GOODMAN: Justin Amash Will Help Trump Get Four More Years

Adam Goodman Contributor
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Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that Justin Amash will ultimately take votes away from Joe Biden and help Donald Trump win reelection if he decides to run for president. You can find a counterpoint here, where Jake Hoffman, the President and CEO of Rally Forge, argues that an Amash run could hurt Donald Trump’s reelection chances in November.

It seems today that everyone believes they’re qualified to run for president, regardless of background or credentials, ideology or philosophy, whether they’re telegenic or photogenic, relevant or resonant, compos mentis or not.

Like seekers of fame who once headed to Hollywood hunting fame and fortune on the big screen, candidates in the here and now have resorted to the magic of smaller screens (television, tablets, smartphones, X-Boxes) in search of the same.

Yet the playbook, inventive and fresh a few years ago, has become cookie-cutter and contrived.

Choreograph a “woke” YouTube video announcing your candidacy, work social media into a cyber frenzy by declaring yourself the new Pied Piper of a soon-to-be-massive reform movement, be “discovered” by millions of voters/small donors tired of conventional choices and soar by scoring in the debates.

Enter, stage right, Justin Amash, the latest wannabe candidate for the White House whose chances of winning were never more likely than the 2020 baseball season starting on time.  In the sport of politics, though, Amash’s declaration is welcome news for a president auditioning for a second term amid a first-in-our-lifetime global pandemic.  It not only splits the anti-incumbent, anyone-but-Trump protest vote in two, but Amash’s youth will amplify the dullness generated by a well-known challenger no longer agile enough to lead or compelling enough to inspire.

After converting from being a Republican to an Independent and then a Libertarian in a matter of months, Amash believes he can beat both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, toe-to-toe, one on two; that he can unearth the political gold left unmined by third-party contenders from the past by forging a winning blueprint for the future. Yet Amash’s past, as well as the nation’s, makes his candidacy a boon to an incumbent whose base remains passionate and resolute.

Specifically, Amash’s record betrays a distaste for popular viewpoints and mores that will invite scorn well beyond the wrath Republicans still feel for his push to impeach the President.

As the first independent in the House of Representatives since Bernie Sanders, Amash opposed the death penalty and a law treating lynching as a hate crime.  He rejected any federal disaster relief for houses of worship as fervently as he did the words “In God We Trust.” Amash defends transgender rights in the military as strongly as his vote against Kate’s Law, named after the young woman killed by an illegal immigrant who had broken the law several times before he decided to break an American family apart.

This is the same Justin Amash who had no problem telling the people of Flint to take a hike as they feared to drink long-polluted water, and who turned his back on the desperate by opposing help for suicide hotlines.

Worse, for Joe Biden, Amash commands a comparatively hip reform mantra that typically floats a challenger, like his attempt to back the feds down from opposing the legalization of marijuana and his push to end the two-party monopoly dominating American life as much as it does the nation’s politics. This schtick is especially attractive to disgruntled Democrats, unsettled independents, younger voters in general and to Bernie Sanders’ posse in particular.

As Al Gore is so fond of saying, there’s also an “inconvenient truth” to the Amash gambit that conjures up memories of thirdparty runs in the past that ran out of gas.

John Anderson was a former Republican House Member who was good on his feet and passionate about his beliefs.  He was pro-gas tax (to cut Social Security taxes), and his stand for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), earned him raves from the press as an independent in the 1980 campaign for president. Yet interest from the gallery faded, as did he, in a race where Ronald Reagan demolished Jimmy Carter in a landslide.

Twelve years later Ross Perot, the master of one-minute chalkboard talks and 30-minute infomercials, shared the same destiny as Anderson when his heady populism was overwhelmed by stories of paranoia and anecdotes of conspiracy.

Consumer activist Ralph Nader, another independent loser, did have one bragging right as he bagged more than 97,000 votes in a Florida race decided by 537(ish) votes between George W Bush and Al Gore. In 2016, fellow Green Party nominee and environmental activist Jill Stein lost big, and will only be remembered (if at all) for contesting the 2016 election results in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Today, the 2020 election is a referendum on President Trump and COVID-19, one where Biden has been forced to play a role that alternates between naysayer and bystander. Amash will be forced into much the same corner until, this fall, a shortened campaign is essentially compressed into a 60-day run for the Rose Garden.

For those who like the president and what he’s done, it’s an easy call.

For those who don’t, they now have a choice where before they had none.

If you believe in history, and the laws of math, this is a three-candidate field that favors four more years.

Adam Goodman is a national Republican media strategist and columnist. He is a partner at Ballard Partners in Washington, D.C., and the first Edward R. Murrow Senior Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. Follow him on Twitter @adamgoodman3.