I wrote a column, which appeared in the May 15 edition of The Post-Intelligencer titled “Who is Justin Amash of the Libertarian Party and why is he running for president?” Hence, this may be the longest retraction ever.
Amash had announced that at the Libertarian Party’s on-line convention Saturday, he would seek the party’s nomination for president.
Having thrown his hat in the Libertarian ring, along with a dozen declared candidates and a half-dozen unofficially declared candidates for the nomination, Amash was the best known, and reasonably assumed favorite.
Then last Saturday, Amash ended months of speculation and buildup, only to announce he could suddenly not see a “path to victory.”
Personally I could not conceive of any reason why Amash thought he could win the presidency, other than a colossal ego. I can however, conceive of a number of reasons why he withdrew.
Surely he took note that the same man (President Donald Trump) who branded him a “traitor” and a “loser” for voting for impeachment, announced he was “a great candidate” (sarcastically, I assume).
Yet as one journalist stated, “They were dancing in the West Wing” when Amash announced he was running.
The obvious perception of Team Trump was that Amash would draw votes from anti-Trump Republicans and independents who would reluctantly vote for Democrat Joe Biden, unless given a more ideologically acceptable choice.
With as many as five to eight potentially swing states in play in November, these voters could prove critical in a couple of these states.
While Amash has publicly stated he does not perceive a great deal of difference between Trump and Biden, he must surely recognize that in the current highly polarized political environment, the vast majority of the American voting public perceive major differences in temperament, respect for our constitutional institutions and governance styles.
What little polling occurred with Amash in a three-way contest with Trump and Biden indicated that former Vice President Biden would be hurt more than Trump by Amash’s candidacy.
However, such polling was too early to be consequential, or to be considered truly indicative of potential impact six months away.
Amash surely took into account that no third party has ever won the presidency, or done better than the Progressive Party of 1912 with 27%.
The last time a new, major party emerged was in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln won 39% of the popular vote, beating out a Northern Democrat, a Southern Democrat and a Union (unity) candidate.
In effect, the existence of the electoral college and various state laws, making it difficult to achieve a presence on the presidential ballot, militate against third parties systemically.
(Yes, I know there was a Nutrition Party, Prohibition Party and 28 other parties on the 2016 ballot.)
As surprising as it may seem in today’s polarized political environment, perhaps the main reason the two-party system has endured is the ability of the parties to adjust to changing social, cultural and economic realities.
The liberal party of Lincoln morphed into the party owned by runaway capitalism by the late ’90s. The hardcore racist Democratic Party of the South joined forces with labor, immigrants and Catholics to form the Roosevelt coalition, which stayed in power for 20 years.
Surely, Amash understood that by attaching himself to the Libertarian Party, he was not acquiring a sizable, consolidated base.
In 2016, Gary Johnson had received only 3% of the vote. Whether this is a true indication of Libertarian strength is anyone’s guess.
Estimates have placed their strength at as little as 4% and as high as 20%. The problem is the party’s strength is also its weakness.
There is no series of litmus tests for party conformity, but neither are there solid, consistent underlying philosophical principles to create cohesiveness.
In summary, while I question why Amash even flirted with running in the first place, in the end, he made the right choice.
CARL HOLDER is retired as the city manager for Paris. He lives at 1404 Patriot Drive in Paris and his email address is email@example.com.