On May 18th, Congressman Justin Amash, the self-described Libertarian Republican from Michigan, tweeted out his thoughts on the Mueller Report. In short, the Congressman who is a lawyer by trade made it clear that he believed that President Trump had engaged in “impeachable behavior,” specifically that of obstruction of justice. “Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meets the threshold for impeachment,” said the Congressman.
This kind of rebuff of party loyalty should come as no surprise to those in Washington, as Amash has repeatedly made it clear that his loyalty is not solely to the Republican Party and certainly not to the President, whose policies Amash has tackled on social media. Once called the “loneliest Republican” by CNN, the Congressman now finds himself faced with intrigue from Democrats, ridicule, and contempt from Republicans, and renewed calls from Libertarians to abandon the Republican Party and challenge Trump in 2020 with the Libertarian Party.
Out of all the criticism and praise being directed at the Congressman from Michigan, we have the President’s response. True to form, Donald Trump, wasted no time going after Amash, tweeting:
“Never a fan of [Justin Amash], a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy. If he actually read the biased Mueller Report, “composed” by 18 Angry Dems who hated Trump, he would see that it was nevertheless strong on NO COLLUSION and, ultimately, NO OBSTRUCTION…Anyway, how do you Obstruct when there is no crime and, in fact, the crimes were committed by the other side? Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponent’s hands!”
And so, another fire sale of pandering and loyalty begins.
Loyalism Creates Kings
Personal shots and caps lock aside, there’s a piece in the President’s tweet that should give everyone pause: “who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy.” As with all politicians, there is probably some truth in Trump’s assertion that Amash is looking to score some mainstream political points. However, Trump’s public fuming about a lone congressman disagreeing with him, his party, and some of his policies, should be the greater concern.
In the context of history, “loyalism” is generally regarded with disdain, from the American and French Revolutions to the sectarian violence of Northern Ireland. And yet, despite our own history and the steps our founders took to prevent such a thing from returning, America is now faced with the reality brought by party loyalty: the erosion of separate institutions designed to keep power from being centralized and the concentration of said power among a few.
Loyalism remains alive and well in the United States government, with both the Republicans and Democrats leveraging their respective bases and the near fanatical devotion to party over all else. When a politician votes against their party’s platform or the party itself, it is seen as a betrayal, rather than the free exercise of an elected official’s judgment applied to a specific issue. It is a means of manipulation and control that was foreshadowed by George Washington:
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterward the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Through salutary understanding and backroom handshakes, having two dominant parties and less than a handful of independents who have never tried to hide their own allegiances, we have a break down of the separation of powers, outside of the perfunctory constitutional theater, and the extremes of populism.
Opposition Preserves Liberty
Our basis of government was not predicated on mutual trust or the infallibility of man, but rather the understanding that even a free Republic established in philosophy of liberty would always rest on the razor’s edge. It occurred to our founders to take the power of a king, limit its reach, and then break it into separate branches of government, preventing its concentration. In essence, our central government was intended to be decentralized, existing only to carry out its primary functions and only pursuing national authority only under the most extreme circumstances.
The separation of powers relies heavily on a willing skepticism of the other branches, creating a system of checks and balances to flesh out corruption and impropriety. But that system has become heavily flawed with the adoption of political parties and the monopolization of our system by only two, creating a dividing line between voters. This establishes both a fanaticism among the people and an unwillingness among lawmakers to acknowledge their worth. A precedent by which powers may be transferred between the executive and legislative branches, so long as the controlling party maintains both branches, is thus created.
Our federalism, in which each state may act independently of the rest and only matters of national interest, such as war and trade, should be taken up at the national level is long forgotten. It has been pushed aside by the interests and national policies of both the Republicans and Democrats, despite having been sanctified by the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. Perhaps the greatest sin of our partisan politics is that our leaders, who are elected by individual states and districts, believe that they must represent the entire nation, neglecting their actual constituents. The legislation only matters if it is sweeping.
Congressman Amash may or may not be wrong in his assertion that Trump’s actions warrant impeachment, but there is no denying that collusion is alive and well in Washington. The everyday collusion that we have become numb to is made up of party whips who make outlandish promises and threats towards their colleagues, meetings between branches to negotiate the will of the people, and unshakeable platforms designed to rile up the public with no intention of resolving actual issues.
Preservation of our Republic will necessitate a willingness to turn our backs on our own parties, including ranking members, whips, and even the President. If our lawmakers’ thinking is already laid out by the powers of national committees rather than their own views and the will of their constituents then we have already received the tyranny forewarned by the men who fought against it. To revisit our first president once more:
“The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes.”
The words of one Congressman should not be feared and condemned, but debated openly and civilly, just as our founders once did. Agree or disagree with Amash’s thoughts, it is up to you, but always respect the one walking away from the flock.