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Yes, I Want Amash to Run
There's a lot of concern that a credible run by an independent or third-party candidate will just hand the election to Trump. I have other concerns about this moment in American politics.
Welcome to this week’s issue of Self-Evident.
Yes, I Want Amash to Run
This past week, speculation has once again arisen about whether or not Justin Amash is going to run for president. This speculation has been fueled by his own campaign’s announcement that he has not been actively campaigning for his House seat since February and has instead been seriously considering and preparing for a possible run for the White House.
This news has been met with mixed feelings from politically homeless independents like myself. The excitement over a possible Amash candidacy that existed when it looked like the Democrats might actually nominate Bernie Sanders has become somewhat more muted now that Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have slightly mollified the populist, socialist bent of their more hard-left voters.
The argument is that, since the Democrats have nominated a pill worth swallowing to get rid of Donald Trump, a serious third-party or independent effort only works to weaken Biden’s chances and would ensure a Trump victory. A lot of “Never Trump” conservatives, in particular, hang their hat on the idea that beating Trump in this election, by any way necessary, is the first step in reclaiming the Republican Party (or establishing a new party in its ashes).
There is palpable fear among many voters that another term of Donald Trump is completely unacceptable and could even by cataclysmic. The view is that we need to save the Republic first, vote Trump out by pulling the lever for Biden, and then we can focus on principled based politics in 2024 and beyond.
I fully understand and empathize with these views. But I still want Justin Amash to run for president. Bear with me for a moment as I try to make my case.
What About Limited Government?
First and foremost, I believe very strongly that someone who stands for the principles of limited government should be on the ballot this fall. I don’t think any good can come of ceding the presidential ballot wholly to two different flavors of big government quasi-authoritarianism.
Lest we forget, Trump is a symptom of a bigger problem. Defeating Trump while feeding the Leviathan of big, centralized government and the expanding imperial presidency only fuels Trump-ism. There’s no kumbaya moment waiting for the conservative movement in the aftermath of a Trump defeat if the Democrats receive a mandate to do all the things that fueled the anxiety of Trump voters in the first place.
There’s no guarantee that a Biden Presidency gives us a principled conservative Republican candidate in 2024. In fact, it’s just as likely that Republican voters double-down on their fears and on populist nationalism by putting forward a true-believer who could present a far worse threat to the health of our Republic than our current reality-tv president who’s just playing a role.
If there are independents and moderates who feel comfortable with a vote for Joe Biden, then more power to them. But let’s be honest and recognize that there will be a lot of Democrats who will interpret such a vote as a vote for progressivism, for big government, for pro-Roe justices, for the green new deal, for abolishing ICE, et al.
After all, honest observers know that Trump’s only true mandate was served on day one of his presidency (he wasn’t Hillary). But that’s not how he, his surrogates, or his supporters interpreted what was, frankly, a weak plurality of support. Haven’t we had to deal with a constant barrage of demands to support the wall, Muslim bans, and trade wars because “how dare you stand in the way of the people’s will”?
If Biden gets well over 270 electoral votes and receives the support of well over 50% of the popular vote, do you really think he, his surrogates, or his supporters are going to qualify that as just wanting to get rid of Trump? That’s just not how politicians work. When the Biden agenda starts rolling out, and independents start speaking out against it, the election results will be thrown in our face. You can take that to the bank.
So, no matter who wins this fall, whether we get four years of Sleepy Joe or a second-term of the Trump Circus, there needs to be a place for voters to check the box so that the American people and their leaders know there’s still a substantial group of principled independents who are not on board with a big government scheme, regardless of which party gets to be in charge of it.
What Kind of Voters Own the Parties?
Independents, centrists, and moderates used to be the center of gravity around which the general election revolved. But Trump won in 2016 without a pivot, and it’s unlikely the Democrats will pivot in the general this year either. Why? Because the voters willing to walk are the ones who have the most power over the parties.
Let me say that again: the voters willing to walk are the ones who have the most power over the parties.
Don’t believe me? Why do you think Trumpism has gained such power over the Republican Party? Because Trump supporters are willing to walk-out on Republican candidates who aren’t sufficiently supportive of Trump. Just ask Mark Sanford, Mia Love, or Jeff Flake. Democrats literally have seats in the House and the Senate because Trump supporters wouldn’t show up at the ballot for non-Trumpy Republicans or would rather put forward weaker candidates than support them in the primary.
How about the Democrats? Remember that I mentioned they’re not likely to pivot in this year’s general election? That’s because they are more concerned about losing the ultra-progressive Bernie vote than they are about losing the votes of independents like me. Why? Because the Bernie Bros are willing to walk.
The traditional center of American politics has been essentially neutered by lesser-of-two-evils arguments. Instead of pivoting and catering to our values, all the parties have to do is paint each election as an existential crisis. Since we’re the ones willing to swallow the pill for candidates we don’t like, the parties get to go flirt with the margins and spend their time catering to toxic extremes. Because they’re the ones willing to walk.
In 2016, I said I was done voting for lesser evils. I said, from here on out, I’m willing to walk. And that’s exactly what I plan to do. This November, I will vote for whichever candidate best reflects my values. If that candidate isn’t a Republican or a Democrat, that’s not my fault, it’s theirs.
Biden Is Not an Off-Ramp from Trumpism
My final point is connected to something I’ve been saying in a lot of my articles and podcasts: whatever principled conservatism does, it needs to provide an off-ramp from Trumpism for the rest of conservatism or it will never be relevant. Joe Biden is not that off-ramp.
There is simply no argument for a center-right vote for Biden if you don’t see Trump as an existential threat to the country. I’ve made no bones about my views on Trump and I’m not even convinced he’s as much of a threat as some people think he is. So, how are you going to go about convincing rank-and-file conservatives not to pull the lever for Trump if the only other option is Joe Biden?
Having a third-party or independent candidate, like Justin Amash, gives people like me who are bread and butter, died-in-the-wool conservatives a place to hang our hats and be part of the process without endorsing an approach to government that goes against everything we believe.
The lesser-of-two-evils, defeat Trump at all costs argument just isn’t going to change any conservative minds who are on the fence-line with Donald Trump. In fact, keep pushing that argument and you’ll just push them over the edge to voting Trump again in November (after all, it was Hillary and Bernie, not Donald Trump, who destroyed the 2016 #NeverTrump movement).
I Endorse a Third Way
I don’t know if someone like Justin Amash has a chance at winning the election as a third-party candidate. But you know what? I want to live in a country where he does. Given the realities of our political era, Justin Amash should stand a chance. If he doesn’t, maybe the problem isn’t Trump or Biden, or the Republicans or the Democrats. Maybe the problem is us.
I’m not going to wait until 2024, 2028, or 2032 for the “existential threat” to pass. So long as we continue to allow the parties to make that argument, there will always be an “existential threat.” If that’s the button they can push that brings us into line, they’ll keep pressing it year after year.
The Republican Party will always find a Hillary to vote against and the Democrats will always find a Trump to vote against. And if you don’t vote how they want you to, the consequences will always be your fault. If you keep hoping for a someday when you’ll be able to vote for someone you really believe in without taking pains to make it happen today, someday will never come.
I’m done being corralled one way or the other for fear my vote will be the one that tips the scales towards one or the other side’s horrible candidate. I choose to find reasons and ways to stand for my values and principles today. I’m done waiting for the someday that never comes. I choose to seize the day that’s upon us. After all, if you don’t stand for your principles win, lose, or draw, they were never really principles in the first place.
Now, What Have You Got?
Stay Free My Friends,