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Rep. Justin Amash leaves the GOP
In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Representative Justin Amash has left the Republican Party and declared himself an independent.
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.
As I said on Twitter, "declaring independence" on Independence Day is a bit of political theater on Amash's part, but there's nothing wrong with theater per se and it has the intended effect of getting him in the news. My biggest concern with this is that it makes it harder for Amash, one of the best members of Congress, in my opinion, to hold onto his seat, but it's entirely possible that he was going to lose that seat anyway. Since he came out in favor of impeachment proceedings against President Trump, a poll revealed that Amash was trailing his then Republican primary opponent Jim Lower for the Republican nomination.
Obviously Amash is no longer concerned with winning the Republican nomination, but he'll still have to face the Republican nominee in the general election to keep his seat in a Republican-leaning district. It's possible that he can pull enough Democrat and independent support to win, but it's also possible, and maybe probable, that he and the Democratic nominee will split that vote and give the Republican nominee the win. I will be interested to see whether Michigan's Libertarian Party endorses Amash, nominates their own candidate, or simply stays out of the race entirely.
Shortly after Trump's inauguration I said that Amash was the person I was most interested in seeing challenge him in a Republican primary in 2020, and I'd still be interested to see him mount some kind of challenge to Trump but it seems more unlikely than ever. Running for president as an independent is a daunting task as it would be nearly impossible to get on the ballot in every state. The aforementioned Libertarian Party would be an option for Amash, as he is a much more principled and intelligent libertarian than people like Bill Weld or Gary Johnson, and the Libertarian nomination would make it easier for him to get on the ballot. It might seem hypocritical for him to seek the nomination of a different party given his comments about rejecting "partisan loyalties," but he did specify that it is the "two-party system" that "has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions," so he would at least have some plausible deniability on that complaint.
President Trump wasted no time in attacking Amash after his announcement, tweeting:
Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is “quitting” the Party. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2019
This begs the question of what exactly Amash is supposed to have been loyal to, but it's classic Trump behavior to lash out at anyone who criticizes him. The interesting question is what will come next for Amash as Trump is probably correct that his days in Congress may be coming to a close and there doesn't seem to be a serious path forward in politics for him. He may run against Trump, but the best he could hope for there is to play spoiler in some crucial state and cost Trump the presidency against the Democratic nominee. Regardless of what he chooses to do, there's undoubtedly life after politics for Justin Amash, especially given his anti-Trump bona fides and the lucrative market for such people while Trump remains in office.