Justin Amash

Justin Amash Left the GOP—Opening a New Set of Possibilities in American Politics

In choosing principle over party, the Michigan congressman has changed what's possible in politics—and possibly the 2020 presidential race.

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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.

Written by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Paul Detrick.

Photos of Rep. Justin Amash; Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom
Photo of Rep. Justin Amash; Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom
Photo of Rep. Justin Amash; Credit: Jim West/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Photos of Rep. Justin Amash townhall; Credit: Jim West/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Photo of Rep. Justin Amash; Credit: Jeff Malet/SIPA/Newscom
Photo of U.S. Capitol; Credit: Frank Fell/robertharding/robertharding/Newscom
Photo of President Donald Trump; Credit: Douglas Christian/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Photo of Rep. Justin Amash; Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom
Photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom
Photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Credit: KEVIN DIETSCH/UPI/Newscom
Photo of former Speaker Paul Ryan; Credit: Alex Edelman/CNP/AdMedia/SIPA/Newscom
Photo of Sen. Chuck Schumer; Credit: Stefani Reynolds—CNP / MEGA / Newscom
Photo of Sen. Mitch McConnell; Credit; Stefani Reynolds—CNP / MEGA / Newscom
Photo of Rep. Kevin McCarthy; Credit: MIKE THEILER/UPI/Newscom
Photo of Rep. Dick Durbin; Credit: Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom
Photo of Pelosi; Credit: Stefani Reynolds/picture alliance / Consolidated/Newscom

Assembling by Asher Fulero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Source: https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary_download?vid=dad7861562106c5d
Artist: Asher Fulero

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  1. This article is very informative and up to the point thanks a lot
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    1. Democrats are still becoming less and less powerful in national politics.

      1. Yes. Their strongholds are the municipal governments of coastal and northern big cities. The Republican base is the statehouses everywhere else.

        1. I’d say the Rs are rural communities everywhere, the Dems urban communities everywhere, and the suburbs a toss up depending on the time period.

          That land sometimes counts for more than people is the real problem. The country is not as far right as one would assume.

          1. That land sometimes counts for more than people is the real problem.

            That’s a feature, not a problem. Federalism helps to prevent the urban coastal majority from dictating to the people in the less densely populated parts of the country.

    2. Remind me, is “Junaid” Arabic for “I’m cold,” or is it “I make you cold?”

    3. Re: “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.”
      I am an American.
      I believe in limited government.
      Justin Amash is *not* my spokesman.
      Therefore, Justin Amash is *not* the spokesman for all Americans who believe in limited government.

      1. My future Emperor unfortunately will be my spokesperson after my brains are bashed in as well as the rest of us unless someone manages to successfully say NO

  2. Amash might make a difference as a Libertarian President. But there’s less than a 1% chance of that happening.

    He’ll make no difference as an Independent in Congress. We’ve always had those and they are Left leaning and caucus with the Democrats. Bernie Sanders for example. Is there any sign that Bernie ever changed Democratic Congress for the better?

    At best Amash becomes an Independent who caucuses with the Republicans. I’m not convinced it will change his actual effect in the slightest. And he might well lose his seat in Congress to a Republican or a Democrat.

    I applaud his principles, but his effectiveness will be low.

    1. I applaud his principles, but his effectiveness will be low.

      IMO, it’s not entirely clear that his principles are correct. Does anti-partisanism come ahead of or go hand-in-hand libertarianism? IDK.

      1. I’ve always seen Libertarianism as the anti-party. The party that asks why we everyone needs a party, so to speak. The trick is to find someone who walks the walk.

        1. *why everyone needs…*

      2. Even his principles on the prosecution of process crimes absent an actual crime? Not a principle I would think most libertarians support.

    2. Amash might be able to name 2 post offices as an independent.

    3. I applaud his principles

      China.

  3. Yes, now Amash can get in bed with the moderate democrats who also have TDS but want to flee from the leftist lunatics taking over their party, as well as the RINOS who also have TDS but have no power because they don’t understand that politics is downstream from culture.

    How brave.

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  5. “I don’t think there’s anyone in there who can change the system….

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  7. >>>Amash doesn’t believe the system can be reformed from within

    then he shoulda *sided* w/T.

  8. The cheer-leading is already a bit tedious; shades of CNN/the hag leading up to the ’16 elections.

  9. Justin Amash, the perfect libertarian: Useless in the overall pursuit of liberty, but at least he has principles.

    1. He doesn’t really have principles if he believes in punishing people for crimes that didn’t happen and ignores abuses by the state in the investigative process.

      1. Exactly. His tweets offering his legal arguments for impeachment are ludicrous and completely anti-libertarian.

        1. Sure….wanting to uphold the law. Even if you don’t think he conspired with Russia or whatever, he DID obstruct justice and that IS a crime.

          But hey, keep bowing down to the almighty power of the executive. Looks good on you “libertarians.”

          1. How did he obstruct justice? By saying mean things about Muller? By asking for Muller to be fired but never going through with it? By allowing a politically motivated prosecution to go forward and turning over millions of documents while allowing his subordinates to sit through literally 100s of hours of adversarial interviews without calling for executive privilege? By questioning the basis of an investigation and getting upset about an investigation that was unfairly targeting him, his family and his friends over a crime he knew (and the investigators knew within months of starting the investigation according to reports but continued for a year and a half)? What exactly illegal did he do?

      2. Wasn’t crazy about that. Surprise he would do that.

      3. Yes of course. Trump is the victim here.

        1. Actually, Trump is the beneficiary here.

    2. Well, at least we agree he is useless.

      Maybe he will run as Libertarian …. and fail to break 1%.

      What did he accomplish in Congress? …. just listen to those crickets!

  10. 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.

    Does it really command attention and respect when some guy who wants to be in charge puts his beliefs above those of everyone else?

    1. Does it really command attation and respect when you Ken asked you to support an obvious lie you made with citations, and instead you shit your pants, whined like a little bitch, and fled?

      1. Still crying, eh? Are you sad because your broken baby finally died?

        1. Holy shit, I kicked you so hard you stopped making sense.

          Meanwhile,

          Ken – “Sparky, you’re a liar”

          “$park¥ is the Worst
          July.12.2019 at 12:08 pm
          You’re absolutely right”

          https://reason.com/2019/07/12/rand-paul-plan-aims-to-attract-more-high-skilled-immigrants/#comment-7850019

          1. Is it because your second wife left you once she found out why your first wife left you?

            1. Shorter Sparky “STOP THROWING TANTRUMS YOU STUPID TANTRUM THROWER!!! IT WAS ON THE NEEEEEEEWWWWSS!!!”

              LOL

                1. Heh, nope, you’re not throwing a tantrum at all.

                  1. ITT Sparky throws a tantrum because Ken caught him lying.

                    1. “Still crying, eh? Are you sad because your broken baby finally died?”

                      “Is it because your second wife left you once she found out why your first wife left you?”

                      Lolololollol tantrum harder Sporko.

                    2. “$park¥ is the Worst
                      July.12.2019 at 12:27 pm
                      Whenever you see a fake Tulpa post that starts with ITT, it’s a guarantee he’s throwing a tantrum and you’ll be in for a lot of scrolling.”

                      “$park¥ is the Worst
                      July.12.2019 at 11:54 am
                      Yeah, I guess there’s no point in believing the news. I’m sure it’s all propaganda anyway.”

                      ” $park¥ is the Worst
                      July.12.2019 at 12:08 pm
                      You’re absolutely right. When the Boston news reports on it and the Springfield news reports on it it’s really just my imagination making things up. Why would I believe what I see and hear on the TV anyway?”

                      ” $park¥ is the Worst
                      July.12.2019 at 11:56 am
                      I was hoping you’d show up to throw another temper tantrum, Kenny.”

                      AHAHAHA Everyone can see you got caught lying and hate it!!!

                    3. I’m sure reason is happy with all the web traffic you’re giving them.

  11. Amash on my favorite litmus test, gun control [if they are good on that it usually proceeds from there]:

    “As the Founders recognized, the right of the people to keep and bear arms is the surest safeguard against violations of our liberty. We must defend the Second Amendment just as vigorously as the rest of the United States Constitution. Congress must halt the unconstitutional practice of restricting a person’s ability to purchase, transport, store, or possess arms on public lands or on that individual’s private property under the guise of regulating interstate commerce.”

    Similar stances on economy, budget, drugs, education…very pro life so won’t get any libertarian credit there. I only wish there were more like him and Mike Lee and Rand Paul to go around. Like at least 215 more.

    As for presidential aspirations, only if something along the lines of a designated survivor situation occurs will we ever see an independent in the WH.

    1. I only wish there were more like him and Mike Lee and Rand Paul to go around. Like at least 215 more.

      That’s the problem, there aren’t many more like him that are electable. As PJ O’Rourke said, Libertarianism doesn’t do well in politics because it’s an anti-political movement.

  12. Have you not noticed that a) no one has followed his lead and b) every one of the colleagues with whom he previously sided have denounced him? The only new possibilities created here are the unlikely scenario he caucuses with democrats, or the slight chance he has of reelection despite turning on the Trump his supporters all love.

    Oh, and I guess there’s the possibility that some other “principled” conservative actually lives up to his “principles”.

    1. Democrats are even less accepting of dissent than Republicans at the moment. He’s gonna get voted out for sure. I hope I’m wrong, but we all know I’m not.

  13. Amash leaving the GOP won’t change anything. It’s not a cause. But it is a symptom. Both parties are breaking down. One party has abandoned its stated principles for a personality, the other party is fixated on its most extreme members. Both parties have stopped carrying about governance and are instead fixated on petty partisan politics. Congress has become a Reality Show, and the President is literally a Reality Show star.

    It can’t continue. No, it doesn’t mean that the Libertarian Moment has come. Sorry Nick, but that ain’t ever gonna happen in your lifetime. But it means big shifts are in order. The system needs an equilibrium and it will find one. A left wing populism versus a right wing populism is not stable. It can limp on for a bit, but it has to change.

    Amash leaving is only an effect. But it may herald a the direction the shift is going. It’s too early to know what direction that will be, and whether it will be good or bad.

    1. “May You Live in Interesting Times” is an apocryphal Chinese curse.

    2. Actually, the Republicans just gravitated to a leader who works to accomplish the policy goals he campaigned on when running for office…and who’s had a lot of success with it. It’s not that tough to figure out.

      Amash, on the other hand, has accomplished jack shit as a legislator and bitches about the guy who actually gets things done, so he’s on the way out because his voters got sick of him. Not that tough to figure out either.

      1. “gravitated”
        Hyperbole? Might be more of a spectrum from *got-in-step* to *acquiesced*. There are still a lot of Republicans out there that wish POTUS would shut the fuck up. I agree with you; he (POTUS) has been steady on his campaign issues – though, I would balk at saying he’s leading the party. The Dems lack party leadership, too, for that matter.

        1. “Might be more of a spectrum from *got-in-step* to *acquiesced*”

          If you’re talking about politicians stabbing their voters in the back less… sure.

          How fucking stupid and disconnected are all these people who don’t realize that Trump didn’t come up with a damn thing – people support him because he echoes the things they’ve been saying for years

      2. Actually, the Republicans just gravitated to a leader who works to accomplish the policy goals he campaigned on when running for office…and who’s had a lot of success with it. It’s not that tough to figure out.

        I was expecting a big, beautiful wall that Mexico paid for, but I guess he still has time to get that done.

        Amash, on the other hand, has accomplished jack shit as a legislator and bitches about the guy who actually gets things done, so he’s on the way out because his voters got sick of him. Not that tough to figure out either.

        We should probably boot Thomas Massie from congress for good measure. I hardly ever hear anything about him, so I seriously doubt he’s getting anything done. He hasn’t openly bitched about Trump like Amash has, but he also hasn’t shown the kind of loyalty that a Republican should.

    3. Well said. I think both parties are more concerned with keeping the other out of office rather than why they are worthy of holding office. Amash, regardless of any opinion, is a side note lost between a census question and bickering between a freshman and an old crow.

    4. One party has abandoned its stated principles for a personality, the other party is fixated on its most extreme members.

      I would say the other party is not only fixated on its most extreme members, but they also abandoned their traditional constituency starting about 35 years ago. But all this goes back to my theory that the entire political spectrum is going through a kind of re-ordering. Which I don’t see as a bad thing. But it sure is causing chaos.

    5. The parties simply follow the people. Trump is President because people like reality TV, TMZ, and the Enquirer. Each party knows how to give a big chunk of people just enough to keep voting for them. They will blow with the wind. But neither is at any risk of being usurped. Their brands are too strong and the system set up to protect them. It would take something colossal to create a viable 3rd party that would then take down one of these two parties.

      Until Trump, anyway. Trump actually appears to be attempting to follow through on his promises. Most of them would reflect what a direct democracy would get you if you could refer issues to the people. Lower taxes, more gov’t spending, no more wars, but a big military, respect for America, retention of sovereignty, controlling the border, keeping entitlement programs, gun rights, getting a fair deal from China or shifting supply chains, reining in big social media, etc. Would any of those issues lose a referendum? Trump just wants to be liked. It’s like having Magic Johnson as President.

    6. The entire purpose of parties is to GET STUFF DONE. It requires that you vote for stuff you don’t much like, to get stuff you really really want.

      Amash made headlines in the mainstream media ( and Reason) by denouncing the party he was elected with. So far as I can tell he did not get anything accomplished beyond that.
      So from the vantage point of the party that helped him get elected and the constituents that voted for him, he is a failure.

      He is VERY unlikely to be reelected and odds are he will do something else (like continue to import and sell tools made in China with “Made in USA” labels on them*) or run for President as a Libertarian so he does not suffer the embarrassment of losing a reelection bid.

      * Cause that is what people with higher moral principles do apparently.

  14. Amash has a bad case of TDS which affects his judgment. Also, he is not particularly good at legal analysis or interpreting the Constitution. I think he genuinely tries to do those things though, which is good.

  15. This article reminds me of the numerous lovestruck and breathless articles about Gary Johnson featured in Reason during the 2016 campaign.

    Sometimes this site is indistinguishable from Tiger Beat.

    1. And then he went all ‘Hillary is a good public servant’ on everyone.

      /Cues Smash Up Derby cars.

    2. Yep! At the end of the day, we are always left with the same two shit parties. I guess the Reason staff wouldn’t have much to write about if there wasn’t another new potential Libertarian candidate for them to masturbate to.

    3. I don’t understand why people think it’s so weird for a libertarian magazine to focus on potential libertarian presidential candidates.

      1. The best way to demonstrate that you’re an independent thinker and not beholden to a political party is to pledge blind loyalty to… a political party.

        The logic is inescapable.

  16. “In choosing principle over party…”

    Latte exit nose

  17. “In choosing principle over party, the Michigan congressman has changed what’s possible in politics—and possibly the 2020 presidential race.”

    If politics were focused on the good of the nation, possibly. Unfortunately, politics is focused on party and power.

    1. “In choosing principle over party, the Michigan congressman has changed what’s possible in politics—and possibly the 2020 presidential race.”

      You mean by proving you can be elected to Congress and accomplish not a damned thing and still be praised for it?

  18. In choosing a likely CNN talking head gig over getting trounced in the next election, the Michigan congressman has increased his earnings potential four-fold—and possibly the 2020 presidential race.

  19. Amash stands for freedom for men and sex slavery for fertile women in order to protect the fetus according to his Eastern Orthodox Christian religion. And fast will libertarians agree to get rid of the abortion plank, the sex work plank and this plank to satisfy his religious instincts and that of so many who will flock from the Constitution Party to the LP to join him:

    1.4 Personal Relationships

    Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration, or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, promote, license, or restrict personal relationships, regardless of the number of participants. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Until such time as the government stops its illegitimate practice of marriage licensing, such licenses must be granted to all consenting adults who apply.

  20. (sarcasm) Well, that’s certainly a reasonable policy slate. No one else in Washington knows what they’re doing and for the system to work they’ll have to forget everything that got them there. Yes, that’s very reasonable.

  21. I hope he remembers that Libertarians can’t deliver on much.

  22. Instead of this,
    https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/libertarians-Justin-Amash-Tulsi-Gabbard-ron-paul/2019/07/04/id/923349

    Instead! How about the other way around or maybe with Bernie

    ttps://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/25-25/57500-save-our-democracy-announce-the-brave-pro-impeachment-republican-leaning-libertarian-as-the-future-democratic-vp

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  25. What exactly is Amash making possible? Getting smoked in a primary, raising a couple million bucks and getting 0.5% of the national vote before going back to work in his family’s tool business reselling inferior Chinese manufactures? This guy has never worked a day in his life outside the government or his dad’s company. He is not going to change anything. He’s a twat.

    Gary Johnson, for all his flaws, has done a great deal that is impressive. Built a decent size construction business from age 23. Governed a state. Ripped huge bongloads. Completed the iron man and has run extreme marathons. He couldn’t change anything when there was a real market for a 3rd option.

    Justin Amash is a little brat who lucked into a Congressional seat and is pissing it away over “muh principles.” (i.e., protect the family business). He will be forgotten in a day.

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  28. Amash did not choose principle over party.
    He chose to ignore the reality after 4 separate investigations into Trump cleared him of collusion. He sided with the radicals in the Democratic party to impeach trump with absolutely no under lining crime. Even the highly partisan investigation by Mueller found nothing.
    Amash is scum. I hope he fades into obscurity.

  29. I can understand his frustration but losing a libertarian in office is a loss for libertarians. The fight is to elect more libertarian minded politicians to the house and senate as well as state races.
    As a 3rd party candidate he has less influence and I will bet a smaller % of the vote than Gary Johnson.

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