In recent remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Justin Amash sparked discussion about potentially running for the highest office as a Libertarian. He simply said that he “would never rule anything out.” This, however, was enough for Libertarians who seem unable to find a viable candidate to nominate.
2020 is still some time off, but the two people running with the most name recognition are notorious software developer and occasional fugitive, John McAfee, and political satirist Vermin Supreme. There’s not only little chance of Justin Amash running, but there’s also little point.
In 2016, Gary Johnson got the most votes of any Libertarian Party candidate ever. This was more than likely due to how unliked the major party candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, were. In 2012, for instance, Johnson received less votes than three different Texas LP candidates. His credibility as a former governor didn’t take him very far. He was only the second LP presidential candidate to receive more than 1%, with the first being Ed Clark in 1980, and Johnson didn’t gather 1% in his 2012 campaign.
What do the two have in common? Nothing.
Johnson was a former two-term governor of New Mexico, Clark was a lawyer with no electoral experience. Clark did have running mate David Koch, meaning the campaign was largely self-funded. Both were fairly moderate, but one appealed to modern issues not getting representation in the mainstream (specifically the anti-war stance), and the other tried to pull issues from the other candidates.
The style of the campaign and the people running it have a much bigger effect than the credentials they can put on literature.
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.
Does this mean Libertarians shouldn’t nominate congressmen? Of course not, but it shows there are more important things to voters than where a candidate works.
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.
With the exception of Joe Walsh and Justin Amash, these are all active members of the party. They all have their upsides and their downsides, and in the end, it probably won’t matter. They’re not viable, and all the LP should care about is brand representation.
They should pick someone who belongs to their brand and can represent it well.
It is a disservice to the activists and the candidates in the party to outsource the good jobs, as it were. Many of these people have done groundwork for the party, many have represented it as a candidate or served it as an officer at some time. They’ve put in the work, and they’ve proven themselves to their peers.
The LP needs a leader, and it has many in training. This primary could serve as an opportunity to find that leader to take them to the next level, whatever that may be.