U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (Grand Rapids) declared his independence from the Republican Party on Independence Day, and since then has been using his platform to raise awareness on a current issue in the United States: the two-party system.
“We have to stand together as Americans and uphold the traditions and system that we have here,” Amash said. “If we don’t correct the system, we are in big trouble as a country.”
Amash wrote an op-ed declaring that he was leaving the GOP in the Washington Post on July 4.
He says that there is a current divisive culture where members who possess opposing political views hold each other in contempt, and says that needs to change.
That change, he says, is “a more open system of government where people come to Congress and deliberate and debate, and where the outcomes are not predetermined, but are discovered through the process.”
Amash says the system needs to be solved from outside of the political parties, and says from his new position, he can influence congressmen and people about the problem and to correct it.
“If we don’t value our constitutional system, if we don’t respect each other as a society, then it doesn’t matter what the particular outcome is on any given day. Our system will fall apart and will be no different from any other country that has a bad system,” he said.
There are hundreds of bills passed in Congress each year, and Amash says many of them are political ploys and have little substantive effect.
“There’s so much we can work on together and get done in Washington if only the system would work properly, and we were able to go and deliberate and do the right thing for the people, instead of the right thing for the parties,” he said.
One of Amash's efforts is refocusing the public and political officials to talk about and work on a solution for the two-party system, instead of being worked up about one person: the president.
“Too many people today think the problem is just Donald Trump,” Amash said.
He says he still would’ve left the Republican Party had Donald Trump not been president, because he says Trump didn’t cause the existing problem with the two-party system.
“Unless we correct the underlying problem, which is the way the two-party system operates, the way it works in a very top-down fashion where a few people control the entire system," said Amash. "Unless we fix that problem, you’re going to have future Donald Trumps. You’re gonna have them on the right. You might have them on the left, but he’s really a symptom of the problem and we need to correct the overall problem."
Amash was the first and only Republican congressman to call for the president’s impeachment after reading the Mueller report. Shortly after, powerful megadonors the DeVos family withdrew their support from Amash.
He says he’s confident that he’ll be able to raise enough money to run and win office again in the 3rd congressional district without a party to back him up. He says most of the donations come from individuals, not from political action committees.
Amash touted himself as a notable and active community member of West Michigan, and says he will reach out to individuals who may not be frequent donors to political campaigns. But he also says having a good reputation and that connection with his constituents is more important.
“Fundraising isn’t as important as being well-liked,” he said. “I think that carries a lot more weight than any fundraising figures or any ads I might ever run.”
Running for president in 2020 isn’t something Amash is ruling out.
“But it’s not on my radar right now, and it’s not my focus. My focus is on representing my district.”