Who Is Justin Amash, The Congressman Exploring A Third-Party Run For President?

The Republican-turned-independent congressman from Michigan is seeking the Libertarian Party nomination for president.

Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) holds a town hall meeting in May 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) holds a town hall meeting in May 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Rep. Justin Amash, the 40-year-old independent congressman from Michigan who left the Republican party in 2019, announced on April 28 that he’s launched an exploratory committee to seek the Libertarian Party nomination for president.

The five-term congressman from Michigan’s third congressional district has been a vocal critic of President Trump and was the only Republican in the House to call for his impeachment, four months before a formal impeachment inquiry was announced. Soon after he called for Trump’s impeachment, he changed his party affiliation to independent, and then voted in favor of impeachment in December 2019. None of Amash’s former colleagues in the Republican Party voted to impeach Trump.

Amash rode the 2010 Tea Party wave to Congress and was one of the founders of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, and he has often described his views as libertarian. In June 2019, he left the House Freedom Caucus and followed up with an announcement on July 4, 2019 that he was leaving the Republican Party altogether.

"In recent years...I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it," he wrote in an op-ed explaining his decision for The Washington Post. "The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions."

"Modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral, but there is an escape," Amash continued, before "declaring [his] independence" from the GOP. "I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it," Amash wrote. "If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it."

There are split reactions to Amash’s announcement of his exploratory presidential bid. Some Libertarians have praised the decision, while many anti-Trump conservatives warned that a third-party run could backfire and hand a second term to Trump.

Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Party presidential nominee, told the Post that he thinks "it’s terrific" of Amash to run. "I’d have to think that his candidacy will garner a lot of attention, which will be great for" libertarians, he said. Their party convention is currently scheduled for the end of May.

Former GOP congressman Joe Walsh, who actually (and unsuccessfully) challenged Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican Party presidential nomination, wrote an op-ed published Wednesday titled, "You can’t win, Justin Amash. You can only help Trump get re-elected." In it, Walsh notes that he and Amash came to Congress on the Tea Party wave together, and that he finds Amash’s decision to run "so damn perplexing" and "so disappointing."

Walsh says he considers Amash a friend and a "principled conservative," but using data from 2016 showing votes for the Green and Libertarian parties and Trump’s small margins of victory, he concludes: "If Amash gets the Libertarian nomination and stays in until the end, 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."

"The best and surest way to beat Trump is to have only one alternative to him," Walsh writes. "To give all the disaffected Republicans, conservatives and independents only one alternative to Trump."

He’s not the only conservative who feels this way. Here's Tim Miller, who worked on the 2016 Jeb Bush campaign:

Bill Kristol, a self-proclaimed "Never Trump" Republican, shared Miller and Walsh's columns on Twitter, and added:

Amash seemed to address some of this criticism, tweeting the day after his announcement:

For which this former Obama adviser had a response:

President Trump also responded to Amash’s announcement:

Aside from his gleeful invocation of 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Trump may have a point about Amash’s poor chance of winning re-election to the House. The House editor of the Cook Political Report, a publication that analyzes U.S. elections and campaigns, tweeted: