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Meet Justin Amash, NeverTrump’s Newest Shiny Object


“As a conservative who has grave concerns about Donald Trump, I’ve arrived at an unavoidable conclusion,” writes Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis: “it’s time to draft Justin Amash for president.” It’s actually an easily avoidable conclusion. If anything, this infatuation with Amash is evidence of an increasingly frivolous NeverTrump resistance.

Now, perhaps enough voters are willing to support an exotic candidate to help sink Trump and elect the Democrat. Which is, of course, the point of all this. Even if there were a genuine appetite among conservatives to challenge the president, there are any number of candidates ideologically better suited to represent the Max Boot faction of the party. Joe Biden, for example.

But “Amash,” writes Lewis, “distinguished himself in the last several months—first by voting against the president’s bogus ’emergency order’ regarding the border wall—and then by coming out in favor of impeachment.”

For one thing, Amash had already distinguished himself by criticizing his own party while opposing Barack Obama’s numerous precedent-setting attacks on the Constitution—many of them more damaging than Trump’s ill-advised use of a funding mechanism handed to him by Congress. It’s true, there was no NeverObama movement calling out Democrats who rubber-stamped those abuses.

As someone who sympathizes with many of Amash’s positions, I’m comfortable with the notion of a libertarian presidency. By most standards, however, Amash’s worldview would be considered radical. Not merely by the average voter, but by most of the pundits now willing to abandon their own positions to oppose Trump.

I’d detail Amash’s stance on gun control, for example, but I can’t find any evidence of it. The congressman has argued against any controls on Americans who “purchase, transport, store, or possess arms” on public or private property. While this might be constitutionally sound, it doesn’t sound like it comports with Salon Republican values.

It’d be interesting if some curious journalist, maybe one of his new fans, asked Amash where the Constitution empowers the federal government to (effectively) ban fully automatic weapons—or grenade launchers, for that matter? Because, color me skeptical, I’m unconvinced that the average CNN Republican is going to be a good-faith supporter of a politician who believes anyone should be able to walk into a 7/11 and buy a dozen AR-15s.

As far as we can tell, Amash doesn’t support any energy regulations, either. If oil companies want to drill, Amash has never had a problem with it. He’s also voted to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, which, although a reasonable libertarian position, might not be a huge hit with the John Kasich wing of the party.

Will newly woke constitutionalists praise Amash’s consistency the next time the congressman votes “nay” on reauthorizing the “Violence Against Women Act”? The problem, according to Amash, is simple: the bill “expands federal criminal law, and the crimes that it expands are not authorized by the Constitution.” Enumerated rights, and all that. I’m sure single women voters will be sympathetic.

What will Amash supporters say the next time he is the only member of the House to vote against creating a three-digit national suicide prevention hotline? A fine idea, he explained, but one that lacked any “constitutional basis.” Now that, unlike supporting impeachment, is a courageous political position.

Will GOPers like Lewis be open to discussing the future of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? I mean, Amash says it “was helpful in remedying government-mandated discrimination in some states” but nowadays “these types of laws may unintentionally increase discrimination.” Libertarians since Barry Goldwater have wrestled with the constitutionality of certain aspects of the law, and all have been smeared as racists. I’m not sure agreeing with Democrats on impeachment will finally convince them to have a salubrious discussion about the proper limits of federal power.

In a rare moment of pandering, Amash once “strongly” supported the federal Defense of Marriage Act before taking a more traditionally libertarian position, maintaining that government should get out of the marriage business altogether. That means he doesn’t believe gay marriage should be state sanctioned.

Amash is also “100 percent pro-life,” supports federal limits on abortion, and believes life begins at conception, not at 24 weeks of pregnancy, or 40 weeks, or whenever the mother decides.

Perhaps there will be some common ground on tariffs (Trump has turned plenty of people into zealous free traders; welcome!) and a few other policies that happen to intersect. Yet Amash supports deep cuts in spending, tax cuts, balanced budget amendments, real debt limits, free market-based health-care insurance (and everything else), and, one assumes, the privatization all kinds of highly valued government programs. I’ve been hearing for years from pundits that these positions induce voters, especially young ones, to abandon GOP.

Admittedly, it’s confusing to see a libertarian who’s railed against the surveillance state now more concerned about the president acting within his constitutional purview—firing an FBI director, for instance—than he is with an administration spying on its political opponents. The difference between Amash and his new boosters, though, is that his conclusions are almost certainly not propelled by a Trump obsession.

“Even with his solid judicial nominees and tax cuts, how in good conscience can a principled conservative support four more years for this president?” Lewis begs the question in his Amash endorsement.

I imagine for many voters the equation is more complicated. Perhaps Trump has exceeded their policy expectations. Perhaps, in addition to “solid judicial nominees and tax cuts,” they understand that he’s defended religious liberty, adopted pro-life policies, cut regulations, exited the Iran deal, taken immigration enforcement seriously, and pushed back on broader cultural battles they care about. And whether they approve of his methods or not, whether he’s done an effective job or not, they probably view him as a bulwark against increasingly extremist Democrats.

Many Republican voters are undoubtedly more interested in fighting those battles than in trying to appropriate the idealism of a long-shot candidate. To most, a vote is merely a political consideration, and not, as many pundits seem to believe, a sacred act of moral affirmation.