Congress

Rep. Justin Amash considers Libertarian challenge to Trump

‘The tea party is largely gone. It was replaced with ... the general philosophy of the party now under Trump’

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., has expressed disenchantment with the Freedom Caucus he helped found. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Libertarian Party has urged Rep. Justin Amash to consider mounting a third-party challenge to President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

The Michigan Republican told his hometown paper that while he would not “rule out” a bid, he has not completely “thought through” his plans.

“There’s a lot of people who consider Amash to be the best congressman from the perspective of a Libertarian,” Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark told MLive. “They think he’s the best congressman for our goals since Ron Paul.”

When asked about the possibility of a presidential run over the last several weeks, Amash has repeated his desire to see a candidate challenge the dominance of Democrats and Republicans in politics, which he has described as a “two-party duopoly.”

And when asked in January at a Libertarian convention to describe the ideal third-party presidential candidate, Amash referred to himself.

“It’s more on my radar now because everybody keeps asking about it,” Amash said in an interview with the Lions of Liberty podcast earlier this month. “I just think it's important that we offer some alternative.” 

Should he launch a presidential campaign, Amash risks further alienating party leaders.

The staunch libertarian and co-founder of the Freedom Caucus — while aligned with his party on priorities like repealing the protections of the Affordable Care Act — has diverged from leadership to oppose the sale of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia and, more recently, President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.

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Amash’s devotion to his principles has grated Republicans. Not long after the 2012 election, the GOP Steering Committee voted to remove Amash from the Budget Committee, while also punishing three other lawmakers in a similar fashion.

At the start of the 113th Congress, his only committee assignment was to the Oversight and Government Reform panel. He continues to serve on that committee in the 116th Congress.

Amash has been clear-eyed that his party has transformed since the libertarian wave of 2010, which helped bring him into office. 

“The tea party is largely gone. It was replaced with nationalism and protectionism and the general philosophy of the party now under Trump,” Amash said to MLive.

The 3rd District representative acknowledged that any libertarian candidate would need to draw support from both parties.

“[I]t has to be a person who is persuasive to other people, can bring Republicans and Democrats on board, or bring a large part of the electorate on board, because you can't just appeal to diehard libertarians and win the election,” he said.

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