Justin Amash Has A Dangerous Third-Party Fantasy
Rep. Justin Amash is the latest conservative to take to the pages of the Washington Post to support the idea of electing more Democrats. This has become a niche for our nation’s capital’s largest newspaper, so Amash’s breathless breakup with the Republican Party fits right in. He has declared his independence from the GOP, not that anyone was forcing, or even asking, him to stick around, and he insists the two-party system is destroying America.
Before we get to why Amash’s disingenuous attempt to pretend he has written a “pox on both your houses” manifesto is at best deeply deluded, at worst blatantly dishonest, let’s take a look at this horrible two-party system he derides. I mean, just because it’s the system that has been in place for almost the entirety of American history, for the oldest constitutional republic on earth, doesn’t mean anything, because as we all know history began in 2016 when Trump was elected.
But there is in fact a very simple and good reason our country tends towards a political party duality. It’s the presidency. In parliamentary democracies, where legislators appoint a prime minister, coalitions of multiple parties can easily share power. But here, in America, there is only one president, often called the most powerful person on earth. That person can only belong to one party.
This is why, even on the rare occasions popular third parties have emerged, we regress back to two. If more than two parties exist, the ones that do not hold the presidency must merge into one in order to win it back. Ross Perot’s Reform Party was wildly successful by the standard of third parties in 1992. But it wasn’t until it merged with, or arguably took over, the GOP that it saw a president who supports its policies, namely Donald Trump, in power.
Amash is coy in his article, as WaPo’s post-Republican “conservatives” almost always are. He’s not announcing the formation of a new party, just kind of saying, “Hey, wouldn’t this be neat?” What he doesn’t mention, again, either out of delusion or deceit, is that the kind of party he and others have in mind is almost certainly one that draws far more from Republican voters than from Democratic ones. This isn’t an article coauthored by a Democrat; it’s a direct appeal to conservatives. It is a recipe for drastic Democratic victories from the presidency to beyond.
And it comes amid the context of Amash’s absurd claims that President Trump should be impeached. He doesn’t mention Trump, but he doesn’t have to. We all know what match struck this fire. Like all Never Trumpers, Amash would still be a happy camper in the GOP tent if it weren’t for “Orange man bad.” As if no other Republicans in history have ever been disappointed by or frustrated with the GOP they stayed loyal to.
All of this comes as Democrats have become the party of progressive utopias. Every Democratic candidate at the second primary debate raised his or her hand to support taxpayer-underwritten unlimited health care for illegal immigrants. They have plans to pay off the college debt of gender studies graduates with the 401(k)s of plumbers and cops. Speaking of cops, many Democrats now argue that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be abolished and our borders should be about as secure as the WiFi at Port Authority bus station.
I always try to err on the side of people operating with good intentions. I have no doubt that Amash loves his country and is deeply disturbed by Trump, despite the latter’s remarkable conservative achievements. But it’s hard to look at this choice to leave the party in such a public way, on the day that we celebrate the founding of our nation, as being about much more than Justin Amash: His reputation, his future, his brand.
A big part of the reason that this appears so self-serving is that it is absolutely hopeless. For the reasons enumerated above, no third party can fix the problems Amash imagines he sees. A more honest and useful approach would have been to announce he is becoming a Democrat. At least then he might have a seat at that table to moderate its policies. But he knows that is folly, too.
There is no seat at the table for a Democrat like Amash. He did have a seat at the Republican table, one he could have kept. Instead he chose Independence Day to announce his journey into the political wilderness. I wish him all the best, because, frankly, the Republican Party is probably better off without him.