Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) has been giving Americans a tutorial in impeachment, one tweet at a time. The assumption was that in doing so he was throwing away his career — oh, the horror of needing to get a private-sector job! — and ostracizing himself from the only party that could sustain his political future. Wrong.
For starters, let’s be clear that Amash has already outdone every single Republican in the House and Senate. He will have this line, or at least this footnote, in history books: Stood up to President Trump. The political darlings of what used to be the conservative intelligentsia — politicians such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), former House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — have either hidden behind their Twitter feeds, tried to plug their ears to block out the constitutional havoc around them, done intellectual gymnastics to excuse Trump’s conduct or joined the screeching mob (Treason! Deep state!). They are indistinguishable from the mass of hypocritical congressional Republicans who have enabled Trump at the expense of their own reputations, but more importantly, at the expense of the rule of law, the legislative branch, democratic norms and our international stature.
And Amash? He will be remembered long after the undifferentiated mass of Republican sycophants disappear from the scene. Meanwhile, back home, Amash got a hero’s welcome at a town hall. He picked up where his tweets left off. CNN reports:
“Clearly, things that violate the public trust are impeachable,” Amash told the crowd, drawing applause.
He remains the only sitting Republican to openly say that Trump engaged in impeachable conduct, though he has not signed on to any existing Democratic impeachment resolutions.
But he told the crowd that it is up to Congress to hold Trump accountable for the actions described in special counsel Robert Mueller's report.
"I think it's really important that we do our job as Congress. That we would not allow misconduct to go undeterred," he added, earning some more applause.
“We have a job to do, and I think we owe it to the American people to represent them to ensure that the people we have in office are doing the right thing, are of good character, aren’t violating the public trust.”
Amash set a standard that others should aspire to when he refused to spout the Trump/Fox News-approved talking points. He buoyed Americans who might have begun to doubt their own sanity, and he put his party to shame, potentially hastening its demise (and thereby allowing its rebirth).
Politicians and the media refuse to believe that there is no self-serving motive behind his heresy. Acting on conscience and maintaining intellectual consistency are so rare these days that they are dumbfounded when someone does the right thing.
Compare Amash with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who predictably has done a 180-degree turn since he denied Judge Merrick Garland a confirmation hearing. McConnell now advertises that he would get a Trump Supreme Court nominee confirmed lickety-split next year if need be. McConnell epitomizes the ruthless quest for power at the expense of the institution he leads and the political culture he lays waste to. No wonder he and like-minded Republicans abhor Amash. He pricks their consciences, reminding them that they have sold out to a charlatan, a bigot and an authoritarian.
Amash might want to run for reelection. He might retire. Alternatively, he might decide to run for president, either as a primary challenger to Trump (to further highlight the shameful state of the Republican Party) or as a libertarian (to siphon off critical conservative votes), teaching fellow Republicans that there is a price to be paid and elections to lose if they renounce their stated principles.
The irony is that while Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents might be motivated to turn out in 2020 to kick Trump out, they will be inspired to crawl over broken glass to defend American values, democratic norms, decency and our national creed (“All men are created equal...”). Trump and his shameless Republican allies remind 60 percent of the electorate every day what horrors await us if Trump is reelected. Amash reminds them that unless the current generation of Republican officials is sent packing, there will be no reforming the GOP.
Now all that these “Anybody but Trump” voters need is someone to lead a movement to banish not only Trump but also the moral and intellectual corruption that renders Amash a lonely figure.