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Rep. Justin Amash: The Two-Party System Needs to Die

The libertarian congressman says the internet is poised to destroy politics as we know it.

(Page 3 of 4)

Welch: And it's marginally better, and also passed by a margin, passed by four votes.

Amash: Yeah, a slim margin.

Welch: Which is two people who can flip. At the time, I was critical of the House Freedom Caucus, and I know some of the people who work for the leadership there are unhappy with the way that I characterized the turning of events there. In shorthand TV, you say things like, "Donald Trump put a lot of pressure on Mark Meadows, and they changed their mind." They say that's overly simplistic. So, can you correct my misapprehension? Mark Meadows, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, has had quotes along the lines of, "Hey, when the president calls you, and then the vice president calls you and says 'Get a bill done,' you're gonna work to get a bill done." And I take that, perhaps naively, as maybe the president is putting a lot of pressure on people who don't like to feel pressure, and that's affecting their moods. Am I being too cruel in my assessment here?

Amash: Mark Meadows is a southern gentleman, and he tries to present things in a way that, I think, are not going to be too upsetting to the White House or to leadership. He's doing his job as the chairman, of trying to work with everyone. I think that it wasn't pressure from the White House or pressure from leadership, it was that we had put together an amendment that we thought would marginally improve the bill, make it better than Obamacare. And when that was sufficiently supported, we had the group move in that direction, and move onboard with that amendment. But it wasn't pressure from the White House or leadership.

Welch: Your friend, Thomas Massie, who is just like you except even more, described all of this as the equivalent of some kind of hot potato ... Everyone knew that the next guy was going to be the one to block this from happening. How do you respond to that kind of characterization, of a bill that not many actual policy analysts from the libertarian or conservative point of view, basically one, liked it ... It's hysterically and historically unpopular. Was there a feeling ... And actually, a lot of your colleagues like Mark Sanford, when talking about why he voted yes, was like, "Well, let's keep the discussion going." Which is almost saying, "I don't want it to stop on my watch. Let's have conversations later." Was there an element to, let's just kind of keep putting off D-Day on this thing?

Amash: For some people I think that was true, that they wanted to just move it along. From my perspective, when you look at a piece of legislation, you see, "Does it move us marginally in the right direction?" And if it does, you vote for it. The other stuff is very hard to predict, all of the long-term strategies, is it gonna come back, how is it gonna look ... So you have to look at that piece of legislation and really focus on, "Does it improve things marginally?" And I thought it did. And I agree with your assessment and others' assessment that it's not a good piece of legislation, just like Obamacare is terrible. But, if it's marginally better than Obamacare, that's what you do.

And, every member of Congress does that. Even the people who were concerned about this piece of legislation, on other bills, they'll tell you, "Oh, we're moving it along marginally," so they'll support those bills in all sorts of other areas that we deal with.

Welch: There's a feeling that ... What were people doing from 2010 to 2017? There's a lot of politics around Obamacare, some very successful politics I might add. Is it that people weren't doing the policy work and the actual harder political work of working with your own colleagues from your own party, and hashing out the huge chasm between the Rand Pauls and Susan Collinses of the world ... What happened? Why was this such a kind of, "Oh, hey, it's November 9th, 2016, what are we gonna do about this thing that we've been talking about for six years?"

Amash: There was a lot of policy work. There were a lot of proposals out there, a lot of ideas, and some of those were incorporated into the bill. I think Republicans made a strategic mistake years ago when they started talking about repeal and replace, and keeping particular provisions from Obamacare. If you start to talk about keeping this provision or that provision, you end up having to keep a whole bunch of other stuff, or just restructuring it in a way that essentially keeps the same bill in place.

So, I always thought it was a mistake to talk about keeping the particular preexisting conditions provisions, or the particular provisions on community ratings or regulations. There are ways to address those concerns, for people who have preexisting conditions. There are ways to address that. But to say that you're going to keep it the way it is, that was a mistake.

So, when the bill came to the floor, when we had this new bill come to the floor, it was inevitable that it was going to keep a lot of Obamacare in place, because too many promises were made by Republicans. And I think a lot of Republicans also didn't think that we would have the White House, and didn't see an opportunity that would come along in the near future to repeal Obamacare. So, they made these promises that they're going to repeal it, and they made other promises that they're gonna keep parts of it if push comes to shove. And now, they're in this dilemma, where they want to keep parts of it, but keeping parts of it means essentially keeping most of Obamacare in place. And their promise to repeal has been shown to be not a true promise, not something that they ever intended to really follow through on.

Welch: Jeff Sessions, Attorney General-

Amash: And to be clear, I want to repeal Obamacare and still support a full repeal of Obamacare. I think we should start over, we should repeal Obamacare, and this is something that should be handled at the state level.

Welch: Jeff Sessions, Attorney General this week, expanded a rollback, very modest reforms that had been made under Eric Holder about civil asset forfeiture, which is legalized theft by the cops, to put my spin on it at least. You've been a big critic of that, I think you have a bill introduced to do something about that. Talk a little bit about, first your reaction to that, and what are the prospects that Congress will react to what is a very unpopular practice. To the extent that Americans know about this, they hate it, and rightfully so. Is there actual possibility for Congress to act in a corrective way to this?

Amash: Yeah, so Senator Paul has a bill right now ... I'm working on something that is more comprehensive. His bill reforms civil asset forfeiture in a way that I think is positive and moves us in the right direction, but I'd like to see something more comprehensive. I'd like to wipe out civil asset forfeiture at the federal level and at the state level. So, my office is currently drafting legislation. It's taking awhile, because there's a lot of parts of the code that you have to work through. So, we're gonna get that legislation out, hopefully in the near future.

But, there's a lot of public support for getting rid of civil asset forfeiture. It's unconstitutional. It's the idea that the government can come in and take your property without due process. And a lot of people, I think, were unaware of it and are just starting to learn about it, people on the left and the right. There are people on the left who don't like the Trump Administration, so now they're hearing about it all of a sudden. But actually, this was the policy under Democratic presidents as well.

Welch: Loretta Lynch was particularly fond of the practice.

Amash: Yeah, Loretta Lynch loved the idea of civil asset forfeiture, and I criticized her for that on Twitter and elsewhere in the past. So, this is a bipartisan issue, it's something that all Americans should be concerned about. We believe in due process in this country, we believe that your property shouldn't be taken away without some kind of criminal conviction, and right now the practice in this country is to allow the government to take your stuff without convicting you of anything, and in fact, without even charging you with a crime. So it's pretty outrageous, and I think most conservative and libertarian commentators out there are saying this, and pointing it out to people. So, I think we'll have some momentum on this.

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  • Mark22||

    Parties themselves need to go away; there is little reason for them today. And in the US, there is a good chance that this will happen.

    The US is actually lucky in that parties have relatively little power compared to Europe. In Europe, parliamentarians are completely dependent on their party for campaigning, financing, and jobs, and they often have no other careers to fall back on. That means that in Europe, party members have to vote the way the party tells them or else face devastating consequences.

  • Calidissident||

    I'm skeptical they'll go away. People are too tribalistic and our system favors a two-party system.

    You do bring up a good point about Europe, although their systems are also mostly more friendly towards multiple parties.

  • Mark22||

    You do bring up a good point about Europe, although their systems are also mostly more friendly towards multiple parties.

    That's not actually a good thing. Under the US system, communists, socialists, theocrats, authoritarians, and fascists end up at the fringes of the major parties. In Europe, those groups become splinter parties that often hold the key to forming a governing coalition.

  • Fk_Censorship||

    What keeps them from becoming splinter groups in the American system, holding the key to their party's legislative success? A McCain can achieve great ends and hold his party hostage.

  • Mark22||

    What keeps them from becoming splinter groups in the American system,

    I have no idea what you mean by "splinter groups". We were talking about parties. Are there more than two parties in Congress? No.

    holding the key to their party's legislative success? A McCain can achieve great ends and hold his party hostage.

    McCain is a senile, evil prick. But he is an individual, making his individual choices. He isn't sabotaging anything on behalf of some political party.

  • Pyrrho21C||

    The idea of a 'governing coalition' makes sense only in the context of a Westminster-type system. In the U.S., if the Republicrat oligarchy didn't block the formation of other parties, you would have parties in Congress combining to get a specific bill passed and then recombining for another bill...assuming enough of them could agree to establish a majority, and if they couldn't that would hardly be a bad thing. And then the President has to sign it...

    The great thing about a multi-party system a la Switzerland is that it doesn't sustain the absurd fantasy that the fact that one party gets a majority of the vote means that 'the people' have given it a 'mandate' to implement any and every of the crackbrained planks in its platform. Every issue has to be debated on its own; there are none of the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink package deals that our system keeps spewing up.

  • Mark22||

    Every issue has to be debated on its own; there are none of the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink package deals that our system keeps spewing up.

    You don't know what you're talking about. In parliamentary systems, the decisions are often not debated at all, they are decided via horse trading between parties in back rooms, and then parliamentarians are forced to vote the way the party tells them to.

    A particularly poignant example of this is Germany's 1933 Enabling Act that made Hitler dictator.

  • Jickerson||

    Yeah. authoritarians are just fringes right now, which is why we have government thugs violating people's constitutional rights in airports, countless unnecessary wars overseas, unconstitutional mass surveillance, the drug war, and so on.

    What is and is not extreme is subjective, and even if something is extreme, that doesn't mean it is bad. In our current system, libertarianism is on the fringe, not authoritarianism.

    Let's not pretend that our two-party system is anything other than a poorly-thought-out abomination.

  • Mark22||

    As an immigrant who has experience actual authoritarian systems, let me put it in simple terms: you are an idiot. This crap has been going on in Europe and under parliamentary systems forever, and people don't even notice, let alone complain about it.

    Yes, for all its problems, the US political system is head and shoulders above the corrupt, barely democratic systems of Europe, both in its operation and in its outcomes.

  • Jickerson||

    As an immigrant who has experience actual authoritarian systems, let me put it in simple terms: you are an idiot.

    If your only defense of America's authoritarian policies is 'But at least we're better than these other guys!', then you effectively have nothing useful to say. The fact that X is better than Y does not mean that X is good or above criticism. The fact that X is less authoritarian than Y does not mean that X is not authoritarian. You are the idiot here.

  • Mark22||

    I'm saying that you are so pampered and ignorant that you don't even know what authoritarianism is.

  • Jickerson||

    That applies far more to you than it does to me, retard. Using the 'X is better than Y so X is good!' fallacy demonstrates a supreme lack of critical thinking skills on your part. You even admitted that the US has problems, which seems to me to be an admittance that the US has (*gasp*) authoritarian policies. You just proceed to cower behind the 'Well, at least we're not those guys over there!' excuse.

    Continue being a useful idiot, you reprehensible cretin.

  • Peter Verkooijen||

    The main problem with European multi-party parliamentarian systems is that governing coalitions are formed after the elections, in backroom deals between party elites.

  • Mark22||

    That's not just true for coalitions, it's also true for policy and legislation. Legislation is usually created by "stakeholders", meaning special interests groups. And the set of candidates people can vote for is also decided by parties. And if particular candidates lose their elections, parties often still can get them into parliament via various forms of "wildcard" seats that get assigned proportionally.

  • ||

    I agree. I'm fine with having parties. But they should not be recognized as any sort of official status in our elections or government. No "straight vote" option. No party labels. Nothing.

  • OM Nullum gratuitum prandium||

    Both parties need to succumb.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Havne't read the transcript yet, but the simplest solution is to elect the three highest vote recipient candidates in each district, and then have them proxy the votes they won instead of one vote per rep.

    That ought to break the stranglehold of the two party system immediately. The next step is for all the non-D non-R parties to step up their funding, which would follow naturally, and I do mean naturally; it will be rough for a few election cycles, but the popular $$$ will flow to the popular third parties,

    Two parties will probably always be bigger than most just because most people want to back a winner and will perceive any other votes as being thrown away. But it WILL bring other voices into legislatures, and it will force the big parties to be more realistic and not just extreme ranters.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Gee, I've never heard that sentiment before in this place.

    Um, how do you accomplish it? Johnson 2020?

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Weld 2020?

  • jonnysage||

    Lead by example Amash. Quit the Gop.

  • Red Twilight||

    Well, start the movement by becoming an Independent.

    Oh wait, you do that, and the RNC dumps your ass, leaving you to fundraise yourself. Nah, better off being a Republican, it is not like you have any firm principles or anything

  • John C. Randolph||

    it is not like you have any firm principles or anything

    Oh, fuck off. Amash is the only representative since Ron Paul who sticks to his principles.

    -jcr

  • Sevo||

    Red Twilight|7.29.17 @ 3:15AM|#
    "...it is not like you have any firm principles or anything"

    A lefty talking about principles.
    What a laugh riot.

  • Cloudbuster||

    check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

    That's really supposed to by your job.

  • Pyrrho21C||

    Ceterum censeo factiones esse delendas.

  • Jahfre Fire Eater||

    I love hearing people's views on "The RIGHT number of parties theory."

  • Peter Verkooijen||

    The two-party system will never die. There can be realignments. The GOP under Trump has realigned as an authoritarian nationalist big government party.

    The only way to a more libertarian future in America is still via capture of the GOP.

    Justin Amash, Rand Paul, Ben Sasse and libertarians have to prepare for a 2020 primary challenge against the trumpkins. Trump will be too old and too damaged for a second term anyway.

  • Red Twilight||

    There is a way to a more libertarian future. Elect libertarians to Congress. Not Republicans that reason.com Republicans posing as libertarians identify as such.

    Drumpf will be too old and too damaged for a second term anyway.
    Yeah, whereas he is of sound mind today.

  • Jahfre Fire Eater||

    Just elect people who can't get elected....sounds so simple. ;-)

  • Red Twilight||

    which is telling.
    libertarians cannot win the battle of ideas, something that they pride themselves on
    shows how unpersuasive libertarianism is.

    when you have lie to win, your ideas are shit.
    isn't that the charge against the two parties?

    basically libertarians here are sucking their own cock. Republicans, that is.

  • Jickerson||

    The two-party system will never die.

    If there is enough support for major reforms of our awful voting system, it just might.

  • Red Twilight||

    First elected in 2010, the libertarian congressman

    Bullshit, he is a Republican congressman. Not only does it say so on his website, he acts like one. Here, from your own interview

    Welch: What if he fires Robert Mueller? Is that a constitutional crisis? You study the Constitution more than most of us sleep or breathe. When does it become a constitutional crisis? Is that the point ... If he pre-pardons somebody close to him, is that a constitutional crisis?

    A libertarian would answer: Yes. Especially one who claims to have studied the Constitution and history. Instead, he answered

    I don't know the history on pardons, and whether that would be a major problem constitutionally, but the president has a lot of authority to fire people within the executive branch. So, setting aside the constitutional concerns, because I think you can at least make some arguments, I don't know whether they hold water ... Setting aside the constitutional concerns, there are ethical concerns, there are rule of law concerns

    Yet another Drumpf cock-holster trying hard not to get primaried. Fuck that guy!

  • Stanllow||

    Whatever it is. When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers

  • Longtobefree||

    Of course, if all political contributions were outlawed, the two party lock would be broken.
    The supposed reason for political contributions is to allow the candidates to have there political opinions heard by "the people".
    That can be accomplished by providing a government hosted web site that allows each level of candidate a certain amount of room. Two pages for congress, three for the senate, four for the president, whatever. The same amount for any candidate. No editing allowed, put out what ever the candidate wants. Now all the candidates have their political philosophy available to the voters. Require that the page be populated at least 6 weeks before the election to allow all the pundits to 'clarify' what they really meant, provide analysis, and point out differences with past actions, then vote. Ideally, not allow the page to be populated more than ten weeks before the election!
    To deal with those who may be a bit technically challenged, 'request' that all non-broadcast news organizations read the position documents, un-edited, at least three times in the 10 to 6 week period before the election. If they choose not to do so, or make any changes, yank the press passes until the next election, or forever.
    The broadcast stations can be required to disseminate the information or loose their license. Local libraries can make the information available to those with vision / hearing difficulties.

  • Longtobefree||

    Now everyone in the country know what the candidates stand for, and can vote as they wish. All parties have true equal access to the voters.
    Now that no candidate needs political contributions, they can be arrested for bribe taking if they get any money from anyone at anytime.
    And anyone can take out ads for or against any position, but as commercial advertising, subject to silly things like truthfulness. Free speech and all that jazz.

  • Longtobefree||

    Like a political candidate, I cannot be limited to an artificial number of characters.

  • tlapp||

    Obamacare maybe the best tool to facilitate the demise of the 2 parties. One gives us a horrendous bill, the other plays Keystone cops because they are afraid of it. You would hope the ineptness of both parties would bring people around to the idea of less government involvement in health insurance as well as other issues.

  • Eman||

    Just guessing based on the past, but I doubt that's going to be what happens.

  • Longtobefree||

    Not at all.
    The democrats, and those who vote for them do not see Obamacare as a horrendous bill, so they will continue to turn out to vote for more of the same. And will fully support single payer as the fix for any perceived issues.
    The republicans, on the other hand, will stay home in droves, because they cannot vote for any democrat, and now cannot vote for any 'proven to be incapable of leading even when in complete control' republican.
    So beginning in 2018, until the collapse of democracy in the USA,the statists have secured inevitable victory.

  • jack1478||

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  • Eman||

    This headline sounds like its probably a threat of some kind. Where's preet when you need him?

  • buybuydandavis||

    Kevin Williamson @NRO disagrees! That's not what needs to die!

    From his article Chaos in the Family, Chaos in the State: The White Working Class's Dysfunction

    The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die.
  • Glide||

    I enjoy that this was a long political discussion with essentially zero political strategy and zero campaign cliches. Amash isn't perfect, but damned if the guy doesn't actually believe in what he votes for.

  • Longtobefree||

    There is only one party, the democrats. As recently shown, those we jokingly refer to as republicans are actually the 'only slightly left of center' wing of the democrats.

  • Azathoth!!||

    I really wish this childish nonsense would end.

    "I'm not winning!!! Change the rules!!!"

    There will always be a two party system.

    Because no one made it. It's what happens.

    The idea that all would be well if there were more than two parties, or if there was ranked voting or proportional voting or direct voting or whatever scheme academia insinuates is 'better' somehow exists because a certain ideology needs strife, needs a gullible public to tear apart institutions and leave power vacuums they can slip into.

    Look at the two party system in England--the Tories and Labour, in Canada--the Liberal Party and the Conservative party, in Germany--Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, in France, the Socialists and the Republicans--but there are other parties, small ones just like here.

    We wind up with two parties in charge because people tend to gravitate towards a center, and because that's where the most people are, that's where the largest parties sit.

    And it will always be this way--unless people can be convinced to adopt one of the new voting systems.

    Those are designed to deliver one party rule under the guise of still having elections--notice how Republicans got shut out of recent California congressional elections? But the rhetoric sounds so good!

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