If you’re mad at me, then welcome to the club. Ever since I said this week that I would vote for Rep. Justin Amash (if he ends up on my state’s ballot this November), I’ve been happy that social distancing is still in place.
Compared to the Never Trump criticism Amash endured, I’m hardly a martyr. But within hours of tweeting my support, I was down hundreds of followers, having been kicked to the curb by folks who presumably (based on my penchant for criticizing Donald Trump) assumed I was part of La Résistance.
Others merely voiced anger or disappointment. One such critic was Tom Nichols, a prominent Never Trumper, who responded to my Amash support by tweeting, “Well, at least it will give us something more to argue about during that second Trump term.”
What frustrates me most about this is that I wrote columns in May and July of 2019 urging Amash to mount a third party bid, and then went on CNN and reiterated it. Likewise, for a year I’ve been saying I wouldn’t vote for Joe Biden in a general election. (Although I decided that I would vote for him in the primary, I stipulated that I would not do so in the general—a controversial position that I also defended on CNN). I was hardly hiding my opinions.
So why do I support Amash? It’s simple. As a conservative, his political philosophy is much closer to mine than either Trump’s or Biden’s. What is more, he demonstrated great character and integrity by being the only House Republican who was willing to stand up to Trump and support impeachment.
Still, I get why people are on edge. Donald Trump is bleeding support in the polls because he mishandled the pandemic and the economy is struggling. Joe Biden is finally on the cusp of having his moment, and the last thing Democrats need is some third-party campaign to suddenly materialize.
There’s also this: Recent developments (the Tara Reade allegations and the Amash candidacy) threaten to strip away some of the Biden coalition. The Reade story may alienate some progressive women who embrace the #MeToo “Believe All Women” mantra, and the Amash candidacy may peel off some Never-Trump suburbanites like yours truly.
And this is all happening within the context of a world where some view Trump as an existential threat to the future of the republic. Erstwhile Republicans who hold this view are willing to temporarily ally with anyone—even with someone whose stated positions run counter to their own—to defeat Trump. This might become a regrettable or inconvenient legacy, if and when Biden (or his successors) usher in a new left-wing agenda, but I can certainly respect people who have made this calculated decision.
Likewise, I respect my conservative friends and relatives who do not like or trust Trump—yet have made a transactional calculation that supporting the left is worse. I suspect they may regret many things they will now “own” in perpetuity, but theirs is not an irrational choice.
Personally, I am not willing to make either compromise. Donald Trump is disqualified on character and temperamental grounds, just as Joe Biden is disqualified on philosophical grounds. And here, I’m not talking about some disagreement over tax rates. My differences with Biden include abortion, which is literally a life or death issue.
Democrats, of all people, ought to approve my right to choose for whom to vote. And rather than wasting time criticizing me for this decision, I suggest that my liberal friends might even want to thank me. That’s because, considering that my natural inclination is to vote for a Republican for president, my embracing a more fluid, non-binary lifestyle is tantamount to a “win” for Biden.
Here’s why. The slur that abstaining from voting or voting for a third party is a “privileged” decision and is “the same as a vote for Trump” is demonstrably false and insulting. Progressives might even consider the possibility that urging some disaffected conservatives to simply deprive Trump of their votes—in any capacity that they find morally agreeable—would yield better results than attempting to shame them into compliance for supporting a hypothetical candidate for president.
I say hypothetical, because it’s still not clear whether Amash will win the Libertarian Party’s nomination. Several candidates are running, including Jacob Hornberger, a combative Ron Paul disciple who has won the most primaries. Regardless, the delegates, who are all unbound, will decide the nominee at the convention (which is now up in the air). Even if Amash does win, there’s the problem of trying to get on the ballot in all 50 states during a pandemic (the irony does not escape me that I may not be able to cast a ballot for Amash, even if I want to). Even if he does win the nomination, who’s to say he would play a decisive role in the election? Or it might actually help Joe Biden.
You might wonder why I’m even wasting my time with all of this. There is a chance that Amash’s campaign could be the beginning of a movement or a party that is hospitable to classical liberals. Likewise, rejecting the binary paradigm may force one of the political parties to actually attempt to woo people like me. As P.J. O’Rourke advises, “Don’t vote. It just encourages the bastards!”
But even if this situation is just a one-off, I’m simply excited at the prospect of voting for someone I respect and agree with. If that makes me selfish, so be it.
By voicing my support for Amash, I am attempting to be transparent as a columnist. What I am not trying to do is urge you to follow me off a cliff. If you live in a vital state like Michigan and prefer Amash, but worry that your vote could play a decisive role in helping one candidate or another win, then you should vote your conscience. And if your conscience is cautious—if your conscience tells you that you should abide by the lesser-of-two-evils paradigm—then that is a perfectly respectable decision.
It’s your vote. You don’t have to listen to anyone. This is America, after all.