Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan will seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president, ending months of speculation that the former Republican would run as an alternative to President Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people,” Amash (I-Mich.) tweeted Tuesday evening. Two weeks earlier, he had tweeted that he was looking “closely” at a run, after denouncing a comment Trump made about presidential authority.
It’s unclear whether a bid by Amash would have a greater effect on Biden or on Trump. In 2019, a Detroit News poll found Biden leading Trump in Michigan, a state that has grown more uncertain for the president, by 12 points. With Amash as an option, Biden’s lead shrunk to six points, with some independents and Republicans moving away from the Democrat. But national polling of Amash has been sparse, and it’s unclear how many states the Libertarian Party will attain ballot access in as the coronavirus pandemic makes traditional signature-gathering impossible.
The Libertarian Party is set to meet in Austin over Memorial Day weekend to pick its presidential nominee, with the convention making its choice on May 25. While the pandemic has canceled many political events, the Libertarian Party had not moved the convention, and earlier this week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state would “reopen” on May 1.
The detail that the Libertarians are going to go ahead with their convention in person in May is perfect.
It’s hard to say how this will affect the race if it does at all. I can see two plausible competing narratives:
- Amash will basically just be a way station for educated suburban conservatives who don’t like Trump but were never going to seriously consider Biden. Some angry Bernie supporters might go for him, especially after the inevitable Greenwald endorsement, but for the vast majority it was probably always a question of whether they’d vote for him or whatever grifting dipshit the Greens barf up this year. Since Amash might keep some people in column A from drifting back to Trump he would if anything be a net positive.
- To borrow a point from (I think) Matt Yglesias, Trump has never had majority support, and never had close to majority support. He was highly unpopular and his party has been getting consistently routed in elections for 3 years despite what has mostly been a pretty strong economy, and since we’ll still likely be in a depression in November it’s hard to see that getting better. If the opposition remains united, Trump is probably beyond saving by the Electoral College. Any remotely serious third party campaign therefore has more downside risk than upside risk.
Which of these is more likely to be true? Beats me. In a sense how Amash runs is as or more important than the fact that he’s running. One obvious difference between Amash and the Greens is that he seems to sincerely hate the Republican candidate and seems unlikely to run the kind of straight ratfucking campaign directed solely against the Democratic candidate that Nader and Stein did. But who knows?