At 6 AM on July 4, 2019, the Washington Post published an Op-Ed by Representative Justin Amash of Michigans 3rd Congressional District in which he announced his departure from the Republican Party.
Amash said he has 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.”
Amash referenced the poor service that Americans receive from current political parties, but put both the blame and the responsibility for action on the American people, rather than the parties themselves.
“Americans have allowed government officials, under assertions of expediency and party unity, to ignore the most basic tenets of our constitutional order… 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.”
Amash as a Known Libertarian
Amash has been a known libertarian for years, but this declaration is a significant step and comes at a time when other politicians are also finding a voice to criticize the partisan political structure that has developed into a “partisan death spiral.”
In Pennsylvania, State House Representative Aaron Kaufer of Luzerne County took to the floor last week to discuss the role of political parties from our founding to present day. In a four-minute speech to his peers he discussed the same document the Amash quoted in his Op-Ed, George Washington’s farewell address, in which he warned partisanship, although “inseparable from our nature,” was our countries “worst enemy.” In that speech, he also called on the people to act saying: “the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
Kaufer, famous in the state capital for his nonpartisan orange ties, is one of many across the country defining themselves as a new breed in the GOP. Like Amash, these representatives, senators, and activists support small government and are taking a different approach to governance that does not always adhere to party lines. While there may be some horse-trading in the process, the movement places individual responsibility, financial stability, and strong communities (as opposed to strong centralized governance) at the forefront.
Amash’s Independent Surprise
While some expected Amash to declare his allegiance to the Libertarian Party after he teased a 2020 presidential bid, he instead chose to become an independent following the release of the Washington Post opinion piece.
Amash already faced pressure from the GOP after standing as the lone Republican to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The GOP committed to running primary challengers against him in 2020 and he is now behind in that race by 16 points according to some polls. The parties stick-not-carrot approach was also harshly criticized by Amash in his Op-Ed:
“Congressional leaders use every tool to compel party members to stick with the team, dangling chairmanships, committee assignments, bill sponsorships, endorsements and campaign resources. As donors recognize the growing power of party leaders, they supply these officials with ever-increasing funds, which, in turn, further tightens their grip on power.”
Making it Good to Stand Alone
While Amash did not lay out any specific plans for his future, he already is facing criticism a mere two hours after the release of his op-ed. Amash was labeled as “afraid” in an out of context quote from Fox News for his anti-GOP stance, and others are including claims that his moves against the party and President Trump are purely for his own personal financial gain.
Despite NPR claiming that “standing alone is rarely a good thing” in Washington DC, Justin Amash seems set on taking a stand this independence day and fighting the long reelection battle ahead without the support of the party he has called home for so long.
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