The first headline I saw last Thursday morning was that Justin Amash had left the Republican Party.
For anyone unfamiliar with Amash, he came to some notoriety in May when he was the subject of both pointed criticism and applause when he suggested that President Trump had committed impeachable offenses, a conclusion he came to after reading the Mueller Report in its entirety.
Amash is an interesting character. Reading through his voting record over the past eight years, on topics ranging from abortion to same-sex marriage, EPA regulations and a president’s right to wage war without congressional approval, one thing is clear: Amash sees the world strictly through the lens of the constitution. His dedication to the constitution appears to be so unwavering that he is even willing to vote against things that he may personally agree with if they appear to violate constitutional law.
Like him or hate him, he’s been a rare instance of consistency and idealogical congruency during his time in the house, and although I disagree with a heck of a lot of his positions, I surely admire his steadfast and principled approach to his job as elected representative.
Although having been raised a Republican, having been elected as a Republican and having been re-elected as a Republican, Amash always voted based on constitutional merit rather than along party lines, a trait that made him an enemy of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and many others in the Republican Party.
In his July 4 Washington Post editorial, Amash announced he was switching to independent status while criticizing our country’s increasingly partisan political climate. Amash referenced a warning from George Washington in which our first president warned that although partisanship was “inseparable from our nature,” it was indeed our “worst enemy.”
Partisanship seems to appeal to our sense of good versus evil, us versus them and our basic human need to be a part of something defined and delineated.
But while partisanship welcomes us with open arms to one side or the other, it shuts off parts of our brains – important parts.
Partisanship erodes our capacity for critical thinking and drowns our ability to deal with complex issues, all the while entrenching our country in political gridlock.
Out of control partisanship leads to overly simplistic black and white thinking like, “Build the wall!” or “Abolish ICE!” when real solutions might be more along the lines of “build some walls in strategic areas” or “review certain elements of how Immigration and Customs Enforcement functions.”
The real world is complex and complicated and desperately needs political processes that offer solutions and unification rather than the partisan tire-slashing every time the White House changes hands.
I would suggest we all declare our independence from the two major parties and make our message clear that they can no longer take us for granted.
As American citizens, we need to tell the two major parties that we want our representatives to have an (I) after their names and to freely sit wherever they want in the chambers, not just on one side of the aisle or another.
We should demand solutions and progress from our politicians and make it clear that partisan opposition at the expense of the American people is no longer an option. Our children and grandchildren deserve a functioning political system in a truly United States of America.
Andre LaSalle is a former Messenger staff writer.