Staff Columnist

A new hope for the Libertarian Party? He may not appear on Iowa ballots

Libertarians were already hamstrung by Iowa Republicans. Now they face a pandemic and angry Democrats.

FILE - In this June 12, 2019, file photo, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., listens to debate on Capitol Hill in Washington. A
FILE - In this June 12, 2019, file photo, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., listens to debate on Capitol Hill in Washington. Amash says he is launching an exploratory committee for the 2020 Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination. The Republican-turned-independent said on Twitter, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, that the U.S. is ready for new leadership. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File )

A new candidate has emerged. Republicans and Democrats are mad about it.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash is a former Republican and vehement critic of President Donald Trump. He left the GOP last year and later voted to impeach the president.

This week, Amash announced he will seek the Libertarian Party nomination for president.

Amash’s campaign announcement got a particularly hostile reception from many Democrats who worry he will spoil the election for candidate Joe Biden. Panicky partisans are convinced that the Libertarian candidate will draw votes away from their candidate.

For years, it has been Republicans leading the charge to exclude Libertarians from the political discourse. Last year, the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature passed a law with earlier petition deadlines for down-ballot independent and third-party candidates, a measure that was opposed by Democrats.

Iowa GOP bill would unfairly restrict ballot access

Facing contempt from politically empowered Republicans and Democrats, and now a pandemic, Iowa Libertarians’ place on the presidential ballot this November is in question. Under Iowa law, presidential campaigns must gather 1,500 petition signatures by mid-August, which is made difficult by social distancing.

For Iowa’s 100,000 third-party voters, 2020 field is wide open

‘Republicans who smoke pot’ ... and want to abolish ICE

In a letter to the governor, Libertarian Party of Iowa members asked for petitioning requirements to be waived, or for an alternative method that does not require face-to-face interactions with voters. The party’s national chairman made a similar request to all 50 governors.

The Democrats’ hysterics over the Libertarian bid is misguided, because there is no clear evidence that any Libertarian candidate would draw more votes away from Biden than Trump. Some of the data we do have points in the opposite direction — a Rasmussen Reports poll released this week showed 12 percent of Republicans are “very likely” to vote third-party in a Trump-Biden matchup, compared to just 4 percent of Democrats.

A conspiracy theory has emerged on social media accusing Amash of knowingly conspiring to hand Trump the election.

The conspiracy theory goes like this: Amash refused to endorse Trump in 2016 and eventually left the Republican Party, thereby alienating all of his GOP allies in Washington, D.C., all as a clever ruse to earn admiration from would-be Biden supporters, enough of whom will vote for Amash to swing Michigan in Trump’s favor and give the Republican ticket an edge in the electoral college.

It’s kind of a funny story, until you remember that powerful people are using such idiotic meanderings to pervert the democratic process.

From one side of the mouth, we’re told Libertarians are closeted Republicans, secretly bent on reelecting Trump. From the other, we’re told Libertarians candidates are uniquely attractive to frustrated Democrats.

It would make a lot more sense for the Biden-or-bust party to focus their attention on disaffected leftists, trying to make inroads with die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters and Democratic Socialists of America.

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Better yet, reach out to the 100 million American adults — nearly half of eligible voters — who did not vote in 2016. That’s a whole lot of prospective voters compared to the 5 million of us voted for third-party candidates last election.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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