At Some Point Justin Amash Should Name Names

Congressman Justin Amash deserves credit for standing by the courage of his convictions in leaving the Republican Party. That his convictions are a mix of unworkable and deeply unpopular libertarian ideas that would be disastrous if implemented is undeniable. But that’s true of many Republicans who have fallen in line behind Trump and remained silent. Amash should also be credited for noting that the Republican Party is broken for reasons that go far beyond Trump, and for acknowledging that Trump is a symptom, not a disease–a stance that goes beyond what even one leading Democratic presidential candidate seems willing to admit.

But Amash is just one person, and his principled stance–even in service of irredeemable principles–hasn’t led to a dam break of fellow Republicans willing to stand up to Trump. Instead, all of the former Freedom Caucus member’s high-profile supporters seem to hiding behind a curtain of privacy.

Asked by host Jake Tapper what he’s been hearing privately from Republicans following his decision to leave the party, Amash said people have texted and called him to say “thank you for what you’re doing.”

“When I was discussing impeachment, I had fellow colleagues and other Republicans, high-level officials, contacting me, saying, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing,'” he added. “So there are lots of Republicans out there who are saying these things privately, but there not saying it publicly, and I think that’s a problem for our country.”

“It’s a problem for the Republican Party, it’s a problem for the Democratic Party when people aren’t allowed to speak out. So I think we really need the American people to stand up and say, ‘Hey. Enough is enough. We’ve had it with these two parties trying to ram their partisan nonsense down our throats.'”

Amash’s crusade against the parties aside (someone should explain Duverger’s Law to him sometime), the congressman has a point: if people do agree with him, they need to be speaking out. And if they lack the courage to do so publicly, Amash should at some point expose them for their cowardice.

The ability to keep confidences and maintain relationships is one of the most important currencies in politics. But Amash’s career in politics is likely to be short-lived from here. He is unlikely to survive in Congress, and his putative primary run against Trump for the GOP nomination will be quixotic at best. A stint as lobbyist would be gross, and a dereliction of the principles Amash claims to serve. So it looks like a career in the private sector awaits.

If that’s the case, Amash won’t have relationship currency to spend in Washington much longer. Moreover, if the threat to the country from Trump and the current incarnation of the GOP is as bad as he claims it to be (and it certainly is), then the health and safety of the country is more important than the privacy of his less courageous friends.

The current path of the GOP leads either to authoritarian victory over everything decent in this country, or to California-style electoral irrelevance. Those who want a different future for what used to be the party of Lincoln will have to make harder choices than they are currently willing to do.

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.