When Michigan Congressman Justin Amash announced he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, he didn’t just say goodbye to the GOP—he opened up a whole new set of possibilities in American politics.
In choosing principle over party, the 39-year-old son of a Palestinian refugee has become the spokesman for all Americans who believe in limited government. Since taking office in 2011, Amash has been an outspoken critic of out-of-control government spending, state surveillance, and unauthorized wars. He believes that President Donald Trump engaged in impeachable behavior, but he’s primarily motivated by the belief that Congress is no longer doing its job of writing laws that the Executive branch implements.
“The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered,” Amash wrote in The Washington Post. “We are fast approaching the point, however, where Congress exists as little more than a formality to legitimize outcomes dictated by the president, the speaker of the House, and the Senate majority leader.”
Amash doesn’t believe the system can be reformed from within, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper:
“I don’t think there’s anyone in there who can change the system…. It’s pretty rigid. It’s top-down. It comes down from leadership to the bottom. And over the years it’s gotten more rigid. It’s more difficult now to change the process than it was a few years ago.”
This is something Amash has been consistent on for his entire time in Congress. He’s called out Nancy Pelosi for strait-jacketing the way legislation is introduced, debated, and voted on—a criticism he leveled against her Republican predecessors. In a 2018 interview with Reason, he lodged this complaint against then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R–Wis.):
The speaker has not been protecting the institution. You need a speaker in there who is an institutionalist, who cares about the institution first, who is not a partisan…. Let Republicans and Democrats and others offer their amendments, and let’s have votes on all sorts of things, substantive things, not just post offices like they do now.
Modern politics is “trapped in a partisan death spiral,” says Amash. But there is a way out if Congress will actually do its job and if the House and Senate become less fixated on partisan advantage. “What you have right now are two parties that are relatively small and weak, and, actually the reason they are so partisan right now is because they are small and weak,” he told Reason. “The future I see is one where there are no strong parties and more independent candidates. We don’t really need the parties anymore.”
Amash says he will run for Congress as an independent and is confident that he can retain his seat. But he also hasn’t ruled out running for president, possibly as a Libertarian.
Whether that happens, Justin Amash has already stirred things up by doing what he believes in rather than what is convenient for partisan purposes. For that alone, he deserves our attention—and commands our respect.
Well, whether you respect Amash or not (and one should never respect politicians), Amash is free, and should be free, to do what he wants. It may be helpful to American politics if more followed Amash, from both parties. Doing the right thing is more important than doing what your party wants you to do.