Palestinian-American lawmaker Justin Amash quits GOP

Palestinian-American lawmaker Justin Amash quits GOP

Warning against America’s two-party ‘partisan death spiral,’ the Michigan congressman, a longtime critic of Trump, said considering presidential bid as a libertarian

US Rep. Justin Amash arrives at the Capitol before the House passed the Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, May 4, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/JTA)
US Rep. Justin Amash arrives at the Capitol before the House passed the Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, May 4, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/JTA)

Michigan lawmaker Justin Amash, the first person of Palestinian descent to serve in the US Congress, said he is quitting the Republican Party and has grown disenchanted with America’s two-party system.

According to CNN, Amash may seek the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Amash cited the “hyperpartisan environment” in Washington as his reason for leaving the party, announcing, “Today, I am declaring my independence.”

“Modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral, but there is an escape,” he wrote. “Most Americans are not rigidly partisan and do not feel well represented by either of the two major parties. In fact, the parties have become more partisan in part because they are catering to fewer people, as Americans are rejecting party affiliation in record numbers.”

The five-term Congressman called for other Americans to join him.

“No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it,” he added.

US President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 5, 2019. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Amash noted his father, a Palestinian refugee from Bethlehem, “would remind my brothers and me of the challenges he faced before coming here and how fortunate we were to be Americans.”

The op-ed did not mention US President Donald Trump, but in recent months Amash has been a vocal critic of the US president and the Republican party, particularly over findings in Robert Mueller’s Russia report.

He was the first sitting Republican to join Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry in May, according to CNN.

Amash has long been seen as a libertarian Republican and an outspoken party contrarian. He was mentored in his earliest political runs by former representative Ron Paul, a Texas Republican and perennial GOP presidential candidate who made a name for himself as the party’s foundational libertarian.

Amash is believed to favor a lower US profile overseas. That view led him to vote against an act last July that would enhance the US response to emerging or potential genocides, and in January against a Republican-led bill that pressured the Trump administration to appoint an anti-Semitism envoy.

Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan speaking at the 2013 Liberty Political Action Conference (LPAC) in Chantilly, Virginia. (CC BY-SA Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)

Amash has voted against the back pay bill for furloughed federal workers, initiated eminent domain legislation that would make it tougher to build Trump’s wall with Mexico and been lacerating in his assessment of the president’s choice for attorney general, William Barr. Amash pointed to Barr’s record during the George W. Bush administration of defending warrantless eavesdropping.

Amash has decorated his Facebook and Twitter pages with a quote from George Washington warning against the “baneful effects” of placing party above country. In January, when a progressive challenged Amash to work with the progressive Democratic freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Amash replied “stay tuned.”

“The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family,” he wrote in the Thursday op-ed.

“In recent years, though, I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions…. True to Washington’s fears, Americans have allowed government officials, under assertions of expediency and party unity, to ignore the most basic tenets of our constitutional order: separation of powers, federalism and the rule of law. The result has been the consolidation of political power and the near disintegration of representative democracy.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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