Reader Starchild asked if we cover third-party candidates. Well, if they make news, we do. Mostly, what we do here is scan all forms of media for what is being said, even among smaller outlets. We try to bring you topics that we think will interest you—or get you to comment. One such story was that the 2016 vice presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party recently announced that he changed his party affiliation so he could run as a Republican in 2020. Now we have the opposite situation.

Michigan Representative Justin Amash says he would be open to running for president on the Libertarian ticket, according to Politico.

“I would never rule anything out,” the Michigander said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“That’s not on my radar right now, but I think that it is important that we have someone in there who is presenting a vision for America that is different from what these two parties are presenting,” he said. Amash is the chairman of the House Liberty Caucus, which represents libertarian-minded lawmakers.

Amash, who was first elected as part of the tea party wave in 2010, notably did not endorse Donald Trump for president in 2016. Recently, he was one of 13 House Republicans who opposed the president’s national emergency declaration.

The site Being Libertarian thinks the party should stick with a loyal party member.

If Amash were nominated, he would be the third congressman to run for president as a Libertarian.

The first was Ron Paul in 1988, and the second was Bob Barr in 2008. Paul received 0.47% of the vote, and Barr 0.40%. Between those two candidacies was Harry Brown, an author and economist who received 0.50% of the vote.

The site notes that Amash is not the only possible candidate for the Libertarian Party (LP).

Libertarians currently running for the presidency include Adam Kokesh, a radical activist from Arizona and former candidate for the Senate in 2018 and House in 2010; John McAfee, the founder of McAfee Associates, Inc., and current CEO of Luxcore; Vermin Supreme, political satirist; Arvin Vohra, the former Vice-Chair of the national LP; and many candidates unknown to the mainstream.

Speculative candidates include Amash; Larry Sharpe, former New York gubernatorial candidate; Joe Walsh, former US Representative; and Patrick Byrne, the CEO of Overstock.com.

In the Washington Examiner, Amash says a strong third party is needed.

Amash, 38, who has served in Congress since 2011, condemned the legislative branch on Sunday for being “totally broken” since lawmakers “can’t debate things in a clear way anymore” given the “wild amount of partisan rhetoric on both sides.”

“Everything has become, do you like President Trump or do you not like President Trump?” he said. “And I think that we need to return to basic American principles, talk about what we have in common as a people because I believe we have a lot in common as Americans, and try to move forward together rather than fighting each other all the time.”

Perhaps as a shot at Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, Amash warned Libertarians against nominating a “squishy Republican.” He went on to criticize the two parties in Reason.

Amash, who prefers the term “libertarian” over “libertarian-leaning Republican” and is fond of tweeting stuff like “Both parties mislead, misdirect, employ double standards, and lie.”. . .

Amash has stayed in the GOP despite describing himself as “the only libertarian in Congress”

Despite the criticism of him, Weld sort of endorsed Amash.

When informed of Amash’s “squishy” comments Saturday night on the same LibertyCon stage, Bill Weld shot his hand up and said “That’s me!” I then asked the former Massachusetts governor if he would encourage Amash to run. “Absolutely,” he said. “Justin is a hero.”

In 2016, the Chamber of Commerce (the most establishment wing of the party) also worked for the Defeat of Amash, according to The Hill.

Last year, Trump’s people tried to defeat Amash in the primary.

President Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, lashed out at the Michigan lawmaker in a tweet, calling the representative a “liability,” and challenging Trump supporters to “defeat him” during the 2018 primaries.

Amash quickly fired back. . .”Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment,” he tweeted. “Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.”

The feeling is mutual. Amash is unabashed in his criticism of Trump, as noted by the Washington Examiner.

Amash instead sees Trump as someone who hasn’t materially altered the country’s post-Sept. 11 foreign policy or succeeded at his diplomatic overtures while imposing tariffs, increasing spending, and growing government. . .

The split mirrors a dilemma faced by the party as a whole: to connect with, and try to lead, an unruly base, and risk association with a president who may discredit Republicans in the eyes of new voters they need to reach. Or, alternatively, to risk going hunting where the ducks aren’t.

The Wall Street Journal quotes even harsher criticism by Amash.

Donald Trump’s “constant fear-mongering’’ about terrorism is “irresponsible and dangerous.’’ He needs to “stop attacking the legitimacy of the judiciary.’’ He picked an attorney general with “anti-liberty” positions on surveillance and police seizure of property.

So we have the libertarian wing, the big business wing, the Chamber of Commerce wing, and the Trump wing of the GOP. Can that bird fly?

Despite Amash’s libertarian bona fides, conservative writer George Will says Amash may have the answer to the left-right paradigm that has caused such gridlock (and hostility) in Washington, according to Business Insider.

“As Amash undertakes to “tear down the left-right paradigm,” he must consider how the delicate but constructive fusion of libertarians and social conservatives has served Republicans, and the sometimes inverse relationship between being interesting and being electable.”

Amash is mindful of two things: 1) that there’s a demand among Republican elites for a more “moderate” face of the party; and 2) that lawmakers in the self-styled liberty movement have a reputation for being the opposite of moderate.

And so Amash surveys the scene and calls himself, well, a “moderate”—because, he tells Will, “the point of the Constitution is to moderate the government.”

That’s pretty much the Justin Amash story. We’ll try to highlight the stories of Adam Kokesh, Vermin Supreme, Arvin Vohra, Larry Sharpe, Joe Walsh, Patrick Byrne, and others if they make waves in the Libertarian ocean.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks to the editors for noting my request for coverage of alternative parties (the phrase “third parties” implies there’s only room for three, which is only slightly better than only two), and for this article on Justin Amash.

    It should be obvious, however, that an approach to news judgment that says we’ll cover alternative parties “if they make the news” creates an obvious Catch 22 scenario in which candidates and parties can’t get coverage because they don’t already have coverage. Media outlets need to do better than this.

    Really they should be devoting more coverage to less familiar candidates and parties than to those already in the public eye, so that the public can be informed about our full range of options.

    If people aren’t told about alternatives, but are led to think they have only two choices, so that they vote out of fear of the opposition rather than for what they really believe in, then democracy is broken because the outcomes of elections won’t reflect voters’ actual values and beliefs. This creates an even more dangerous situation, because when democracy is clearly broken, it creates an opening for authoritarians to come in and seize power.

    And the media and its habits of cozying up to the establishment and failing to provide voters with a level playing field when it comes to elections and candidates will be largely to blame.

    • Good points. We do scan large and small media, and write about “interesting” ideas, not just what everybody is doing. One problem for third parties is that the two major parties are set up as a dialectic. In the old days, people would want something, such as prohibition, and form a “Prohibition Party” to promote their main idea. However, today, if an issue pops up, one of the two parties will jump on it, trying to expand their base, then the other party automatically takes the opposing side, in knee-jerk fashion. That deflates the independent movement.

      The Libertarian Party has survived, even though parts of their program have been absorbed by one major party or the other–but. If you don’t have a unique platform, with issues that are not already co-opted by the major parties, you could establish a footing.

      The Green Party also survives, but while Libertarians could contest all 538 Electoral Votes, Jill Stein was only on the ballot with a crack at only 84 Electoral Votes. It takes 270 to win.

      • What you describe certainly occurs, but I don’t have an issue with the big parties co-opting issues introduced by smaller parties. That’s actually being responsive to voters and showing a willingness to change.

        In my experience as an activist, by far the biggest factor keeping people from supporting alternative parties and candidates outside the two-party cartel is not this kind of issue co-option, but what we call the “myth of the wasted vote”.

        Many people believe (largely as a result of media coverage implicitly suggesting this) that Democrat and Republican candidates are the only ones worth considering, and that voting for someone else who they assume can’t win would be “wasting their vote”. (The fact that they would win if enough people supported them, and that each voter’s choice plays a part in determining whether this happens, is typically overlooked.)

        Something that is rarely mentioned in the press and thus little understood by members of the public is that voting in a national election in a country the size of the U.S., or even in a state election, is like taking part in an opinion poll with a large number of respondents. You aren’t going to change the poll’s outcome – all you’re doing is adding your voice to the total for one of the responses. Since you won’t be changing the outcome no matter how you vote or respond, there is no “wasted vote” – unless you consider a vote that does not reflect your actual beliefs to have been wasted. Mathematically speaking, your vote also has a greater proportional impact when added to a smaller total than when added to a larger total (e.g. a vote cast for a candidate who gets a million votes has a greater impact, not a lesser impact, than a vote cast for a candidate who gets 100 million votes).

        In most opinion polls with three or more response options, people aren’t subtly propagandized in advance to consider only two of those options, so they typically answer the polls according to their beliefs and consciences regardless of how they expect others will answer, and the results thus tend to legitimately reflect the views of those who respond.

        But in elections, media coverage acts to lead voters toward supporting cartel candidates, and vote based on how they expect others to vote rather than voting with integrity based on their own actual views.

        If media organizations and journalists acted more responsibly, by presenting all candidates on a level playing field in terms of amounts of coverage, calling out the establishment for their exclusionary debates and ballot access laws, and giving people honest and accurate information about the mathematics of voting as outlined above, this corruption of representative democracy would be much less of a problem.

        I urge U.S. Presidential Election News to strive to do this, and play a strong positive role rather than being part of the problem.

        • The issue is not a “wasted vote,” since non-major-party votes are a form of protest vote. It’s like voting “no.”

          The issue is a “spoiler vote”–that if you would prefer the lesser of two evils to win, NOT voting for that lesser is almost like voting for the greater of the two evils.

          In Florida in 2000, for example, people complained that Ralph Nader elected George W. Bush, since his votes did not go to Al Gore. But in 2000, it was so close (537 out of almost 6 million), that Gore would have won if he had gotten the votes that went to the Reform Party, OR Libertarian Party, OR Natural Law Party, OR Workers’ World Party, OR Constitution Party, or Socialist Party, OR Socialist Workers Party. That is, if ANY party on the ballot had not been there, and their votes went to Gore, Gore would have become president.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_United_States_presidential_election_in_Florida#Final_certified_results

          However, we will endeavor to highlight non-major-party candidates t his year.

          • This “spoiler” notion is indeed a likely factor in causing the media bias in favor of establishment candidates.

            There is I think a common attitude that the establishment candidates of the 2-party cartel somehow have more of a right to be in the race, and to public support, than candidates of alternative parties like the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Reform Party, Natural Law Party, etc.

            I think this attitude is wholly unjustified. Assuming that Al Gore actually would have had more people wanting him as president in 2000, given a level playing field, than Ralph Nader, or Harry Browne, or any of the other alternative candidates who were running, is speculation. Gore’s support, like that of most cartel candidates, was almost unquestionably based largely on people’s habits of voting for a member of the cartel, and by media-influenced assumptions about who is likely to win, with those assumptions becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

            Almost nobody accuses Al Gore of having been a spoiler for Ralph Nader, but there is just as much justification for this as for calling Nader a spoiler. If Gore had dropped out and endorsed Nader, after all, Nader would have had a good shot at becoming president. Why should he be branded with the “spoiler” stigma, when he was never allowed a fair chance to compete against Gore to see which of the two was actually more popular?

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