Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, the only sitting Republican member of Congress to support impeaching President Trump, announced on Thursday that he was leaving the party after facing fierce attacks from the president and fellow Republicans.
In an op-ed essay in The Washington Post that did not mention Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Amash wrote: “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.”
Three hours after the essay was published, Mr. Trump responded with a personal attack against Mr. Amash, calling him “one of the dumbest and most disloyal men in Congress.”.
Mr. Amash, 39, is known as a libertarian with a contrarian streak and has been one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest critics on the right. He has even considered a run against him in the 2020 election. Mr. Amash’s move on Thursday makes him the only independent member of the House, which has 235 Democrats and, now, 197 Republicans.
In May, he became the first — and so far the only — sitting Republican member of Congress to join Democrats in saying that the president had committed offenses that rose to the level of impeachment.
That assertion was based on his reading of the redacted report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, which was released in April. In a series of tweets, Mr. Amash accused Attorney General William P. Barr of deliberately misrepresenting the report’s findings in his summary. Mr. Amash argued that the report had provided multiple examples of conduct that could be labeled obstruction of justice.
The president immediately struck back, calling Mr. Amash a “loser” and reinforcing the congressman’s isolation within the Republican Party. A conservative state representative in Michigan, Jim Lower, and a National Guard veteran, Tom Norton, quickly suggested that they might mount primary challenges if Mr. Amash runs for a sixth term next year.
In his essay, published on the morning of Independence Day, Mr. Amash wrote that his father, a Palestinian refugee who moved to the United States at 16, had instilled in him the belief that America is a land of opportunity.
Mr. Amash quoted George Washington on the dangers of partisanship and strongly criticized the two-party system.
“Modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral, but there is an escape,” he wrote.
He called for Americans to join him “in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us.”
If all of those are setting off your Gary Johnson "enough third-party anti-Trump votes to hand him the election" alarm bells, they should be, because that's exactly what's happening here. Martin "BooMan" Longman saw this coming weeks ago.
The name that has been coming up with increasing frequency lately is Rep. Justin Amash from the Grand Rapids area of Michigan. He’s the only Republican member of Congress to say that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, and now he’s facing a serious primary challenge that he may not survive. He also quit the Freedom Caucus this week, saying that he didn’t want to be a distraction. One advantage of Amash over Romney is that Amash is actually a libertarian, so he wouldn’t be hijacking the party for his own vanity project. Beyond that, though, there’s little to recommend him as a vote-getter. Certainly, Romney would have vastly more potential for splitting votes off from both major party candidates. As a far-right Republican, Amash’s appeal to the left would be limited to a small subset of people who are primarily interested in the surveillance state and privacy issues, and those who agree with Amash’s critiques of America’s bipartisan foreign policy. Many of these people’s first choice will be the Green Party candidate.
In any case, Rep. Amash is not discouraging this speculation:
There has also been speculation Amash might challenge Trump in 2020 as a libertarian candidate, something he did not rule out at a recent town hall.
“I’ve said many times, I don’t rule things like that out,” Amash said. “If you’re fighting to defend the Constitution, if you find a way to do that that’s different and maybe more effective, then you have to think about that.”
Normally, you’d expect the libertarian candidate to cut more deeply into the Republican candidate’s base than the Democrat’s, but that is not a certainty. It might even cut in different directions depending on the state. A lot will depend on how comfortable the Democrats’ affluent white suburban professional base is with the their nominee. They may seek a middle option to register their disapproval, just as many are suspected to have done in 2016. Romney would be an easier landing place for them than Amash, but he might also soak up #NeverTrump votes that would otherwise go to the Democrat.
Amash may run in his district to keep his current job, but I expect him to seriously consider a 2020 third party bid, one that could be real trouble for the Democrats, and once again it's one man's arrogance that's going to cost the country dearly.