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.