By now, dear reader, you have heard a hundred commentaries on Michigan Congressman Justin Amash’s op-ed in The Washington Post on why he was leaving the GOP.
The coverage being that he is leaving the GOP, which leads to how this affects his chances of being reelected, how Trump takes this as a poke in the eye and even if this is an attention-getting ploy for Amash to launch a presidential campaign himself.
His comments, which are best to read for yourself in their entirety, were appropriately published on Independence Day. He offers quotes from the farewell address of George Washington, who warned of partisanship, which “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.”
There are so many nuggets of wisdom in Rep. Amash’s piece, echoing for our present generation the lament of our first president’s peers regarding what they called political “factions.” Amash pointedly concludes that, “(t)he two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.”
The @RealDonaldTrump tweeted a ludicrous response: “(O)ne of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party. ... 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!”
A friend of mine who worked for Sen. Rand Paul gave me a heads-up a few years ago just after the newly elected all-star congressman from Michigan arrived on Capitol Hill. He is most intelligent and obviously loyal to the most positive aspects of America’s potential. He shares his compelling story of an unglamorous childhood as a second-generation immigrant of Middle Eastern descent — that he personally has realized the American Dream.
Mr. Amash continues to be one of my favorite national political figures. He is a rare bird who stands first on core principles. Though technically a politician, statesman is the better description.
His damning comments about toxic hyperpartisanship and the deterioration of our wonderful concept of checks and balances all ring true. He is a prophet, not a “loser.”
Amash is correct that the party faithful often growl at those outside their group, often for no good reason.
Locally, too many Republican faithful have shot unreasonable critiques at Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway and former state Rep. John Wright, both reasonable moderate Democrats.
Likewise, too many Democrats have supported petty accusations at now U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley and state Rep. Cheri Toalson-Reisch. You can disagree with their conservative Republican ideas, but neither of these two are bad people.
It is also interesting in this tense environment to have a principled individual to openly offer critiques of his own group. This is a risk but can build credibility.
A local example of this is Chris Kelly, the retired state representative and judge who had the rare good habit of reaching across the aisle. Although he makes no bones about his liberal pedigree, I have heard Chris go against the grain of his fellow Democrats with counterintuitive advice on certain issues and electoral strategies. His challenging arguments show an independence of thought, which builds credibility.
Although there are certainly advantages and merits to party — or, rather, group — affiliation, Rep. Amash is spot-on that something has gone amiss, both on the Red Team and the Blue Team. He no longer finds this warped collectivism worth the trouble.
This isn’t unprecedented. Prominent figures such as Bernie Sanders, ol’ Ross Perot and even Michael Bloomberg have been know to align themselves outside traditional party structures.
Retired U.S. Rep Ron Paul as well as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson have each been elected to office as Republicans then run for president, sometimes as Republicans and sometimes as Libertarians. Both are clear about holding to core principals of constitutional personal liberty over party “loyalty.”
Others, such as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, tough it out within their party of choice to work toward change from within.
Rep. Amash’s conclusion of shedding party affiliation is his own. There are trade-offs, such as campaign support and forfeiting committee assignments, so his path isn’t for everyone. Still, for our system to function properly we need this check. If the parties go off the rails, they will continue to shed membership and threaten their own legitimacy. Everyday people have had more than enough.
Although premature to call for an end to the two-party system just yet, looking to Europe in recent years demonstrates how the once-mighty center-right and center-left can fall from predominance.
Rep. Amash’s comments are valuable and widely shared to some degree by Americans, many of whom might now see the parties as more of a curse than a blessing. If we take his words to heart, we should individually look in the mirror to evaluate how we have been caught up in this mess.
Steve Spellman hosts “The Mid-Missouri Freedom Forum” at 5 p.m. every Tuesday on KOPN/89.5 FM.