The 2018 cycle was full of losses for the liberty community. Freitas and Petersen lost their respective Republican primary races for US Senate. Brakey won, but went on to what was probably an unwinnable general election from the get-go. The Ron Paul revolution built up over two Presidential election cycles fizzled out as the resurgent philosophical underpinnings of liberty in the GOP were replaced by a simple populist personality cult.
That said, I’ve never been one to give up, even if it all can seem like a losing battle, or that the country’s been “progressing” in the wrong direction overall for generations. Nothing is inevitable, and there’s always hope. Two of the liberty wing’s Senate primary stars are starting from scratch, taking shots at lower races to the House. Amash faces an uphill battle without the backing of his former party, while Massie’s gained a primary challenger.
I’m only highlighting major party races because, well… they have consistent primaries and it’s primary season. I’m mostly highlighting Republican primaries because, well… have you seen the modern Democrat Party???
Every one of these candidates make the 2020 primaries more interesting, and every one of them seems undeniably better than their primary competitors.
US Senate (TX)–Dwayne Stovall
William Buckley’s famous formulation in who to vote for was essentially to vote for the most conservative candidate – who can win.
In some states, especially in places like the Northeast, conservatives may need to be moderate to do so. They may need to hem and hedge and dance around until they are acceptable, docile moderates unwilling to buck the status quo and indistinguishable from moderate Democrats.
But not Texas. God willing, never Texas.
So why the hell is my state, time and again, willing to accept John Cornyn when there are better options? Because he’s a long term incumbent? If the Texas GOP was half of what they billed themselves to be, that wouldn’t be seen as even a positive thing, much less the end of the conversation.
Dwayne Stovall, by contrast, is exactly what a GOP candidate from a deep red state should be. And whether or not he’s likely to win against the incumbent shouldn’t even matter to a real Texan. The primary is exactly the place for them to show what they will and won’t accept from leadership, and the choice is clear.
Cornyn is not just accepting of, but an embodiment of the DC status quo. Enormous budgets and deficits. Unchecked executive power. Federal control over states and individuals, regardless of the tenth amendment or the Constitution. By contrast, Stovall is a Federalist. He describes himself as a Jeffersonian constitutional conservative, and on most issues he is. He certainly isn’t running just to do whatever Mitch McConnell or Trump will tell him to, because he’s got concrete beliefs and grit.
US House (KY 4th District)–Thomas Massie
Everyone sort of knows that the two members of the house with the strongest claim to libertarianish adherence are Thomas Massie and Justin Amash. Within the liberty community, it’s well understood that the main difference between them in recent history has been willingness to play the game and placate Trump’s massive ego as a means to reach liberty objectives.
In other words, it’s billed as a pragmatist/purist divide defined by strategy more than an ideological split.
Massie has been seen by his detractors in the liberty community as having been far too conciliatory toward Trump in exchange for far too few tangible results, while Justin’s detractors there see his unwillingness to compromise at all in exchange for, well… sleeping well, I guess, and the ability to spread his message more broadly through greater independence.
Which makes Massie’s race ironic in that what his primary competition is running on is the premise that Massie hasn’t been conciliatory enough.
Only time will tell whether Massie or Amash’s strategy is more effective. But it seems obvious that they are, without any competition whatsoever, the most liberty oriented members in the body as judged by their votes and their voice. At a time when liberty voices are receding, and allies are few, keeping them in Congress at least holds the line. They’re stable and consistent voices of reason within an institution that’s gone insane and has been consistently getting worse every two years.
Given current political realities, having some lone “no” votes in order to say “I told you so” later seems the best one could realistically hope for until Americans can be convinced in the wisdom of historical American principles once again.
US House (VA’s 7th District)–Nick Freitas
In the 2018 primaries, Freitas was the most effective messenger for conservatarian ideas running for US Senate (and I say that despite the best efforts of the owner of this site… sorry, Austin). Nick has a firm understanding of the Constitution and maybe more importantly, it’s spirit… and the balls to defend our founding principles.
His narrow loss in that GOP primary really hit the movement in the feels. Many of those who saw the GOP as the preferable vehicle for advancement of traditional American liberty ideals saw his loss to someone that seemed so antithetical to them as part of a trend of decay. These failures seemed to solidify Trump sycophants as the dominant internal party force throughout the nation, less than a decade after the TEA Party offered hope of revival.
Regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on, there’s one thing that can’t be denied about Freitas. When it comes to the issues he cares about, he’s a fighter, and someone you want on your side.
The race he’s in now is a winnable one, and so is the general. For those who feel our nation’s history speaks to larger truths and values worthy of preservation, there is no better advocate running.
US House (MI’s 3rd District)– Justin Amash
Amash is the most unapologetically libertarian member of Congress, bar none. For his purity and consistency, he’s been summarily punished by an abandonment of every major PAC pretending to support fiscal conservatism. For refusing to fall in line when the GOP drifted further and further towards statism as its default, and refusing to pay lip service required by a cult of personality which defines virtue as deference to a man rather than ideas, he was ostracized until he declared his independence from the GOP.
Politically homeless, without a party, and without support from the organizations that have backed him in the past, his re-election prospects look slim. It’s up to us, The People, to show that rejection of partisanship for principle isn’t an electoral suicide. Is it possible to win, even as an incumbent, when opposed by both major parties simultaneously? We’ll see what Michigan decides.
(Assuming, of course, he doesn’t finally decide to run for President).
US House (ME’s 2nd District)– Eric Brakey
In one of the highest compliments I could give, Eric Brakey might just be the House candidate running most likely to carry on Ron Paul’s legacy. He’s young enough and full of enough potential that it’s possible. He’s no 2012 Ron Paul, but he may just be a 1976 one – if he can avoid too much compromise and moderation in pursuit of what he obviously believes.
Thomas Massie needs reinforcements to hold the line, especially with Amash’s seat in jeopardy, and I trust Eric Brakey would be an ally. He’s principled and thoughtful, relatable and reliable. He’s given intelligent consideration to his beliefs without becoming pretentious, allowing him to appeal to blue collar workers with white paper ideas. I’ve interviewed him twice, and he impressed me both times.
He can and just might win this race. If he does, the only thing I’m likely to have to criticize him for may just be that he occasionally gives Trump too much credit and not enough criticism, while voting the correct way on actual bills. I’ll take that any day.
Democrat Presidential Primary–Tulsi Gabbard
I’m not planning to vote in the Democrat primary. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for any Democrat in the general election. Tulsi isn’t a libertarian or a constitutional conservative – or even Democrat-light given how close her ideology is to Bernie’s.
But compared to her primary opponents? The choice couldn’t be clearer.
She is, at heart, an independent. Her conclusions, even those vastly different from my own, aren’t reached through blind tribalism rather than sober consideration. Her focus, however, aligns with the overlap, and she never misses an opportunity to opine on the warfare state and its effect on civil liberties.
Besides, she’s running for President, an office which has been given wide berth to act unilaterally in issues of war and peace, general foreign affairs, and attacks on basic civil liberties. Best case, even semi-realistic scenario for the next four years is a President Gabbard with a Republican Congress that refuses to pass any of her domestic economic agenda.
Not that it’s likely. She’s not going to be the Democrat nominee, much less the next President. But supporting her regardless sends exactly the right message to the DNC, which like the RNC has shat on its own base for decades.
From a liberty standpoint, well… she may be awful on the issues Democrats have been historically awful on. However, she represents the best hope of Democrats to return to the issues they’re supposed to be libertarian on, especially when it comes to foreign policy. The anti-war left may have left under Obama, but that doesn’t mean Democrats can never be anti-war again.