Justin Amash explores running for US president as Libertarian

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Congressman who defected from the Republican party last summer announced the launch of an exploratory committee

A rebel member of the US Congress, Justin Amash, has signalled an expected run for the White House as a Libertarian in a move that could disrupt the November presidential election.

On Tuesday night he unveiled his website outlining his campaign, and announced the launch of an exploratory committee, the traditional forerunner to an official candidacy, later tweeting: “Let’s do this” and also saying that he would seek the nomination of the Libertarian party.

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World news | The Guardian

A rebel member of the US Congress, Justin Amash, has signalled an expected run for the White House as a Libertarian in a move that could disrupt the November presidential election.

On Tuesday night he unveiled his website outlining his campaign, and announced the launch of an exploratory committee, the traditional forerunner to an official candidacy, later tweeting: “Let’s do this” and also saying that he would seek the nomination of the Libertarian party.

“Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people,” Amash announced. “We’re ready for a presidency that will restore respect for our constitution and bring people together.”

Amash defected from the Republican party last summer, continuing in office as an independent.

The announcement was met with an immediate flurry of comments from across the political spectrum that ridiculed Amash’s move.

The US system is dominated by two parties, Donald Trump’s Republican party, and the opposition Democratic party, for which Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee to challenge for the White House in November.

There are some small fringe parties, such as the Libertarians and the Green party, but none have any members holding national office, although fielding a candidate for the White House can arguably prove decisive in a close election.

Amash had previously told several reporters he would only run as a third-party candidate if he had a realistic chance to win.

Critics noted that his White House ambitions are a long shot, and could instead sway votes away from would-be supporters of Biden.

“He could wind up going in the books as the guy who voted to impeach Trump one year, then tipped the election to him 11 months later,” Joe Walsh, a Republican Trump critic, wrote in a Washington Post opinion article.

Amash appeared to balk at the backlash, however. In an interview with MSNBC, he likened pushback to his presidential run to “anti-American” voter suppression.

“This is about democracy, this is about representative government,” he said. “The idea that we’re going to tell people ‘we can’t have another choice on the ballot because it might upset one or the other candidate’, that’s ridiculous.”

The congressman is perhaps most known as one of two non-Democratic votes to impeach Donald Trump, marking a political career defined by Republican favor that fell nearly as quickly as it rose.

First elected to Michigan’s third congressional district in the 2010 amid the rise of the conservative grassroots movement that solidified into the rightwing Tea Party wing of the Republican party, aimed at disrupting business as usual on Capitol Hill.

The son of a refugee father and immigrant mother immediately earned the ire of more moderate Republican colleagues with disagreements over foreign intervention by the US and surveillance of the public.

Amash then founded the House Freedom Caucus, a group of ultra-conservatives who often voted to the right of party initiatives. As a staunch critic of Trump, he ultimately left the Republican party in 2019, symbolically on the Fourth of July, after becoming disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what [he] see[s] from it”.

“The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions,” he wrote at the time.

Meanwhile today’s Freedom Caucus members are known as some of the president’s most loyal supporters. Trump weighed in, sarcastically noting Amash “would make a wonderful candidate”.

“Especially since he is way behind in his district and has no chance of maintaining his congressional seat,” Trump tweeted. “He almost always votes for the Do Nothing Dems anyway.”

The congressman faces a tough re-election, with several Republicans running against him.

While the viability of a third-party candidate is low, high-profile figures have played spoiler in historic races. The most successful third-party bid, Ross Perot’s 1992 run, resulted in the billionaire gaining 19% of the popular tally without winning a single electoral college vote.

The Libertarian party’s most recent nominee, however, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, only won slightly more than 3% of the national vote in 2016.

Third parties received 6% of the popular vote overall, one of many factors considered in Trump’s upset win over Democrat and former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Amash characterized Trump’s win another way.

“The way we got Donald Trump is because every Republican who didn’t like [him] were told, incessantly, ‘You must vote for Donald Trump because he’s the Republican nominee and you have to vote for the Republican,’” he said.

“There are millions of Americans who aren’t represented by either Donald Trump or Joe Biden, who aren’t represented by the Republicans or the Democrats,” he added. “And those Americans deserve a choice on the ballot.”


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