, “I follow a set of principles. I follow the Constitution. And that’s what I base my votes on. Limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty.”

While running for the House of Representatives in 2010, Amash supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a bill that defined marriage between a man a woman and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. It was signed into law by president Bill Clinton.

However; in 2013 Justin Amash advocated repealing it, saying that the “real threat to traditional marriage and religious liberty is government, not gay couples who love each other and want to spend lives together”. He supported the result of Obergefell v. Hodges, but said the issue with same-sex marriage was government involvement.


2020 PRESIDENTIAL BID

Right after announcing his candidacy, he instantly came under attack by both the left and the right. Democrats accused him of trying to hand Donald Trump a second term. Most of ‘Never Trump’ republicans also warned him that his candidacy will help Donald Trump get re-elected.

Tom Nichols, a Professor of National Security Affairs, and former Personal Staff for Defense and Security Affairs for Senator John Heinz, severely criticized his fellow former-Republican Amash as he worries he may be the reason Joe Biden loses Michigan. In addition Tom noted that, Justin, as an Orthodox Christian, also has a chance of winning the Orthodox communities outside Michigan; like in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

So far, Joe Biden, with all his shortcomings still had a solid chance of winning by mere virtue of not being Donald Trump. Independents, center-right and moderate Republicans were poised to cast their vote for Biden.

But now, the dynamic has changed. Many know that the chance has come for them to vote for someone in whom they believe; people who are tired of binary choices between “bad” and “worse” each election cycle.

Will it help elect Trump? We don’t know yet. Nobody does.


POTENTIAL VICE PRESIDENT

Even though Amash hasn’t announced any potential nominees as his running mate yet, I think Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is a viable candidate. As one of the most moderate Republicans in the senate, she could be a great choice. She has been in the senate since 2002.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

In 2010, she got challenged by another Republican, a Tea Party candidate called Joe Miller supported by the GOP and former governor Sarah Palin. She lost the primary to Miller. Murkowski’s campaign floated the idea of her running as a Libertarian in the general election. But the Libertarian Party voted not to consider allowing Murkowski on its ticket for the U.S. Senate race.

So, Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate and defeated both the Republican Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams in the general election; this made her the second U.S. Senator in history to be elected by write-in vote.

Her experience of going against both Republican and Democratic establishments (and emerging victorious), makes her a great choice for Justin’s campaign and the message he tries to convey. (*IF* she accepts the VP offer, of course)

Murkowski also has strong support among Alaskan Native Americans and she is an active member of the Senate Committee on (American) Indian Affairs. In 2009, she was honored with a Congressional Leadership Award by the National Congress of American Indians; making her the first Alaskan to receive the award.


TAKING CHANCES

Even though it is still early to call or predict outcomes, the horizon looks more uncertain than ever.

On 14th of April, after Justin Amash said that he’s looking “closely” at a run for president (but didn’t confirm anything yet). Morning Consult conducted a survey between 14-16 of April, and the polling results showed that Amash wouldn’t shake up Presidential race at National Level.

Only 1% of electorate said they’d vote for the Michigan independent if election were held today.

Although, we have to bear in mind two facts. A) that Justin hadn’t even started campaigning at that point. B) Not all polls and predictions are accurate.

Right before 2016 election, all the statistical predictions showed Donald Trump getting horrendously defeated by Clinton. The Princeton Election Consortium gave Clinton a 99% chance of winning. The Huffington Post’s forecast gave Clinton 98%, PredictWise gave her 89%, and the New York Times’s The Upshot gave her 85%. Even FiveThirtyEight, which was the most bullish on Trump, gave Clinton over a 71% chance of winning. And we all know how that election turned out.


WINNING PROSPECTS

One thing on which I think we should focus, is the important role the electoral college plays in each election. A candidate needs 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win the presidency. If no one gets to 270,  the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to choose a president—but not by a simple majority vote. Rather, each state’s delegation casts a single vote. Support from a majority of the states—that is, 26—is needed to select the winner.

So, if Justin Amash manages to win even only one state, let’s say his own home state of Michigan (which was won by Trump in 2016), he will get 16 electoral votes. Hence, if the remaining votes are divided equally, neither Trump nor Biden would reach the 270 threshold.

Then, the responsibility will lie in the hands of the House members to choose among one of the three rivals and determine the faith of presidency. Prospects of a fiscally conservative, constitutional-abiding, scandal-free, and principled 40 year-old being chosen over two 70 year-olds dealing with disconcerting sexual allegations is high. So, Justin indeed has a chance of winning the presidency. Still low, but probable.

Some say the odds are 1%, but I think depending on how we look at it, it might be more than that. Instead of looking at the national poll, his numbers at Michigan might be the key players.


ARE PREDICTIONS WORTHLESS?

One thing is for sure though, that in the unpredictable and volatile environments such as stock markets, economics, and politics, predictions and intuitions are almost always worthless. In these cases there’s no amount of practice or experience that will give enough expertise to predict or rely on intuitions for an outcome.

For example, Predictions on sports events are completely different from financial markets. In world of sports, we can see the performance of players and assign a number to the level of performance and draw statistical predictions with high level of accuracy. In addition, each player has opportunities for improvement through heavy practice and nutritious diet.

On the contrary, financial investors and economists, even the most seasoned and experienced ones cannot accurately predict the next recessions or the future value of Dow Jones Industrial Average or S&P 500.

Since these domains are not stable enough to give participants appropriate knowledge and/or time to develop intuitive wisdom. Same goes with pundits in world of politics.

We just have to wait and see what happens, without trying so hard to predict, or even draw causal conclusions from some rare and unpredictable events, in other words, “Black Swans”. Events such as election of Trump who had median 1% chance of winning.


Maryam Rahmani

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