Justin Amash

Justin Amash on His Break from the GOP: It's Not (Just) About Trump

He says partisan power structures have made government reforms impossible.

|

Newly independent Michigan Rep. Justin Amash spent the holiday weekend attempting to make it clear that his decision to leave the Republican Party was not just about President Donald Trump's behavior. It's about a rigidly controlled party system that made discussion and political change impossible.

Amash went so far as to tell CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday that he probably would have left the Republican Party even if Trump hadn't been elected president. Amash says that political party power structures have gotten so entrenched that they keep members of Congress from genuinely participating in the lawmaking process.

"I don't think there's anyone in there who can change the system," he lamented to Tapper. "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."

Amash's comments to Tapper—and in a local interview with WZZM, the ABC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan—track with what he wrote in the Washington Post when he declared on Independence Day that he was leaving the Republican Party. Here's the WZZM interview:

Amash tells Tapper that he will be running for Congress again as an independent and that he is confident about his chances of remaining in Congress. Polling shows him losing a primary against a Republican challenger, and Michigan allows partisan straight-ticket voting, which tends to hurt third-party candidates. But Amash says he has been hearing a lot of support from citizens, and quietly from other Republicans. "There are lots of Republicans who are saying these things privately, but they aren't saying them publicly," Amash told Tapper about Congress' dysfunctions.

Amash is maintaining his support for impeachment proceedings against Trump for his alleged attempts to obstruct Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He also criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.), saying she's making a mistake by closing off (for now) the possibility of impeachment proceedings. "I believe she believes there's a strong case," he tells Tapper. "And, if so, she should move forward and make sure that the American people understand what's going on, because people at home aren't reading the Mueller report."

Amash's departure from the GOP has caused a new spike of interest in the libertarian-leaning conservative, but the numbers from Google Trends aren't showing the kind of spike he got when he initially broke from the party to lay out the case for impeachment.

He has, of course, inspired not a bit of "What does it mean, really?" analysis from libertarians, conservatives, and libertarian conservatives. Over at the USA Spectator, Daniel McCarthy brands Amash's form of libertarianism much more naïve than what we saw from the likes of Ron and Rand Paul:

Amash has many principles in which he professes to believe, including the unborn's right-to-life. Trump and the populist Republican party are clearly better than the Democrats, or any non-existent third force, where some of those principles are concerned. With respect to others, such as reducing government spending and power, both major parties do nothing for libertarians like Amash. But having presence in the GOP can pay dividends even there when the occasion arises—when it means that there are more small-government Republicans willing to hash out a compromise like the 'sequester' that limited both domestic and military spending, for example, one of the rare success stories for smaller government in living memory.

Two observations here. First of all, Republican voters are showing that they are not terribly interested in cutting federal spending in any significant way. And Amash in these interviews has painstakingly explained how party leadership cuts off these compromises and negotiations while preventing amendments from being introduced and debated. When your example of spending compromise is something that happened more than five years ago and ultimately ended up being a speed bump in the middle of a massive ramp-up of military spending, those dividends don't really amount to much.

Over at The American Conservative, W. James Antle III sees Amash's split from the Republican Party as a problem for those who want to restrain the party's hawkish nature. Antle's analysis goes to an interesting place, because Trump is frequently less hawkish than the GOP establishment. The president, he writes,

could either ratify his party's break with the neocons or court still greater disasters. But some of his intraparty foils, like former Representative Mark Sanford before Amash, are more supportive of the president's stated goal of a smaller military footprint in the Middle East than anyone on his team. And now the GOP establishment has trained its sights on [libertarian-leaning conservative Kentucky GOP Rep.] Thomas Massie.

The fight feels like an all-or-nothing scenario if you insist on seeing it solely in terms of Trump. But there's always nuance to be found if you know where to look. Even though Amash left the House Freedom Caucus as the rift grew over his objections to Trump's behavior, members of the Caucus continued to support his (unfortunately failed) effort to scale back the authority of the federal government to snoop on American citizens without getting warrants. Congress's bipartisan leadership has stood in the way of real surveillance reforms under both Barack Obama and Trump. And that has continued to concentrate power in the executive branch and has shielded Congress from having open and transparent debates about the amount of control the federal government has over our lives.

Amash did not rule out the possibility that he would join the Libertarian Party and run for president in 2020, which has prompted some debate over who he would draw his votes from and how much he'll affect the outcome. Given his conservative credentials, it would be logical to assume Amash would draw more from the right than from the left, but McCarthy wonders if Amash would give centrist Democrats a protest vote if their party nominates a candidate they think is too far to the left. Color me a skeptic there, if only because any discussion of Amash in liberal circles tends to end up focusing on his anti-abortion, fiscally conservative voting record, regardless of whether he opposes Trump. It's a sign, though, that people are already looking to blame third-party voters for how the election turns out.

NEXT: Noncompliance Kneecaps New Zealand’s Gun Control Scheme

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Sorry Reason, nobody still likes or trusts Amash no matter how hard you plug him.

      1. No one but a highly trained clinical psychiatrist could ever claim to speak for you Crusty.

        1. I thought you were a highly trained clinical psychiatrist, John. Aren’t you always explaining to us what’s in our heads?

          1. No. I explaining to you the logical implications of the positions you take. You don’t believe those things and that is the entire point; you haven’t thought through the implications of your position.

            Maybe you are such a dumb ass you can’t understand that. But I doubt it. You are just too mendacious and hard headed to examine your own views is the more likely explanation for your feigned ignorance.

            1. You really want to have a logic-off? Let’s start by you stating your political principles and then me showing your utter lack of any sort of consistency in those principles by always defending the GOP. Unless you are willing to admit that your one true principle is loyalty to the party above all else.

              1. Exactly which of my positions are inconsistent? Explain them and show your work or shut the fuck up. I am waiting to hear.

                1. Ok, let’s start with you listing all the positions that disagree with the positions of the GOP.

                  1. I think all of my positions are consistent. If you think that my positions are not consistent, name two that are inconsistent. The GOP is horrific about spending. They are barely trustworthy about gun control. Many of them are internationalists who would make every regional conflict into a world one in the name of “credibility”.

                    There is tons that I disagree with the GOP on. I disagree with most of the GOP on trade.

                    Again, what are all of these inconsistent positions I hold. If you can’t name any, just admit you were wrong and shut up.

                    1. “Ok, let’s start with you listing all the positions that disagree with the positions of the GOP.”

                      Wait, did that idiot actually just expect you to do that? To refute his fucking retard ass?

                  2. His primary position is living in reality and not in some fanfic version of utopia like you and other absolutists.

                    1. Living in reality?
                      Please, Jesse, why don’t you tell us again how government censorship of the Internet would be such a terrific idea.

                    2. Jeff… why do you wander into these threads and prove you’re a fucking idiot. I’ve never asked for censorship you retarded fuck. I’ve asked for the extra benefits these companies have to be removed you retarded fuck. I have stated they are free to be retarded censorious fucks for retarded fucks like you to use. But they dont get excess legal protections you retarded fuck.

                    3. By the way you retarded fuck, it is you who wants to censor all religious views from private business.


      2. Crusty Juggler – Lawbertarian
        July.8.2019 at 2:29 pm

        Fancylad speaks for us all!

        No, just for those of us who aren’t progs.

    1. I like Amash

      1. Okay, Amash entered office on January 1, 2011. In September 2011, Obama ordered the assassination of Anwar Al Awalaki, an American citizen who was guilty of nothing other than shooting off his mouth and encouraging other people to do bad things. Amash never once called for Obama’s impeachment for that, nor for starting an illegal war in Libya or using the IRS and DOJ to go after his political enemies or any number of other things. Yet, suddenly in 2018 he thinks Trump should be impeached for “obstruction”, whatever that means.

        Explain that.

        1. Yeah Leo, explain that.

          We’re waiting, RINO-lover.

          1. They give you the meds for you to take not sell to other people.

              1. You are right. I shouldn’t pick on you so much. You are an asshole but it is still wrong to pick on someone like you so much.

                Sorry.

              2. And the cubicle walls fell down.

                1. That is actually kind of funny. Good for you.

        2. I have explained it. I don’t think Trump should be impeached for obstruction. I think we’ve had this very conversation in other threads in fact. I don’t have to agree with Amash on every single issue to like him. I don’t like Amash’s position on abortion, for instance. There might be others, I haven’t analyzed his record exhaustively.

          He’s better than most Republicans on spending, trade, 4th amendment, 2nd amendment (don’t forget those bumpstocks!), limits to executive power, wars. Those issues alone are enough for me to prefer him to the “average” Republican.

          1. You don’t think the fact that he is willing to overturn an election and do untold damage to the country and people’s faith in government over what amounts to bullshit doesn’t say bad things about his character?

            The problem isn’t whether you agree or disagree with him about impeachment. The problem is that his position is so at odds with the positions he took when Obama was President that it is impossible to reconcile them or explain them other than to say Amash is a opportunist who thought going after Trump would get him somewhere where going after Obama wouldn’t. Good for him but that puts real lie to his claims of having “principles”.

            1. He called for impeachment. He hasn’t said that he thinks Trump should be removed from office. That’s not his job. His job is that of a grand jury. I’ve said I don’t agree with it.

              He’s almost certainly doing this impeachment thing as a publicity stunt. I’ll grant you that. It doesn’t bode well for his character, but he’s a politician. He wouldn’t be the first politician to propose something that he knows would never pass (at least the removal portion in the Senate) as a way to get his name on the news. It’s slimy, but if you want to pick a politician based on character… well good luck.

              Other than impeachment, what don’t you like about Amash? Is this a litmus test for you?

              1. Not really that much. But the impeachment thing is kind of a big deal. He stabbed his own party in the back for some cheap publicity and applause from people who hate him.

                1. Our difference on Amash likely comes down to me not really caring about party. To me the impeachment thing isn’t a huge deal.

                  But he’s definitely paying for it. His career in politics is over. You never go against the family.

                  1. That is because you hate Trump. If he didn’t to a President you liked, you would feel differently.

                    1. Hate is a strong word. He’s certainly better than Hillary or any Democrat running today. I’d certainly vote for Amash over Trump though, all things being equal.

                      I’ve already said that I don’t think Trump should be impeached. If I had irrational hatred for him I don’t think I’d be willing to make that claim.

                    2. Leo,

                      I do not understand why he decided to die on the Trump impeachment hill. The whole thing makes no sense to me.

                    3. I don’t think he has any aspirations to stay in the House. He might have overestimated the never-Trump faction, and thought that he might have a path to primary Trump. Not sure, but if so, he made a huge mistake.

                      Most likely he wanted out of the party anyway, and this was a way to get some publicity ahead of a LP run.

              2. If you do not believe a president should be removed from office, then you do not support impeachment. Impeachment is too damaging a process to the body politic if you do not want it to go to removal. That is simply a masochistic position.

                1. I don’t pretend to know what Amash thinks wrt to removal. It would be unfair for anyone to claim that they think Trump should be removed from office ahead of impeachment though. After all we haven’t even had a trial and heard from the defense.

                2. Not really. An impeachment inquiry is the Congressional equivalent of a grand jury investigation. If the DOJ can’t properly investigate their boss, then that must be Congress’ job.

                  If even an impeachment inquiry can only be justified if the president’s crimes are so overwhelming that an investigation isn’t even needed, then that essentially puts the president above *most of* the laws.

                  1. You say really stupid things you retarded fuck.

                    What is the underlying crime for impeachment? You believe in process crimes against people declaring their innocence? You would really applaud the authoritarians around the world with that line of logic.

            2. do untold damage to the country and people’s faith in government

              Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to shake people’s faith in government.

              1. No you wouldn’t. You think you would but when you saw the actual results of living in a society where no one recognized the results of elections they didn’t like, you wouldn’t like it very much at all.

                1. Pretty much. Libertarians tend to underestimate the value of stability in society. They like to go down philosophical rabbit holes about how extreme they can go on particular individual rights while ignoring the reality that most people want to be able to earn a living, put a roof over their head, put food on their tables, and not get shot going out their front door.

                  The last one’s a pretty big fucking deal…and you don’t see that a lot in countries who don’t honor their election processes. Most of those countries devolve into “rule by shadow government (aka criminals and warlords)” eventually if the government has no legitimacy with the people.

                  And that’s why impeachment should only be undertaken when there’s an actual crime to prosecute. Trump didn’t obstruct anything and he was duly elected. The Democrats realize that means they can’t win an honest election with their current platform, so they’ve taken it upon themselves to try and undermine the whole system to hold onto power. And Amash, being the most idiotic of useful idiots, chose to help the commies because he’s stupid enough to believe that somehow does something useful for the country.

          2. >>>the “average” Republican

            is a Clinton Democrat.

        3. Why don’t you explain why Obama did all those things and the Republican majority in the House did not impeach him.

          Or why the Democrat majority in the House has not and will not impeach Trump.

          You have to acknowledge this reality first before pissing and moaning about Amash.

          1. Why don’t you explain why Obama did all those things and the Republican majority in the House did not impeach him.

            Because they were cowards or cynical. And Amash was one of them. The fact that Amash now goes after Trump for less puts lie to any claims he makes of having any principles.

            Or why the Democrat majority in the House has not and will not impeach Trump.

            There is still a year before the election. They still might.

            The point is that Amash is just another piece of shit politician who will do anything to get in front of a camera. If your point is that Amash is no better than the rest, you are agreeing with me.

            1. >>>puts lie to any claims he makes of having any principles.

              it does.

          2. Do you really have to ask John any questions? All his answers are completely predictable. His opinions can be reduced to one bit of information.

            1. I would like to think that I explain myself in such a clear manner that even someone as simple minded as you could understand what I am saying. But even my ego can’t support that claim.

      2. I kinda do also. Actually the more I hear and the more he pisses people off the more I like him.

    2. I like Amash. I also think he should have played the game smarter but can’t get too upset over his choice to commit political Seppuku.

      1. He will be well paid. He will end up with a big job on Kstreet and gigs being a professional concern troll on cable news. He didn’t sell his virtue cheaply. So there is that.

        1. Maybe? I don’t know he may just go back to work at the family tool company. And even so whats wrong with K-street job (I won’t defend cable news but I never watch it so I don’t have much to say about it), at the end of the day it’s just a party hiring an attorney to act on their behalf by petitioning the government; same as any scumbag attorney*.

          *All attorneys are scumbags. I’m just like most Americans who look down on the profession since they create nothing of value except for writing laws that we must then hire them to explain to us since that is how they keep those billable hours. Of course if you really twist my arm I do have some nice things to say about them.

          1. Nothing necessarily is wrong with K Street. I am just saying he is not going to end up worse off for this financially.

            1. >>>>Nothing necessarily is wrong with K Street.

              it’s not on fire right now.

          2. Oh attorneys.

            Unless you need one to defend you from some other scumbag attorneys. Then I want the meanest dirtiest scum baggiest one.

    3. Sorry Reason, the Trumpistas don’t want reform in government no matter how hard you push it.

      1. How is reducing the administrative state for the first time since the 1980s not reforming government?

        And what has Amash ever done to reform government? Nothing that I can see. He got a post office named after him. There is that.

        1. How exactly was the administrative state reduced? Spending under Trump is way higher than under Obama.

          1. The administrative state is not spending. The administrative state is regulation. And Trump has massively cut regulation. He is the first President since Reagan who will leave office with fewer regulations in place than when he came in.

            http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/trump-slashes-16-4-billion-of-regulations-70-percent-of-agencies-cut

            If you don’t know what a term means, ask before you say something stupid.

            1. Facts dont break through TDS. He probably thinks the economy isnt good as well.

            2. Not to mention that most of that spending increase is due to entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, welfare), not discretionary spending. Those programs are the third rail of U.S. politics and Trump doesn’t have much say over them (and Congress won’t touch it). Trump actually proposed defunding departments, which even Reagan didn’t have the stones to seriously propose when he was President.

              On discretionary spending and reducing regulation, he’s the best President we’ve had since Reagan…by far. He’s even trying to reduce the size of the federal workforce, which most Presidents won’t even considering touching.

    4. I do on both counts

    5. That’s because this site is overrun with Trump cultists. There’s hardly a true libertarian here. Granted, there never really were that much- just embarrassed Republicans who liked the idea of weed legalization.

      1. “Drain the swamp” isn’t libertarian?

        Deregulation isn’t libertarian?

        Criminal justice reform isn’t libertarian?

        Check yo self

        1. Half-educated, bigoted right-wingers prancing about in unconvincing libertarian drag are among my favorite faux libertarians.

          And culture war casualties.

          Carry on, clingers. So far as your betters permit.

  2. Okay, what good does it do him to be an independent? Those power structures will still be there. The only difference will be that he will now be on the outside of them and have even less ability to change them or challenge them.

    And if there are all of these Republicans who secretly support him, why not just run as a Republican and vote you know independently?

  3. “”He says partisan power structures have made government reforms impossible.””

    He’s just now figuring that out? I’ve never held office and I’ve known that for decades.

    1. Funny how he didn’t mind those structures when he was benefiting from them.

      1. And did nothing at all to change them over his decade in office.

  4. But did he deliver his speech from a teleprompter? Let’s focus on what’s important.

  5. This guy’s still hanging around?

  6. people are already looking to blame third-party voters for how the election turns out.

    Of course, it’s always those filthy splitters fault, regardless who wins.

    1. *Shakes fist at sky

      NADER!!

  7. I would absolutely vote for Amash over Trump or Bernie/Warren/Harris.

    1. Nobody here gives a fuck what you would do

      1. Just as America’s liberal-libertarian mainstream hasn’t given a fuck about right-wing preferences while crushing clingers in the culture war for a half-century.

        The bigoted and backward still get to mutter bitterly about all of this damned progress as much as they like.

      2. Well, you sure do. That is why you continually respond to my comments after all.

        1. I respond to your comments because toure an uneducated idiot who thinks hes smart because he eagerly waves his hand in the front row of class. What you dont know is the teacher is tired of calling on you because you’re always fucking wrong.

          Now please, go lie about more of my policy preferences like you did above.

  8. …Republican voters are showing that they are not terribly interested in cutting federal spending in any significant way.

    Johnny Lunchpail and Sally Minivan need to have these things laid out for them, and none of the talking hairdos reading them the news has any interest in talking budgets. Horse race politics is as close to meaningful governance reporting as they’re going to get.

    1. If the voters cared about spending one party or the other or likely both would do something about it. You don’t see the GOP passing gun control do you? The reason is that gun control is something voters actually care about. Spending, not so much.

      1. Besides, what’s China really going to do to us if we eventually decide not to pay back their loans? Invade? Not lend us more money? Gosh, that would really suck if our government were forced to live within its means because its enablers cut us off.

        The Iron Bank of Braavos they are not. There’s no Golden Company to hire to take us out so some other ruler can assume our debt.

  9. >>>He says partisan power structures have made government reforms impossible.

    correct about this, incorrect about structureS … they’re all the same team.

    1. I’d just like to point out, AOC is moving her party further leftward.

      So, maybe Justin just doesn’t have the creativity/charisma to accomplish something with his party.

      1. no dancing youtubes, no party movement.

  10. Why is it the assumption that a 3rd party candidate “takes” votes from the major two parties? How many people vote 3rd party that would not vote at all were the option not there? I have voted 3rd party and left parts of my ballot blank, holding my nose and voting for one steaming pile of … or another does not appeal to me.

    1. Why is it the assumption that a 3rd party candidate “takes” votes from the major two parties?

      Because just as all money is owned by the Federal government, which generously gives you the gift of allowing you to keep some of it, the Two Parties own all votes, which they then loan out to citizens who tacitly promise to responsibly return those votes to their rightful owners.

  11. Isn’t it gospel that impeaching Trump is the best way to ensure his re-election? So Amash is pushing the Dems towards impeachment and helping Trump’s re-election isn’t he? Maybe he’ll turn out to be a hero for those seeking to re-elect Trump?

  12. It’s 2009. Reason is ESPN, and Amash is Brett Favre. But it will finally bring about the “Libertarian Moment” so it’s a good thing.

  13. I like Amash. All the Trump bootlickers who hang out in these comment sections don’t speak for me.

    If you actually prefer Trump over Amash based on policy, and you’re willing to throw out Amash’s entire voting record over this impeachment bullshit, I just hope you don’t consider yourself a libertarian.

    1. IMO he threw his own voting record out over impeachment. Joining the failed coup of a legitimately elected President started by unelected bureaucrats and progressive media/politicians is not Libertarian. He might be the first Libertarian presidential candidate I don’t vote for since I was 18, for this very reason.

      1. I think he knew that he would never get the votes for impeachment.

        Just as he knows that he will never get the votes to rise higher in the political establishment. He may get re elected to Congress. Look at who we have. He may just choose to flame out.

        This may be his moment to say what he has to say. I want to hear it. He is breaking all the rules. I like that.

        1. “The two party system isn’t fair!”
          “Republicans are mean!”
          “Orange man bad!”

          Profound stuff

    2. And yes it is bullshit. That’s the point.

  14. Can’t we just moveon.org to the Epstein thing?

  15. […] it served any other interest, he would have been relegated to the pages of Reason Magazine, where he is being hailed as a man of principle for doing what MSNBC […]

  16. […] sounded a similar note during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, saying that political party power structures prevent members of Congress from actively participating in the lawmaking […]

  17. […] sounded a similar note during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, saying that political party power structures prevent members of Congress from actively participating in the lawmaking […]

  18. […] would have left the Republican Party even if Trump hadn’t been elected. As covered by Reason’s Scott Shackford, Amash believes that political power structures have gotten so entrenched that they […]

  19. Jesus tittyfuck the TDS is strong with that one.

  20. “Color me a skeptic there, if only because any discussion of Amash in liberal circles tends to end up focusing on his anti-abortion, fiscally conservative voting record, regardless of whether he opposes Trump. ”

    This is the bit all the naive Reason writers need to understand… Leftists will NEVER come over to libertarianism in any real amount. A rounding error from the center left, maybe. But that’s it. Whereas almost ALL right leaning people could be potentially converted IMO. I’ve converted anti-drug, anti-abortion conservatives on those super hot button issues several times… I’ve yet to convince a died in the wool socialist that top down government control of damn near everything is a bad idea.

Please to post comments