Before the Democratic House majority took over in January, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) was known outside of Michigan by only a relatively few political junkies. His strident libertarianism — e.g., voting against spending bills; against reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; against disaster relief; against sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran; against most military support for Israel — did not endear him to either party.
Amash has found his moment, or rather his moments, with President Trump in the White House and a House Democratic majority. He was one of 13 Republicans who voted to block Trump’s phony emergency declaration. His Twitter tutorial on the Mueller report and its evidence of obstruction, followed by his call for impeachment, wigged out his party. The Freedom Caucus, which Amash co-founded, voted unanimously to condemn him.
Amash now gets peppered about running for president. The Hill reports:
The Hill asked Amash if he is thinking about leaving the Republican Party to run for president as the Libertarian Party candidate.
“I’m just focused on defending the Constitution, it’s not something I’ve thought about,” Amash said. “I don’t take things off the table like that, but it’s not something at the forefront of my considerations right now. I’m just focused on my job. I wouldn’t take running for governor off the table or Senate or statehouse, I don’t take things off the table.”
If Amash does run under the Libertarian banner, he stands a good chance to get the nomination. However, he then faces the same difficulty that previous third-party candidates have faced: He will be hard-pressed to qualify for the debates and will be treated as an afterthought by the media. However, if the aim here is simply to act as a spoiler, it’s quite possible in close states that Amash might be able to siphon off enough votes to deprive Trump of critical electoral votes. (Trump, you recall, won Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes and won Wisconsin by about 23,000 votes.)
Nevertheless, the purpose of Amash’s campaign would be to throw the election to the Democrat, a proposition that might reduce support for him and frankly not sit well with Amash either.
Alternatively, Amash could mount a primary challenge against Trump, joining former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Amash might, for example, plant himself in New Hampshire, famously averse to a state income tax and in sync with Amash’s fiscal conservatism and constitutional literalism. A strong result might provoke a mini-mutiny among Republicans and encourage other candidates to get into the race. (The beauty of New Hampshire’s primary is that independents can vote in either party’s contest; a push for them to turn out in the Republican contest to bring down Trump might be effective.)
Amash’s chances in a GOP primary would be slim at best, but he might draw free media attention, flummox Trump and demonstrate the president’s vulnerability. Moreover, if he were to win any delegates, he’d be able to go to the convention and raise all sorts of issues (e.g. a party requirement to disclose the nominee’s taxes) and get a TV audience (although Trump’s forces could no doubt easily tamp down on any trouble-making).
Here’s an alternative route for him: Devote the next 18 months to educating voters, as he did in his tweets, about Trump’s betrayal of his country (seeking and accepting campaign assistance from a foreign power) and obstruction of justice, as outlined in the Mueller report.
Buy ad time for “Mueller Minutes” in which he can highlight some of Trump’s egregious actions (“Today our Mueller Minute is about Trump trying to fire the special counsel — and to get aides to lie about it.”) Enlist the help of former defense secretaries, secretaries of state and CIA directors as well as former prosecutors and other experts to be the 2020 equivalent of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — although Amash actually would have the facts on his side. Amash and his colleagues could use public appearances and earned media to expose Trump’s mendacity. Day after day. Week after week. I’m sure some patriotic donors would sponsor such an effort.
Amash has temporarily captured the media spotlight. Before it fades, it behooves him to find the best possible vehicle for defending the Constitution from Trump. If famous men and women get one line in history, “Defended the Constitution against Trump” is a pretty good one.