Amash, a liberty-friendly Republican whose principled opposition to NSA spying, crony capitalism, and foreign entanglements has earned him support from libertarians—as well as the enmity of the GOP establishment—was forecast to win the race weeks ago. However, his political survival was not always a matter of fact. Neoconservative Republicans and corporatist special interests backed Ellis early in the race. Their attempts to portray Amash as the “best friend” of both Nancy Pelosi and al-Qaida backfired, however. District voters told Slate’s Dave Weigel that they were tired of Ellis’s negative campaigning and agreed with Amash that it was wrong to trade liberty for security.
The challenge against Amash was the second high-profile attempt this year by well-funded outside interest groups that sought to unseat constitutionalist and antiwar Republican House members, and just as it did in North Carolina this attempt failed. Both attack campaigns sought to demonize the incumbents on account of their foreign policy and national security records, and in both cases the fear-mongering fell flat and even worked to repel voters. Ellis sought to demagogue Amash’s strong criticism of NSA surveillance practices and his opposition to indefinite detention at Guantanamo, but Ellis badly misjudged the politics of the issue and ran a campaign as if it were still 2002. Amash’s victory is another encouraging sign that elected Republicans can dissent on matters of foreign policy and national security without losing their seats, and it shows that voters will reward principled and genuinely independent members of Congress for putting their concerns and interests first. Above all, it is a resounding defeat for corporatists and foreign policy hard-liners inside the GOP, and it shows that in some parts of the country Republican voters are clearly rejecting what party elites have been trying to sell them when they are given a real alternative.