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FreedomFest, a largely libertarian gathering in Las Vegas with a significant conservative presence, has been tacking in a noticeably Trumpian direction since the future president spoke there in 2015. So the latest iteration of the conference this July was an interesting backdrop to speculation that newly independent Michigan Rep. Justin Amash might seek to challenge a chief executive against whom he was the only Republican to back impeachment proceedings.
"I respect what Justin has done," said his best friend in Congress, Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.), while sitting on a FreedomFest panel with Amash and Sen. Mike Lee (R–Utah). "But what I say is, if you read the Republican platform, there's really nothing wrong with it, if you're for smaller government and for liberty and support the Constitution. The problem is, if you follow the Republican platform as a Republican when you get to D.C., you will be reviled for it."
Massie, a four-term libertarian-leaner, has experienced what it's like to be reviled by your own team. In early July, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Massie will likely face a primary challenge backed by national Republican leaders who are angry at his ideological obstinance.
"These two guys have really tried to reform [the GOP] from within," Amash said from the stage. "I think we're getting to a point where it's clear to all of us that this is an insurmountable challenge. And that's why I decided I needed to become an independent, and try to serve my community a different way, and try to set an example."
Conversations about whether Amash might seek the Libertarian Party presidential nomination have been roiling the movement all year. When he first came out for impeachment in late May, leading to yet another burst of speculation, several already-declared L.P. presidential candidates more or less agreed with anarchist activist Adam Kokesh that such a move would be "amazing." By mid-July, however, that field of comparative unknowns had grown visibly tired of the topic.
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