In May of this year, U.S. Representative Justin Amash, Michigan, raised eyebrows when he became the first, and only, House Republican to call for the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. Now, less than two months later, the lawmaker’s announced he’s leaving the Republican Party. Amash plans to defend his congressional seat next year, but he’ll run an as an independent.
Amash made his declaration in an op-ed for the Washington Post. In the piece, the congressman revealed he initially ran as a Republican because the GOP valued limited government, individual liberty, and economic freedom. The libertarian, and frequent critic of Trump, said, “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.”
In typical Trump fashion, the president quickly weighed in. Trump deemed Amash’s decision “great news” for Republicans, and insinuated the lawmaker quit due to the fact he’d probably lose a primary challenge in a re-election bid.
“Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party,” Trump tweeted. “No Collusion, No Obstruction! Knew he couldn’t get the nomination to run again in the Great State of Michigan. Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser!”
Interestingly, Amash resigned from the conservative House Freedom Caucus earlier this year. At the time, the congressman maintained he didn’t wish to be a “further distraction” to the group. Commenting about the findings in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Amash tweeted in May of 2019, “Some of the president’s actions were inherently corrupt. Other actions were corrupt — and therefore impeachable — because the president took them to serve his own interests.”
Surprisingly, Amash decided not to mention Trump in his op-ed. Rather, he blamed “the consolidation of political power and near disintegration of representative democracy.”
“The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost,” Amash wrote. “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 congressman went on to add, “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.”
Amash implored Americans to protect liberty by “telling the Republican Party and the Democratic Party that we’ll no longer let them play their partisan game at our expense.” The lawmaker stated, “No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us.”
On the July 7, 2019 broadcast of left-leaning CNN’s “State of the Union,” Amash revealed that he would consider running for president as an independent.
“I still wouldn’t rule anything like that out, I believe I have to use my skills, my public influence, where it serves the country best. And I believe I have to defend the Constitution in whichever way that works best,” he said.
During the interview, Amash confided that Trump wasn’t the reason he left the GOP. The congressman remarked, “I’ve had concerns with the Republican Party for several years. I’ve had concerns with the party system generally.”
He went on to say, “When I first got to Congress I thought I could change things from the inside, but as I’ve spent time there I’ve seen that not only me, I don’t think there is anyone in there who can change the system.”
During the sit-down, Amash shrugged off Trump’s tweet. He stated, “That’s not how people are supposed to talk to each other. He thinks people owe loyalty to him, but people are elected to support the Constitution, not the president.”
It will be interesting to see if Amash’s political future can be salvaged after his dustup with Trump and break from the GOP.