Politics & Policy

Amash’s Donors Are Snubbing Him Now That He’s an Independent and That’s Bad for Everyone

Rep. Justin Amash speaks at CPAC 2013 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
It seems to suggest, after all, that there is no place for an independent in politics. 

For years, fiscally conservative advocacy groups were giving then-Republican representative Justin Amash awards, praise, and donations. Now that he’s an independent, however, many of those same groups are snubbing him entirely.

Yes : Although Amash remains the most fiscally conservative member of Congress, his departure from the Republican party and support of impeachment have apparently made him a leper in the eyes of the exact same groups who claim to want to fight for fiscal responsibility.

Take, for example, the libertarian/conservative group FreedomWorks. As Matt Welch notes in a piece for Reason, the group gave Amash a FreedomFighter award every single one of his first eight years in Congress, lauding his commitment to the “fight for individual liberty and fiscal responsibility.” By all accounts, Amash is still very much fighting for those things. The only difference, really, is that he’s now doing so as an independent rather than as a Republican — and now, FreedomWorks is saying it doesn’t plan to continue supporting him.

“We don’t have any plans to get involved in MI-03 at this time, seeing as we’re focused on some other key races to help regain the GOP’s House majority,” a FreedomWorks spokesman, Peter Vicenzi, told The Dispatch. “We’re going to support some incumbents as well, mainly [House Freedom Caucus] members.”

(Note: Amash had actually co-founded the Freedom Caucus, but left it just last June, only weeks before leaving the Republican party altogether.)

FreedomWorks, unfortunately, isn’t alone in changing its mind on Amash. As Welch notes, the Club for Growth — which brags on its website that it “is the only organization that is willing and able to take on any Member of Congress on policy who fails to uphold basic economic conservative principles . . . regardless of party” — used to be Amash’s biggest campaign contributor. Like FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth also gave Amash awards during his first eight years in office, and it still gives him an impressive 99 percent lifetime rating. Given all of this, you’d think that the group would continue to support a representative that is so closely aligned with its stated mission.

But you’d be wrong. When The Dispatch’s Declan Garvey asked if they’d be supporting Amash this time around, he reportedly received “an indignant ‘no.’”

The DeVos family also announced that it would stop supporting Amash last year, and the self-described “conservative/libertarian” Americans for Prosperity said that they “have nothing to announce” regarding Amash “at this time.”

As Welch notes, Amash is indeed facing a tough battle in 2020. What’s more, Welch is also correct that the loss of Amash as a member of Congress would be a loss for the groups that are now refusing to support him. He does, after all, represent many of the exact values that they claim to be fighting for.

The truth is, though, I think that what’s happening to Amash here represents a huge problem for our country overall — whether you agree with his specific views or not. It seems to suggest, after all, that there is no place for an independent in politics.

Like him or not, you really should respect the fact that Justin Amash makes his political decisions based only on his principles — which is truly refreshing in our hyper-partisan era. All too we often, we see politicians on both sides desperately twisting themselves into partisan-hack pretzels, for the sole purpose of defending their own “team” or attacking the other, without any thought to principles or values whatsoever. This is incredibly harmful, because the people in power over us are not interested in searching for the truth. Instead, they’re viewing everything through their partisan lenses, concerned only with how they can spin things to make their side look better than the other.

This is bad news for all of us. The best policy, after all, is always going to be what’s based on actual facts. What’s more, the prevalence of blind partisan loyalty makes government corruption much easier. Think about it: If politicians know that, no matter what they do, they’ll have a whole “team” backing them up and defending them, it’s going to make it easier for them to get away with more.

I want to see Justin Amash win, and that’s not only because I happen to agree with him on most things — it’s also because, even when I don’t agree, I can rest assured that at least he’s being guided by something greater than the thoughtless partisan hackery.

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