politics

Justin Amash Quits Republican Party On July 4, Quotes A Chillingly Prescient George Washington

"The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions".

Back on May 18, in a series of messages posted to Twitter, House Republican Justin Amash explained why he believes Donald Trump should be impeached.

Somewhat amusingly, he cited the fact that he (unlike so many others, including the majority of Americans who can’t be bothered to read much of anything, let alone a 400-page tome penned by a team of prosecutors) had actually read the Mueller report.

“Here are my principal conclusions”, Amash wrote, mocking attorney general Barr’s infamous four-page summary of the report before asserting that “Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report, President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct, Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances, Few members of Congress have read the report”.

He continued, posting tweet after tweet, all based on sound reasoning and rationality. Perhaps the most important virtual soundbite was this one:

While impeachment should be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances, the risk we face in an environment of extreme partisanship is not that Congress will employ it as a remedy too often but rather that Congress will employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct.

Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance to push the impeachment envelope (whether grounded in strategic concerns or not) would appear to be evidence to support Amash’s assessment.

Donald Trump was not amused.

“Never a fan of Justin Amash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy”, Trump tweeted. He should know, after all, Trump’s entire political career is based on using controversy to “get his name out there”.

The president went on to claim that the Mueller report was “strong” on “no collusion and ultimately no obstruction”. Both of those claims are dubious, the second one is an outright lie, as Mueller made abundantly clear in his public remarks.

“Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!”, the president concluded.

Well, on Thursday, Amash left the Republican party and explained why in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post.

Excerpts from an Op-Ed by Justin Amash for the Washington Post

My parents, both immigrants, were Republicans. I supported Republican candidates throughout my early adult life and then successfully ran for office as a Republican. The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family.

In recent years, though, I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.

George Washington was so concerned as he watched political parties take shape in America that he dedicated much of his farewell address to warning that partisanship, although “inseparable from our nature,” was the people’s “worst enemy.” He observed that it was “the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”

Washington said of partisanship, in one of America’s most prescient addresses: “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. …

“It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

True to Washington’s fears, Americans have allowed government officials, under assertions of expediency and party unity, to ignore the most basic tenets of our constitutional order: separation of powers, federalism and the rule of law. The result has been the consolidation of political power and the near disintegration of representative democracy.

These are consequences of a mind-set among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost. Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis.

The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered. 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.

With little genuine debate on policy happening in Congress, party leaders distract and divide the public by exploiting wedge issues and waging pointless messaging wars. These strategies fuel mistrust and anger, leading millions of people to take to social media to express contempt for their political opponents, with the media magnifying the most extreme voices. This all combines to reinforce the us-vs.-them, party-first mind-set of government officials.

Modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral, but there is an escape.

Most Americans are not rigidly partisan and do not feel well represented by either of the two major parties. In fact, the parties have become more partisan in part because they are catering to fewer people, as Americans are rejecting party affiliation in record numbers.

We owe it to future generations to stand up for our constitutional republic so that Americans may continue to live free for centuries to come. Preserving liberty means telling the Republican Party and the Democratic Party that we’ll no longer let them play their partisan game at our expense.

Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.


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7 comments on “Justin Amash Quits Republican Party On July 4, Quotes A Chillingly Prescient George Washington

  1. Here here. Kudoes to Justin. Now, if only the rest of the Republicans who cherish the people ahead of the party will follow suit. A wake up call for Mitch and Lindsey.

  2. ” I’m asking you to believe that we can do better …” Yes, please, can we not just do better? All of us.

  3. This Op-Ed is, in light of Amash’s previously bold position in standing out from his party and standing up for the rule of law, is glaringly weak and significantly undermines the moral high ground he has held.

    This isn’t an Op-Ed about why Amash left the Republican party; it’s not a spiritual successor to his tweets about the Mueller Report and about the deafening silence of every republican as the President continues to erode our democratic system.

    No, this is an Op-Ed about his frustration with the two party system. While this is a noble academic discussion, this is different, and fundamentally weaker, than him spilling his guts out about about his final rejection of the party that he grew up with and fought for throughout his career. He even implicitly lets on about this weakness, by starting it with a cute intro hook about him leaving the republican party–what everyone wants to really hear–and right when he’s going to get to the juicy part–why–he pivots abruptly and gives you the milquetoast reason of “i’m tired of partisan politics altogether, both sides, lets all be independent.”

    This is Political Clickbait in the information age.

    This is a letdown, and there’s is no way around that fact. There is no doubt that both sides engage in the partisan politics that Amash describes. Yet is it indisputable that since Obama stirred up the Tea Party, the republicans have come out of the shadows and have been, in broad daylight, systematically eroding our democratic institutions and the important traditions that serve to moderate the partisanship of the two part system. This is McConnell pre-textually refusing to bring Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee to a vote, this is McConnell refusing to honor the Pink Slip tradition for circuit judges, this is McConnell being the “Grim Reaper” for any house-passed legislation, this is the republican-led purging of the voter rolls and limitations on the ballot box, this is republican gerrymandering, and worst of all, this is the “case closed” position of every republican after not reading the Mueller Report.

    This systematic erosion of our democracy on purely partisan lines is exactly what led to Amash feeling completely isolated when he finally stood up. What I sensed from him then was a profound schizophrenia, a feeling of “am I taking crazy pills?” in the face of the fact that absolutely no one else in his party was willing to speak out. It had to have been difficult, and I was proud.

    Now I am not proud, this is the same weak “lets all be independent” logic that got Trump elected in the first place. Choose a side. And if you don’t want to choose, and you only want to leave a side, at least have the courage to give the real reasons and shine a light on it. America needs that.

  4. Yes, but if, say, 30 more republican senators left the party, even with milquetoast reasons, would it not start to force a change of leadership?

    • I would definitely agree with that, but that’s a very big if.

      In the meantime, absent that monumental exodus by the republicans themselves, the opposition is left fighting the same losing battle. There are news sites today pulling strategic quotes from Amash’s piece to try and paint the story in the way that I have hoped for. That is, as Amash’s forceful rejection of the republican party emanating from its “rhetoric that divide[s] and dehumanize[s] us” and its hypocritical failure to hold Trump accountable. Yet that is not what Amash has said here–his reference to divisive and dehumanizing “rhetoric” is pretty clearly a partisan rhetoric, not a republican rhetoric.

      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-justin-amash-twitter-republican-resigns-gop-congress-michigan-a8988221.html?utm_source=reddit.com

      So, as any historian has learned, you could look at the history of his tweets and then look at some of the implied content in the Op-Ed and try to color it in a way that gets close to what we perceive his intent to be (a Scalia-type Originalism, as it were). But I think that this is purely revisionist history, and should be left to the Barr’s of the world.

      I won’t tell you to stop hoping for a mass republican exodus, I am hoping for the same. Meanwhile, the opposition needs to take a hard look in the mirror and decide whether its strategy is effective.

      • Probably can’t demand he commit political suicide in addition to withdrawing from the Republican party, just to not let you down.

        • I would say he already committed political suicide by calling for impeachment. Unless Trump’s control over who gets primaried is overblown and republicans will still vote for someone who speaks out.

          He wasn’t waving the Mueller Report around in that town hall he did saying to the crowd, “look at this evidence of the rife partisan divisions in our two party system! The president should be impeached because politics is so divided right now!” No, he was saying the president obstructed justice, and no other republican is standing up, so I’m going to be the one to do it, alone if I have to.

          I would be receptive to the idea that by omitting all of that from this Op-Ed and turning it into a discussion about our two-party system, he is trying to cater to independents who want someone who is trying to step away from partisanship. So in that case you would be circuitously correct, he is trying to reverse some of the damage he already did to himself.

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