Saturday, July 6, 2019

Justin Amash might run for president. Here's why he should from a conservative.

Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast applauds: Bravo, Justin Amash—Now Finish the Job and Go Run Against Donald Trump. It took guts for the Michigan congressman to announce he’s leaving Trump’s GOP. But now he has to take the next logical step.

Justin Amash’s Fourth of July announcement that he was leaving the Republican Party delighted me. Now, he has one mission left (should he choose to accept it): It’s time he launched a third-party bid for president.

As the founding member of the Justin Amash for president fan club, I must admit that my motives are partly selfish. I just really want someone to vote for come November 2020.

Donald Trump (see his treatment of migrants on the border) is a non-starter for me. And don’t get me started on the 2020 Democrats (see their leftward lurch on abortion, guns, busing, single-payer health care, immigration, and socialism); they are trying their best to out-radicalize Trump.

[Scriber intervenes! There’s too much of the false equivalence flavor for me. What’s wrong with health care for all? What’s wrong with clamping down on domestic sales of automatic weapons? What’s wrong with reproductive choice? And what’s wrong with some compassion for immigrants asking for asylum? So don’t get me started on the GOP’s ugliness on all these issues.]

And I’m left pining for a third-party designated hitter for the Republican Party.

It’s still unclear whether Amash will rise to the occasion, but you have to admit that he does seem to have a certain panache. Choosing Independence Day to announce your liberation from the Grand Old Party is both clever and poetic. And, having read Amash’s rationale for leaving the GOP, it seems to me like he now has an obligation to seek the presidency.

That’s not to say that I agree with everything he wrote in his Washington Post swansong. Citing George Washington (who warned about the evils of partisanship and factions), Amash notes that, “The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions,” because “In this hyperpartisan environment, 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.”

Personally, I’m more inclined to believe that our problems stem partially from political parties having been (essentially) neutered. Once upon a time, they served a vital function as gatekeeper. A smoke-filled back room of establishment Republicans would never have selected Donald Trump. Instead, he managed to win over the grassroots party members. If anything, political parties have gradually gotten weaker, a problem exacerbated by campaign finance laws, the rise of outside groups, and technology like cable news and the Internet.

But why quibble over the details regarding how we got here? Today’s Republican Party is, as Hunter Thompson said of the Kentucky Derby, decadent and depraved. As for me, I’m ready to go rogue. There’s a reason why I don’t self-identify as a Republican (though I am a proud conservative). I didn’t leave the party; the party left me. And I’m more than willing to follow Amash—if he does the right thing and runs for president.

More importantly, Amash gets a lot of things exactly right. In his Washington Post op-ed, he notes that, “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.”

Indeed, the most underrated example of Republican capitulation occurred when Trump was granted authority to enact his bogus “emergency order” on the border. Amash was one of a handful of Republicans who stood against the president’s usurpation of power from Congress.

I’ve given up hoping for the perfect candidate. I don’t actually think Amash will win. What is more, I have no doubt that someone (probably the Republican Party’s oppo guys) will dig up something on Amash that might give some of his newfound fans pause. What I do think is that Amash is a principled and decent person who puts the rule of law and the Constitution ahead of everything. In this political era, it’s hard to ask for more than that.

[Scriber again. I have great respect for Amash - even though I know we will disagree on many points. But for anyone who fancies him/her self as a true conservative - and Trump is not that - should join the Amash fan club, and support the “principled and decent person who puts the rule of law and the Constitution ahead of everything.” The contrast with Trump who disrespects America in so many ways could not be starker.]

Some people believe that Amash should have stayed in the Republican Party and worked to improve it from within. That’s a reasonable critique, but it assumes two dubious notions: First, that we are bound to a binary two-party system, and second, that today’s Republican Party could be persuaded by Amash’s now-out-of-vogue constitutional conservative message. Regardless, it is now a moot point. That ship has sailed.

In his op-ed, Amash made the case that the partisan nature of politics has effectively broken our political system. Although I would quibble with him on the details, I do not doubt his sincerity. But here’s the thing: If you’re a sitting U.S. congressman who is willing to be that broad in your critique, then I think there’s a responsibility not just to write op-eds, but to seek higher office.

It’s time for Justin Amash to run for president. Sure, he’s not gonna win and he might even get blamed for electing a Democrat. But presidential campaigns are about more than the here and now. Maybe someday the GOP will get its act back together, and maybe an Amash run will help inspire a new generation of conservatives and libertarians who will do just that. Or maybe this will be the beginning of a whole new movement—a whole new political party?

But, for now, my goal is much less ambitious: To have someone on the ballot in 2020 that I’m not embarrassed to support. As far as I can tell, Justin Amash is the only game in town.

[Scriber’s last word: Amash is the only conservative game in town. It’s hard for me to believe that the Democrats will not be able to field an excellent candidate who is “a principled and decent person who puts the rule of law and the Constitution ahead of everything.”]

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