The Political Conference Where Justin Amash Is Bigger Than Bieber

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Justin Amash
J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. walks through a basement tunnel to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

As three hundred frenzied students settled into folding chairs Thursday night, the 20-year-old Constitutionalist sitting next to me made a confession. Just hours earlier, Brady Bower, of Henderson, Nevada, had taken a picture of himself in front of Michigan Rep. Justin Amash’s car, which had been parked outside the Young American’s for Liberty annual national convention. Now he was promising to post it to Amash’s Facebook page, but before he could, the lights went down, hundreds of iPhones went up, and four politicians, including Rep. Amash, entered through a side door.

A deafening roar filled GMU Law’s multipurpose room. “Jus-tin, Jus-tin, Jus-tin,” the audience chanted as it jumped to its feet.

This was a pep rally at George Mason University, but it wasn’t for the Patriots. Freedom-hungry college students from across the country have been camped out at the school’s Arlington law campus since Wednesday, socializing with fellow activists, discussing the future of the right wing and gawking at conservative keynote speakers with cultish enthusiasm. Their mission: to change reactionary politics as we know it.

Formed from the Students for Ron Paul presidential campaign in December 2008, Young Americans for Liberty is a non-profit that aims to marry Republican political strategy with libertarian values to pursue a small government agenda. “Conservatives can claim great political success, but have stood weak at the knees on principle. Conversely, Libertarians can profess their longstanding principles, but cannot point to any significant political victory,” says Executive Director Jeff Frazee in a statement on the group’s website. “Both movements have failed to limit the size and scope of government and protect our personal freedoms. Our country has only suffered for it.”

The self-professed “liberty movement” has ferociously taken root on college campuses across the country. Since 2009, the number of university chapters nationwide has grown from 96 to 378. YAL raised $350,000 in their first year and $1,423,992 in 2012. Their annual report not only displays increases in members and resources distributed, but also celebrates the Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers gleaned per annum.

“I guarantee you that 20% of the people in here are card carrying members of the Libertarian party,” said Bower. But he added that he believes in the Republican Party as a “better vehicle for liberty” than other right wing approaches. Cooperation, he thinks, is the key to progress in Washington.

“If we agree with a group of people even two percent, we should work together where we agree,” seconded Judd Weiss, 33, an Angeleno currently volunteering his time as a photographer at “liberty conferences” on the East Coast. Like most of those in attendance, Bower and Weiss were young white men with some higher education and a desire to see significant political change during their lifetimes.

As Thursday evening’s event got underway, Amash took his place in arm chairs on stage with Reps. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and moderator Michelle Fields, a political reporter and commentator for Next Generation TV. “It’s no secret that the Republican Party has some problems,” began Fields. She and the others sitting on stage proceeded to commend YAL members for their principled beliefs and commitment to civil freedoms. Calling his audience the future of the Republican Party, Mulvany proposed that incorporating libertarian values into the conservative agenda is a magnet for young swing voters with “no natural party lines.”

When someone mentioned John McCain’s “wacko birds” comment about the new libertarian trouble-making members of the Senate, a loud “boo” rose from the audience. Fields followed the outburst with a question to Amash on what he thinks differentiates himself from the old guard GOP. “Everything,” the representative replied. When asked how to change stubborn Republican veterans, he said, “They are who they are. What’s changing is the party.”

Specific policy questions had each panelist showing his libertarian colors. When asked about immigration reform, Labrador—a former immigration lawyer—said that he approves of comprehensive legislation but doesn’t want to “throw money” at the border. Mulvany endorsed defense spending cuts. And Massie, when questioned on his bill to block unauthorized military aid to Syria, proposed that the US refrain from too many fiscal entanglements on an international scale. He also expressed his support for cutting off aid to Egypt. Throughout the evening, a number of the Kentucky representative’s comments were followed by loud choruses of “End the Fed! End the Fed!”

Government surveillance was also a recurring theme, which prompted strong responses from all presenters. Labrador blamed Congress for letting NSA surveillance sneak under its nose. “We’re responsible too because we haven’t done enough to fight the government.” Massie agreed, and Mulvany declared, “If you’re not doing something wrong, it’s nobody’s business what you’re doing!” However, despite the failure of Representative Amash’s recent amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill—which was supported by each of his fellow panelists—the group expressed optimism for the future of privacy discussions on the hill. Debates over Amash’s amendment divided both political parties, which he and YAL consider a step forward. Both Amash and Labrador called the amendment their proudest moment in Congress.

As the policy discussion deepened, applause grew dimmer and many audience members turned to their phones to discuss the upcoming happy hour at Arlington bar Carpool, a nearby auto-themed establishment that resembles a refurbished 50s gas station. The panelists slowly began to resemble giggling fraternity brothers as they devolved into Capitol Hill anecdotes about swapping ties and poking fun at tourists. Amash awarded Mulvany a “liberty pin,” the physical stamp of approval he gives to favorite colleagues. Mulvany thrilled the crowd with an insult directed at Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke: “It’s very hard to be arrogant to me when I know your first job was at Pedro’s South of the Border.” Moderator Fields called the discussion to a close just as the room started to lose focus.

The panel stood and turned to go, but before they could move a single adolescent shout issued from the crowd. “I love you, Justin!”

33 comments
Carlint'l
Carlint'l

So the press finds it necessary to bring up race, belittle youth who are spending their own time and effort to become involved in our very dysfunctional government and look to ways they can make a difference.  I would take one of these young Americans into my company before 10 press people for the same price.  Go YAL.  You are our future and God knows you cannot do any worse than most of the current people in office.

MarkBHopp
MarkBHopp

So they bring up the race and sex of the two white men but fail to mention that Amash is Middle Eastern, Ted Yoho is Asian and both Ted Cruz and Raul Labrador is Hispanic.
When will journalism in the US ever get out of the 20th century?

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

While the left is more concerned with abortion, for a huge central "nanny" government, and gay marriage, and the right is more concerned with stopping abortion, for a huge central "nanny" government, and stopping gay marriage; libertarians are concerned with our eroding freedoms and civil liberties. We are not brain-washed partisans who buys into the all-in mentality of those two corrupt parties. Both Democrats and Republicans are for party first and the rights of individuals last. We are stead fast in fighting our governments thirst for Imperialism and spreading the doctrine of democracy around the globe. We are for peace and trade, for freedom, for liberty. 

swagger
swagger

obviously the right wing wants to grab this issue as their own because they are so lacking in potential presidential candidates and no new acceptable ideas and policies.  all they really have is negativity when they cling to the so called IRS and benghazi scandals.  i don't think they can ride that wave all the way through 2016.

roknsteve
roknsteve

I'd like to see these Libertarians vs the Teabillies in a convention.  It would down "Down with the Constitution" vs "Dunt Tech Ur Gunz or Socal Skurity."  Popcorn time!    

Tero
Tero

There probably haven't been that many virgins in one room since the papal conclave.

TyPollard
TyPollard

Their brand would improve if they applied the "2% cooperation concept" with Democrats and all Americans instead of only Republicans.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

Labrador blamed Congress for letting NSA surveillance sneak under its nose. “We’re responsible too because we haven’t done enough to fight the government.” 

What a crock. Congress IS one third of the government, and voted enthusiastically for the original USAPA in 2001, then amended/extended it (several controversial provisions were supposed to "sunset" on December 31, 2005) in 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2012. In every single vote, Republicans were overwhelmingly in favor. In 2008, only one Republican voted against the amendments, which authorized the government to conduct sweeps like the one in the Verizon case.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/06/congress-government-spying-votes-charts/65969/ 

satanicmechanic1
satanicmechanic1

@MarkBHopp This is Time magazine you are talking about, im surprised they didnt make something up like they were eating kittens or something to try and make them look bad. Time has almost ZERO journalistic integrity. 

CatrinaGlasl
CatrinaGlasl

@MarkBHopp You are right, the media just can't help itself, they have to bring race into everything... well, shame on those "young white men" who want Liberty for all Americans.  If it is young white men who want it it must be bad.  I mean the only thing worse than young white men, is old white men, right?  (sarcasm) This "middle-aged Cherokee-American woman" loves Libertarianism. 

jaynesshauna
jaynesshauna

@swagger Won't have to. There seems to be a new scandal every week. Like Iran-Contra II. Seems we were moving weapons into the hands of Syrian rebels.

satanicmechanic1
satanicmechanic1

@roknsteve Im so glad you posted this for all to see how truly ignorant you are of both the liberty activists and the tea party. At least they believe in principles not party lines. The nice thing about liberty and tea party people, is they wont hesitate to go against their own candidate if he does not follow his promises or if he violates the rules that are set up for HIM by the constitution. Unlike people like you, Obama can violate every rule of the constitution and you are ok with it because its "Obama" but if anyone else does then it aint cool right?

terryclifton1
terryclifton1

@roknsteve  

Your party along with the Republican Party has eviscerated the Constitution without pause. We seek to live by the tenets and protect our rights and freedoms that The Constitution and The Bill of Rights affords us. You are blinded by prejudice to the evils that your wonderful party has done to take away our privacy rights, along with the Republican party. You are a partisan, you can't see the forest from the trees.

jaynesshauna
jaynesshauna

@Tero Went to this conference last year. You could not possibly be more wrong.

jaynesshauna
jaynesshauna

@TyPollard I ran a chapter of this group on my old campus. We worked with the College Democrats, College Republicans, and the College Libertarians. Anyone who agreed with us on even just one issue we worked with. 

LDLLDLLDL
LDLLDLLDL

@S_Deemer Consider this in  the context.  1 Republican.  I don't even have to look up who that one was.  Do you?  If you do you are in the wrong article because these are the people claiming to be following in that 1 guy's footsteps.  Although in fairness I've never heard of  Mulvany  before today.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@jaynesshauna @swagger

Like Iran-Contra II. Seems we were moving weapons into the hands of Syrian rebels.

Not that I agree with that move, but it's not done in secret and we're not selling weapons to Iran to fund another authoritarian regime. 

MrObvious
MrObvious

@jaynesshauna @Tero 

True, corporate mansloots are not virgins, just willing to bend over for any company and the cheapest price.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@jaynesshauna @TyPollard 

That is excellent but think of this; If others followed the same idea there would be a lot of progress in areas that you are likely to disagree with. I think this would be wonderful but would not favor Republican policies. In fact I see more common ground between Libertarians and Liberals.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@eriknordlund @TyPollard 

False. Obamacare WAS the Republican idea from the 90's. 

Congress does not allow votes unless it can pass without Democratic support. Even at that they are failing. They are now voting against things they have voted for for decades. They have demonized those that they disagree with as being unAmerican. They are shrinking into themselves. 

jag57
jag57

@MrObvious @jaynesshauna @swagger No, we are putting arms into the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists, helped by the useful idiots to help them take control of Syria.  This is no different than any other pincher strategy that has been used for many centuries.

michaeldbishop
michaeldbishop

@MrObvious @jaynesshauna @swagger Unless I'm mistaken, Iran Contra was only Iran Contra because Reagan sold weapons to the Contras IN VIOLATION OF A LAW.   There is no such law Vis a Vis the Syrian Rebels.  While I absolutely disagree with sending them arms, using Iran Contra as a frame of reference is intellectually dishonest at best.

satanicmechanic1
satanicmechanic1

@TyPollard @jaynesshauna You arent wrong there, however the big point of contention between libertarians and democrats is the size and scope of govt and democrats pretty much run on big govt, welfare, handouts etc. It would undermine their whole campaign strategy. So at that point its going to be a big fight unless they get some sense and realize thats horrible policy and worse politics.

michaeldbishop
michaeldbishop

@JasonFarrell @TyPollard @eriknordlund This is what I don't get about Obamacare being somehow evil, etc.  At what point are people responsible for paying their own way in this country?  Why, as a productive state, do my taxes get vacuumed up and sent to the failing states like MS or OK or LA to pay for the Medicaid bills of the "patriots" that refuse to pay for insurance and get cancer, show up at the hospital and BAM, I'm paying the bill?

The day, the Tea Party or the Independents A:) pass a constitutional amendment that says no state gets more Federal Tax money than it pay in and B:) Individuals without insurance must sign a binding waiver that forbids them from getting on the public medical dole should they get cancer and can't pay the bill, I'm 100% behind  you.  Until then, all this is, in an Alice-In-Wonderland way, the takers whining about paying their fair share so the producers can finally stop bailing them out.

LDLLDLLDL
LDLLDLLDL

@TyPollard @AudraMontgomery @JasonFarrell @eriknordlund Just think if there were people willing to fillibuster the invasion of Iraq.  The Minority prevailing would have been a pretty good thing, no?  Rule by majority isn't a good policy most of the time.  Forcing the other 49% to agree with you is why government is incapable of being a viable resolution.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@AudraMontgomery @TyPollard @JasonFarrell @eriknordlund 

I would agree if we are talking about the talking filibuster but Paul's was the exception to the rule.

Also your fondness for the filibuster is in opposition to the point of this article. You are applauding a minority thwarting progress where a majority agree on something. It only works for partisan purposes.

AudraMontgomery
AudraMontgomery

@TyPollard @JasonFarrell @eriknordlund Ty, you are not wrong about the last 30 years or so of Republican governing. The point of this piece, at least according to what I read above, is that the new crop of libertarian-leaning Republicans are doing their damndest to change that, actually working across the aisle on populist and civil issues. 


As for filibusters, bring them on, everyone, every party. I love me the eff out of a good, principled filibuster. The recent one in TX was epic as was Rand Paul's drone filibuster. <3

JasonFarrell
JasonFarrell

@TyPollard@eriknordlund  @TyPollard False. Justin Amash and Rand Paul have a history of working with democrats on civil liberties issues. Obamacare is a god awful law, and sane people whether Repubs or Democrats recognize it as such. If a law is a disaster, it doesn't matter whose think tank it came from.