“In 2005, I wasn’t involved in politics in any substantive way. I had never really thought about running for office. I began looking for organizations that shared the beliefs I had — and that’s when I came across the Republican Liberty Caucus. And, really, it’s what’s started my move toward running for office.” – Justin Amash
Congressman Justin Amash, 30 year old freshman RLC member from Michigan, is undoubtedly a rising conservative star with an extremely bright future. I was already impressed after spending some time with him at this year’s Republican Liberty Caucus national convention, but the longer I follow him, the more I find to like. Rarely am I this taken with a person’s integrity; and next to never is the said individual a politician, let alone a Congressman. But Amash is a glaring exception to that general rule, and I couldn’t be more excited about the precedents he’s setting. When I say that Amash is a model for the next generation, I mean it on many levels.
For starters, Amash is a pioneer when it comes to social media – which fits well with the fact that he’s only 30. At facebook.com/repjustinamash, he posts every single vote he takes with an explanation of his rationale, and links to the roll call. I’m not aware of any other politician doing this, especially so religiously. It demonstrates Amash’s dedication to transparency; another aspect of his character that I find impressive.
Additionally, it’s quite rare for politicians to be accessible the way Amash is. While it’s impossible for him to answer every single question posted on his Facebook page, I’ve noticed that he almost always responds to constituents – and on occasion, others as well. When an issue is so contentious as to merit commentary from large numbers of people, he’ll often post clarifications to his positions, and reiterate his well thought out logic.
What all of this really comes down to is the fact that Amash is highly process oriented. He takes the business of voting, and doing it within a constitutional context seriously; a model his colleagues should learn from. On his aforementioned Facebook page, Amash posted a note, explaining why he sometimes votes “present”:
“I will vote “present” on legislation in three circumstances:
(1) when I could otherwise support the legislation, but the legislation uses improper (e.g., unconstitutional) means to achieve its ends. This situation often arises when legislation is drafted in such a way that the law does not apply equally to persons or entities that are doing the same thing;
(2) when Representatives have not been given a reasonable amount of time to consider the legislation; or
(3) when I have a conflict of interest, such as a personal or financial interest in the legislation—a circumstance that hasn’t happened yet and I don’t anticipate happening.”
This speaks to Amash’s unconventional yet refreshing emphasis on procedure. He utilizes (admittedly rare) “present” votes not as a vehicle to avoid taking a position on controversial issues but to, in fact, do the exact opposite by calling attention to inherent problems with certain pieces of legislation. Amash is the most clear and direct Congressman I’m aware of – people simply aren’t used to his approach, since it’s historically been rare for a Representative to vote “present” for any reason other than to avoid the matter at hand. With Amash, that couldn’t be further from the case – and I hope that those who may have assumed that any of his votes are cop outs will reexamine their views on the matter, and engage with Rep. Amash before lashing out.
In fact, in that exact regard, Amash was recently attacked by Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren while I was smiling over the fact that he was the only member of Congress speaking with sense over the partisan noise on the “Defund NPR” issue.
As Amash eloquently explained, again, via Facebook:
“H R 1076 does not actually save taxpayer dollars; it merely blocks CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) from exercising its discretion to send funding to NPR. The funds CPB does not send to NPR under the bill are returned to CPB to be spent subsidizing other private radio producers. I offered an amendment in the Rules Committee to require that any funds not sent to NPR be redirected to pay down the deficit, but the amendment was ruled out of order. Therefore, public broadcasting will not see any reduction in federal funding even if this bill becomes law.”
This kind of action speaks to Amash’s desire to reveal the truth about how Congress actually operates rather than playing up the largely irrelevant partisan talking points of the moment. Amash, like all serious conservatives, is against the federal funding of media on principle. However, unlike many of his fellow Congressmen on both sides of the aisle, he actually wants to address the issue at its root, rather than vote on a fleeting matter that’s getting a bit of attention because of a James O’Keefe gotcha stunt.
Ultimately, what I admire about Amash is that he’s confident enough in his principles to not worry about going against the grain. Why should he be concerned when he’s always able to articulately defend his positions? His style is civil, methodical, and logical to the point where he acts as a foil for the DC as usual crowd; revealing through his dedication to constitutional governance how absurd the status quo (to steal a Mike Church line) in Mordor-on-the-Potomac is.
I would love to see more Congressmen adopt his transparent, informed method of conducting government business. The amount of sense Amash makes amidst the circus that is Washington DC is sadly, what makes him “radical” – yet in reality, he’s anything but. He’s conservative in the most plainly interpreted sense. You always know what to expect from him, because he takes rare yet seemingly common sense positions, such as wanting to comprehend bills before voting on them – and is actually mindful of their constitutionality and cost. You can’t BE more conservative than that! His dedication to the letter of the law and to revealing how recklessly and deceptively our federal government operates should be commended. I can’t help but think that those who criticize Amash either haven’t been sufficiently exposed to the logic of his process – or completely have a handle on it yet oppose him anyway, because they benefit from politics as usual and the propaganda that sustains it.
For those of us who truly want to limit government and are tired of the endless bipartisan pandering that gets us nowhere, the independent-minded Justin Amash is our man. Join me in encouraging others to familiarize themselves with how he’s revolutionizing government. After all, those who irk the traditional talking heads on both sides of the aisle must be doing something right.
RLC Board member Corie Whalen and Congressman Justin Amash.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.