For decades, Congressman Ron Paul was the nation’s most vocal advocate of libertarian ideologies of less government and more individual liberties. From his position in the U.S. House of Representatives, he argued for smaller government and less intervention in all aspects of life. He developed a small, but intense, following. His followers have shown both the power of grassroots involvement and rocked the Republican Party establishment from their dogmatic slumber. Congressman Ron Paul became the benchmark for ideological conviction in the U.S. Legislature, and the question since his retirement has been, “Who will be the next Ron Paul?” There are very few contenders. One is the stand-out Rep. Justin Amash.
At the Western Conservative Summit last week, Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, complained that there are too many libertarian-types in Washington “in both parties.” Really? Who? Anybody with truly constitutional conservative and libertarian-leaning ideas knows you could count principled small-government types in D.C. on one hand. Democrats reliably toe party line on the vast majority of government-expanding, freedom-limiting issues from Obamacare to amnesty, while most Republicans race to the sell-out line, embracing “moderate” views which are little more than “Democrat-Lite.”
The liberty movement is young and growing. It encompasses the new energy in the GOP and establishment-types feel increasingly threatened as true conservatives continue to gain more political power and influence.
Recently on The Laura Ingraham Show, Newt Gingrich responded to Christie’s comment and said, “I consistently have been on the side of having the courage that Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have, and I think it’s sad to watch the establishment grow hysterical, but frankly they’re hysterical because they have no answers.”
So when Christie complains that there are too many libertarian-types, the accusation falls flat. How did he come to that conclusion? The answer, of course, is that like so many people, he defined the term “libertarian” according to one issue, NSA spying.
There is a distinct split between those who prioritize liberty and those who prioritize security. Hawks like Chris Christie wish to preserve American lives at any cost, while others see freedom as important for both practical and ideological reasons. As Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty for a little temporary security deserve neither.”
The prioritization of privacy is certainly a popular issue right now. Most Americans do not want their government to spy on their phone conversations, text messages, and emails (unless you are Sen. Lindsey Graham, of course). But elected officials feel a bit more pressure to increase security, because if anything happens, calls for change and increased security (as we saw in the wake of the Boston bombing) will be loud and inevitable, and lead to far less levelheaded “solutions” to perceived problems. Regardless, at this point representatives willing to draft legislation against spying programs will immediately turn heads in a positive way.
Last week, Rep. Justin Amash , libertarian-Republican for Michigan’s 3rd District teamed up with Rep. John Conyers, liberal-Democrat to offer a bi-partisan amendment to force government domestic spies to first identify their targets and produce evidence of their terror-related activities before they could get warrants to spy on Americans.
Washington politicos were shocked that it almost passed.
Who is Rep. Justin Amash?
In 2010, Rep. Justin Amash stepped up to replace retiring Republican Vern Ehlers and won his primary campaign with endorsements from FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, iCaucus and Ron Paul. He was one of three Republican Representatives – along with Ron Paul – to refuse to endorse Mitt Romney in 2012, and instead endorsed Paul, while saying he would “support” the Republican nominee against Obama.
Amash supports a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, saying “the parties should negotiate a just and mutually acceptable agreement that is not imposed by the U.S. or any other outside power.”
On abortion, Amash states that life begins at conception. He has earned favorable rankings for pro-life votes by various organizations like the National Right to Life Committee and Campaign for Working Families. Regarding gay marriage, he opposed DOMA and argues that “marriage is a private, religious institution that should not be defined or redefined by the federal government.” He consistently gets high-overall scores from groups like the American Conservative Union and Americans for Prosperity.
In contrast to Ted Cruz, who is seen standing for principle and refusing to retreat regardless of what the establishment thinks, much more of Amash’s popularity has come from a direct opposition to the Party. This image was only enhanced when John Boehner kicked him and three other representatives off of their committees in December 2012.
In short, yes, Amash has a legitimate claim to the title of “the new Ron Paul.” His ideas align with Paul’s, as do his political actions, and he has connections with the former Congressman who also notes the similarity. Ron Paul spent 30 years promoting libertarian ideology, but never had any true “political” success (as traditionally defined) by his own admission.
Paul’s most important success, however, was to attract young people to the liberty movement; he replaced Ayn Rand as its central voice. Libertarian ideas have begun to take root in society and now it’s time to work toward tangible political gains.
Ron Paul’s own son has taken a distinctly different path from his father while holding the same ideals, and Rand, like Ted Cruz, has had tremendous success which will likely increase. Meanwhile, Amash’s following and influence has become more intense as the war on libertarian-leaning Republicans continues to increase to new levels in the GOP.
The question is will libertarian-leaning Republicans win new seats in the mid-term elections, gaining key positions of power? That is the true test. It’s one thing to make headlines with provocative rhetoric and captivating quotes. It’s another to actually gain political clout and power. Only time will tell if this movement will achieve its goal of less government and more freedom.