Justin Amash

Justin Amash: Too Useful to Be House Speaker?

Would a higher profile be worth giving up his role as a rebel?


Advancement or nullification?
Credit: Gage Skidmore / photo on flickr

Libertarian millennial Bonnie Kristian has penned a love letter over at The Week to the idea of installing Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) as House Speaker. The idea has gotten a little bit of attention, particularly now that frontrunner Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has already ticked off his party by suggesting Congress' investigation of Benghazi was all about getting at Hillary Clinton.

Kristian does make some great points: Amash never misses a vote, explains all his votes to the public, wants legislators to have time to read the bills they pass, and is a younger, newer generation of Republican. She notes that he and outgoing House Speaker John Boehner don't see eye to eye. Boehner booted Amash from the budget committee. Amash voted against Boehner as speaker.

I think Amash would make a great speaker, but I do wonder if that would be the best way to "use" Amash, so-to-speak. It is true that Boehner had significant disagreements with the goals of Republicans connected to the Tea Party movement, but Boehner also had problems with just getting anything done at all. And as Nick Gillespie noted when he recently wrote about Boehner's resignation, the man appeared to have no charisma, no vision for what he wanted government to be, no leadership skills, nothing. It's not just the Tea Party conservatives who are glad Boehner's leaving. Even traditional establishment conservatives are done with him.

Amash does have charisma and a really strong, consistent voice as a congressman. There is very little question of where he stands on the issues, partly because as mentioned above, he always explains them. Whenever he votes in a way that surprises (such as against authorization of the KeystoneXL pipeline), there's always an explanation that fits within his libertarian conservative philosophy (cronyism, in this case).

Congress needs more Justin Amashes. Making him speaker would certainly give him a higher profile, and his views would get more media attention. Here's a big concern, though: Amash is certainly a polarizing figure within his own party—and I say that as an absolute compliment. He has played an important, vocal role in going against parts of his own party on libertarian issues like surveillance. He was on hand to assist Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in forcing the reluctant Republicans of the Senate to accept the sunset of provisions of the PATRIOT Act that authorized mass domestic surveillance. He is developing a reputation similar to that of Rand Paul's father, Ron, putting his libertarian conservative philosophy ahead of party politics in the House.

The job of the Speaker of the House is to get stuff done. The speaker often doesn't participate in floor debate and often does not even vote. Amash is sometimes opposed to the things that Congress is trying to get done, even things promoted by members of his own party. Amash's value to the party and to his constituency is being that loud libertarian voice. Sometimes he serves as a roadblock.

Amash needs to continue to be Amash. While installing Amash as the speaker would on the surface appear to give a much higher profile to libertarian politics and philosophy, I worry that it would actually, paradoxically diminish Amash's role. Get him back on major committees, definitely. But I think we all may be better served with Amash deeply involved in the guts of legislation, not political air traffic control. 

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101 responses to “Justin Amash: Too Useful to Be House Speaker?

  1. “Libertarian millennial”

    Quick! poll it before it escapes!

    note = “Bonnie Kristian”

    1. She’s a SoCon too.

      1. From her website: “My elevator pitch for libertarianism is that I want the government out of your church, your bedroom, your wallet, Wall Street’s pocket, and the Middle East.”

      2. It isn’t mutually xclusively with libertarianism. We’re not progs, who are incapable of separating their feelings from government force. Just like Rand Paul encouraging people to find religion. Which is just fine, as he is not advocating REQUIRING people to be religious.

        I certainly have a lot of things I would like to do that have zero business being backed up by government force. And most posters here appear to be able to make that distinction too.

      3. Oooh icky.

        Oh wait, except not. Given that her libertarian principles inhibit her from attempting to impose her other principles on everyone else.

        Only a prog would find this problematic.

        1. Social conservatism is a reaction to social progressivism. It doesn’t necessarily require that one wants government to “do something”. If you want government to stop doing socially progressive things you may well be socially conservative.

          1. It’s both socially conservative and libertarian to oppose federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, for example.

            1. Yeah but you look at guys like Huckabee and a few others, pushing the hard right social agenda, and wanting to change things like the recent legalization of gay marriage.

              I’m as Christian as anyone, but the gay bashing by the likes of them is really, really tiring. Folks deserve the right to choose their own party, free of government-enforced marriage definition (whatever it may be based on).

              As far as Amash goes, I love the guy, and it would be awesome if the Republicans promoted him to the position of speaker.

          2. If you want government to not do progressive things you could be any number of things. The only necessary one being not a progressive.

            Social conservatism is a reaction to progressivism the same way not eating is a reaction to not being hungry.

  2. That Boehner muted his record by neither debating nor voting on issues does not surprise me.

    1. and Amash as speaker ain’t gonna happen.

      1. No, but it is a bell weather. And also an open invitation for someone less establishment to throw his or her hat into the ring.

        The ruling class talks about the need to compromise. This is their chance to walk the walk.

  3. I think it’s sweet that Scott still seems to believe we’re (libertarians) are going to get any positive out comes in the political sphere. Amash will eventually have some career crushing information leaked by one agency or another hostile to his point of view.

    Learn to love the suck, Scott.

    Everything is awful and nothing is getting better.

    1. (hands Mrs. S a bottle of Rowan’s Creek and some Oxycontin)

      1. Loser.

        (hands her a bottle of Paul Masson and some Valium)

        1. Oh, adding Valium is perfectly acceptable.

          I had a friend who–this is *every night*, mind you–would get home from work and have the following: a joint, a Valium, a Vicodin, beer, and cigarettes. Every night.

          I’ve always admired him.

          1. emphasis on “had”

            Where is his pickled corpse residing?

            1. Brooklyn? I haven’t talked to him in a long time.

          2. I had a friend

            A “friend.” Riiiiiight.

      2. Thanks, but I’d prefer Johnny Walker Red and Vicodin. I’m a traditionalist.

        1. It’s a solid tradition. But there are smokes involved, I hope?

      3. Pikers

        *hand Mrs. L a bottle of Kessler and some Krokodil of suspicious origin*

        1. What’s wrong with Mogan David and some huffin paint?

          Silver’s the best.

          Witness Me!

            1. Shiny and Chrome

    2. My cellphone has more processing power than my first desktop computer. I can carry a library’s worth of books around in my manpurse with me. I can meet women or men just by opening an app and swiping. There are too many good TV shows to feasibly watch. A child born today can expect to live to be almost 80.

      1. Animals live longer in captivity than they do in the wild.

          1. He’s saying that America is a prison, and he’ll get no argument from me.

            1. Then he’s being silly, as usual. It’s bad, but it’s not that bad. You can still leave for one thing.

              1. Not without the permission of men with guns.

                1. They’re pretty liberal with that permission. In Uruguay, you actually have to pay an exit fee to get permission to leave.

                  1. Yeah, you pay here too.


                2. No. The authorities screening you on the way app pout have far more to do with where you’re going then where you’re coming from. Even Canada screens people entering their country.

            2. He’s saying that America is a prison, and he’ll get no argument from me.

              And you do have the awesome phone. So there’s that.

              1. Saying “I’m a prisoner” isn’t the same as saying “everything is awful and there’s no hope.” Some prisons are quite nice.

                1. The US is the Club Fed of prison-nations. It’s not one of those pound-you-in-the-ass shithole prison-nations.

      2. And how do those things lead to a more positive political outcome for libertarians?

        Yep, technology is terrific and the inventiveness of man is a wonder. That just may ameliorate or prevent the widespread stupidity that passes as political philosophy and economic policy in our current era, or it maybe used to spy on us and suppress dissent – eventually.

        I think it’s still up for debate.

        1. Really? Smartphones are breaking taxi cartels for one thing. Technology has always improved the lot of man.

          “the widespread stupidity that passes as political philosophy and economic policy in our current era”

          I have some news: widespread stupidity is nothing new, and it used to be a lot worse, especially in the ’30s. It may be more annoying, but it’s not novel.

          1. The candidates leading their parties in the polls for president are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

            When the choice was between Bush and Gore, I joked to my husband the choice was between Dumb and Dumber.

            Our choice this time around is likely to be between fucking appalling and pants shitting horrifying. Even with Uber, things are not getting better.

            1. If I had to choose between the two main parties, Trump is the only candidate that would make me vote for Hillary. At least a scandal-plagued Hillary would be cockblocked by a GOP congress just on Team Blue vs Team Red dynamics. With Trump, much of the opposite would happen- GOP would support his gawdawful policies just because TEAM!!!

            2. Bush and Gore were their party’s final choices. Hillary isn’t a sure thing and we have little idea who will be the GOP nominee.

              “Even with Uber, things are not getting better.”

              Yes they are if you want decent livery service and an end to livery cronyism.

              1. We need to end livery cronyism! Kidneys are being oppressed!

                1. I put my liver through a rigorous exercise program to make sure it can never be oppressed.

        2. He’s saying, you can ignore politics with cat videos on your cell phone, so things are better.

          1. ^^ this is change I can Belieb in!!

        3. Life is so much bigger than politics. There are a lit of great experiences out there, or so I’m told. One thing I do know is that you’ll be a lot happier if you stop fretting over things you can’t control.

          1. I agree that life is bigger than politics, but I specified that I was speaking about the political sphere. I hope technology and the general rise in certain types of tolerance will be enough, but I suspect when another economic crisis hits gross stupidity will reign.

            We’ll see, I guess.

            1. The previous economic crisis limited the stupidity. Federal outlays flatlined, and some states have engaged in serious reform, particularly tax reform. Easy times seem to be the stupidest times/time of increasing stupidity.

              1. Federal outlays flatlined


        4. Doubtful. We have devices that give us access the entire wealth of human knowledge and are small enough to fit in our pockets, yet we primarily use them to spout uninformed political talking points in 140 characters or less, post photos of our food, and look at pornography.

          1. Even if they are primarily used for those things, using them secondarily for accessing that wealth of knowledge is massively beneficial.

            1. Without that internet, the Rolling Stone UVA rape story would still be, uh, rolling. We can limit damage a lot easier than before.

    3. “Everything is awful and nothing is getting better.”

      Oh shut up. Ex-Im and some 50 year old Conservation Federal Fund got shut down. Libertarians really need to stop pretending that Everything is the Worst. No, things could be a lot worse. In Argentina, everything is pretty much the worst. Get some perspective or reality will introduce it to you brutally.

      1. Libertarians really need to stop pretending that Everything is the Worst.

        They really don’t need to pretend. Everyone knows Nicole is the worst.

        1. Right on point!

        2. Yeah, but do they really know it? I mean, feel it in their bones?

      2. If libertarianism is so great, whycome you don’t live in Somalia?!!!111!?? /derp

      3. Just having an article about a prominent Libertarian leaning Congressman potentially becoming Leader of the House is a sign that things are actually getting better. Humans instinctively view the past through Rose colored lenses. Generally the past was shittier in most ways but, we tend to ignore all the ways it’s gotten better and concentrate on the few areas with no clear gains.

      4. “Libertarians really need to stop pretending that Everything is the Worst”

        *looks at middle east

        *looks at economy

        *looks at UN’s plan to ban free speech on the internet

        Everything’s coming up libertarian!!


      5. You forgot to mention that the political drift of this election season is giving Matt Welch the vapors.

        So we got that going for us as well.

  4. Amash will never be speaker precisely because he is so divisive in the GOP. However, if he were to get the position, any concerns about a rebel being coopted by the system are far outweighed by two facts:

    1) His power in determining committee heads would mean that they would be led by lib-cons, or at least conservatives who understand their position requires pleasing a lib-con.

    2) His leadership would answer many questions with a Lib-Con agenda. There is a wide spectrum of viewpoints in the GOP, and reps wanting to please the leadership traditionally had to hew to whatever mushy centrist so-con views Boehner exemplified. Boehner’s chief concern was not making waves except for wedge issues, and so the vast majority of reps sang to that tune. Put a Lib-Con in there setting agendas, and watch how many GOP members suddenly discover restrained government merely as a part of their own career goals.

    1. This. We don’t need voices as much as we need action and power. Still, it’s more realistic to hope for Amash getting his old budget committee position back.

      1. +1, I agree it would be better to have Amash as leader than not. Despite the article, I think the leader influences the direction of Congress far more than any other single Congressman. However, the odds for him becoming leader seem pretty low.

  5. I’ve been saying the same thing about Paul in the senate.

    We need more folks like these two “in the trenches” where they are free to make a loud noise when important, rather than dealing with the mundane business of counting votes and twisting arms. As leaders of the libertarian wing of the party, these guys rally folks from both sides when issues arise that they can agree on – not so sure you can do that as speaker.

    1. “I’ve been saying the same thing about Paul in the senate.”

      Why do I feel this is a rationalization of the good of Paul’s failing poll numbers then anything else.

      “Nah we don’t need no libertarians in the white house or as speaker of the house….it’s totally better when they are out of centers of power”

      1. Not rationalizing, at least on my part. I’ve always thought he could do more good becoming a fixture in the senate, screaming every time the fascists try to take over, than as a 4 year flash in the pan as POTUS (unless he got lucky and could nominate about 3 or 4 good judges to SCOTUS).

    2. No

      Success needs to be rewarded.

      If only to encourage others.

  6. Completely OT: David Cronenberg turned down directing season two of True Detective because ‘the script was so bad’


    1. *moves David Cronenberg higher up the list of ‘People Almanian Respects’*

    2. Not enough exploding heads for him

      1. Are there ever enough?

        1. Nope. Although I think a talking insectoid typewriter was his finest accomplishment.

          1. Well, there was also the tooth gun from eXistenZ and the tumor children in The Brood and the gun hand in Videodrome and the hand-forged gynecological “tools” in Dead Ringers and…

            Fuck, Cronenberg is amazing.

    3. still have not seen Eastern Promises but it’s on my short list.

      1. You’re really eager to see li’l Viggo huh?

        1. I was unaware he makes an appearance but consider it the cherry on top.

          1. He’s one of the main characters. Just like in A History of Violence.

            1. Was li’l Viggo in that one too? I mean I know Viggo was, and Maria Bello’s creepy sprawling bush for some reason.

          2. His name is “Hidalgo,” for ever and all time.

            And yes, you will get more Hidalgo than you bargained for in this film.

  7. Kevin McCarthy’s election chances are in danger.

    I mean, to vote for him you’d have to be a soulless, emotionless drone who has no love for humanity.

    1. You mean like a pod person? LOL.

      1. Yes, Tonio, like a pod person.

        Great minds think alike.

        And so do ours.

      2. You mean like a republican

  8. Amash never misses a vote, explains all his votes to the public, wants legislators to have time to read the bills they pass, and is a younger, newer generation of Republican.

    This is a list of why he can’t be speaker.

  9. I don’t know… Is the house ready for a decent human being as speaker? I’m not sure if it’s unprecedented, but it certainly hasn’t happened in my lifetime.


  10. “Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has already ticked off his party by suggesting Congress’ investigation of Benghazi was all about getting at Hillary Clinton.”

    Silly republicans. Only Russian strongman can speak truth about US military interventions.


  11. Leave it to libertarians to argue themselves out of positions of power.

    1. Further evidence that the only remaining liberals are classical liberals.

      All the rest are actually progs.

  12. He looks like Remy or maybe he is?

  13. Really a pointless question, and behind the veil is the question of whether libertarians like Amash can uphold their principles and lead. It’s not so easy when it’s your call.

    1. Just say no to more taxes and regulations. Then you’ll have to contend with the crybaby progressives.

    2. Yea, just look at how far Rand Paul has deviated from his father just to try an get in the running. Maybe he’ll drop out because he’s “too useful” in the senate.

  14. Too useful? As if he would ever be elected to the post. This statement is like, me not winning anyway is a moot point, I don’t want to run. If there was a possibility of him even getting close to winning, does anyone actually think he wouldn’t run?

Comments are closed.