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Meet Justin Amash, 2020’s Jill Stein

I thought we were done with all this!

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) holds a Town Hall Meet

While three Republicans and 27 (!) Democrats have ended their campaigns for the 2020 presidential race, leaving only Donald Trump and Joe Biden, third party candidates are just getting started. Tuesday evening, Rep. Justin Amash, a Congressman from Michigan, announced that he would be launching an “exploratory committee” (political speak for entering the race) to run as a Libertarian.

Amash is an interesting figure. He was a Republican until last year, when he switched parties to fight the “partisan death spiral” of modern politics. At the time, he was the only Republican to support the impeachment of Donald Trump, although he framed his switch to the Independent Party as being more about frustrations with the two-party system in general. When impeachment proceedings moved from the House to the Senate, Amash was thought to be a top candidate to serve as an impeachment manager thanks to his ostensible impartiality but ultimately, he wasn’t a part of that team.

So now Amash is seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination, though if he gets it, it’s not clear yet what exactly he hopes to accomplish. (Other than, you know, becoming President, but that’s not exactly a likely outcome.) He’s positioning himself as a Jill Stein-type figure, basically just there to steal votes from a particular candidate. But which candidate would Amash be drawing voters away from?

The obvious answer would seem to be Trump. More and more Republicans and others who voted for Trump in 2016 are growing unhappy with the job he’s doing while in office and Amash, a former Republican, seems like he would be an appealing alternative. Amash has mostly voted along the Republican Party line during his time in Congress and when he’s stepped out, it’s often been in opposition to Trump—voting against border wall funding and some of Trump’s other proposed executive actions, not to mention his stance on impeachment.

So for Republicans who like their party but don’t like Trump, Amash seems like an obvious consolation candidate. But a poll conducted in Amash’s home state of Michigan last year showed him actually doing more damage to Biden.

“He will not take away Republican votes from Trump,” said Richard Czuba, who conducted the poll for the Glengariff Group. “What he will do is give independent voters who don’t want to support President Trump an outlet to not vote for the Democrat. And if you look at who or what would be moving toward Amash, it is particularly independent men.”

This makes a lot of sense since Amash’s actual policies are pretty anti-Democratic.

The Washington Post also brings up the idea of the “double-haters” voter: voters who strongly dislike both candidates. In 2016, there were a lot of double-haters and many of them went for Trump (even if Clinton did win the popular vote by a huge margin). Now, though, those double-haters are expected to go for Biden. If Amash gives them an appealing third option, well, we just might get Steined all over again.

For now, this is all speculation. Amash doesn’t even have the nomination yet and if he does get it, he might not make that noticeable of an impact anyway. Still, it’s kinda nice to have something new to speculate about in the absolutely never-ending tedious lead-up to November.

(image: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.