Last week, over 100 young libertarians attended a karaoke night at O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington DC. A weekly ritual for many of the attendees, the crowd on this particular night had a particular mission — to raise at least $2,000 for Republican Congressman Justin Amash. A reasonable goal, for which an appreciative Amash was glad to make an appearance and speak to a room full of admirers.
They raised $6,600. Not bad for a mostly 20-something crowd — Capitol Hill staffers, non-profit employees, activists and others — who weren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.
After hearing of the event’s success, other congressional offices began contacting organizer and libertarian activist Matthew Hurtt, to find out how they could do the same thing. They too, wanted this kind of youth support and excitement.
Hurtt’s answer? Be more like Justin Amash.
Amash, whose profile has risen considerably as a staunch champion of small government and civil liberties, captures the attention of young people in a way most other Republicans simply can’t. Billed as a “Liberty Karaoke Fundraiser,” the event was not created to benefit the GOP per se, but to help a particular Republican the attendees were passionate about.
Outside of the retired Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand Paul, no Republican excites young libertarians, conservatives, independents — and even some liberals — more than Justin Amash. A Mother Jones profile last month described Amash as “a driving force in the fight for the future of the libertarian movement,” also noting “Amash believes he’s at the vanguard of a generational shift in how Congress approaches a whole range of political issues.”
The relative success of the Amash karaoke fundraiser is but a microcosm of that shift. That the organizers understand they cannot replicate the same success for just any Republican — nor do they care to — is also indicative of that shift.
Amash is best known today for taking up the mantle of civil liberties in the House, mirroring Sen. Rand Paul’s efforts in the Senate. The Amash-Conyers bill to rein in NSA surveillance in the House last summer lost by only 12 votes, but the similar, Amash co-sponsored USA Freedom Act is expected to have a much better chance in 2014.
Before Republicans like Amash began arriving in Washington via the Tea Party, much of the GOP could be fairly described as anti-civil liberties — the party of the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention. A relic of the Bush-Cheney era, Karl Rove bashed Amash’s zeal for protecting civil liberties last summer by calling him “the most liberal Republican.”
It should be noted that Rove’s idea of the most liberal Republican is one of only three Republicans with a 100 percent rating from Club for Growth, receives a perfect score from FreedomWorks and equally high marks from Americans for Prosperity.