On Tuesday Justin Amash crushed opponent Brian Ellis in Michigan’s third district primary, and made sure to let the world know how awful the establishment Republicans had treated him throughout this nasty campaign.
Those on the right who have a problem with Amash’s victory speech are either not familiar with the level of rancid demogoguery deployed against Amash by the establishment, or they just have a problem with libertarians.
Scores of beltway conservatives, from Joe Scarbrough to Aaron Goldstein to staffers at Daily Caller and National Review knocked Amash for a lack of decorum and suggested that his enmity for cheap establishment tactics and smears would redound negatively for the larger cause of conservatism.
Amash sent a message to the Republican establishment that you better think twice before going after constitutional conservatives. The grass roots and the voters at large are on to the rigged game the establishment wishes to perpetuate. No longer is the conservative movement going to be a party to insider dealing, crony relationships or big business corporate welfare; in other words, conservatives are done with the Chamber of Commerce.
This tendency has been admirably consistent among conservatives since the rise of the Tea Party in 2010. It hasn’t always translated into insurgent primary victories for the Tea Party, but when it has, the winners have gone on to become immediate leaders in the Republican Party (see: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Thomas Massie, Marco Rubio). The revival of constitutionalism on the right is the most encouraging development in American politics since 1988. It is a visceral reaction to crony capitalism and big government “compassionate conservatism.” And it is not going away any time soon.
But neither is the opposition. The Amash case is illuminating. After coming to Congress as part of the 2010 Tea Party wave, Amash immediately asserted himself as a principled libertarian-conservative, forming the House Liberty Caucus and endeavoring to record his reasoning behind every vote on Facebook in order to provide true transparency for his constituents. He has never missed a vote.
After nearly causing a bipartisan political earthquake in 2013 in his staunch advocacy against any intervention in Syria, House Republican hawks committed fully to his defeat this year. John Boehner and his allies were already on record as believing Amash to be an “asshole” and had removed him and other like-minded liberty Republicans from their committee posts following the 2012 election, but his efforts to thwart the NSA as well as the administration’s plans in Syria caused Republicans like Mike Ridgers and Devin Nunes (he of the “Amash is al quada’s best friend in Congress” infamy) to raise the volume on getting Amash primaried.
Enter Brian Ellis, a businessman who claimed to care more about the bottom line than the Constitution when it comes to making policy, who quickly racked up endorsements from elite Republican entities from the Chamber to Michigan Right to Life (based on an erroneous and scurrilous charge that Amash is pro-choice) and other crony interests who purport to espouse conservative ideals. Despite having an ample warchest and no compunctions about lying and smearing Amash in a scorched-earth campaign, Ellis had his ass handed to him and may now crawl back under whatever special interest rock from which he was chiseled.
Ellis’ campaign ran ads accusing Amash of voting mroe often with Pelosi and Reid than with his party, suggested he didn’t care about the unborn, and used his votes in favor of closing Guantanamo and against Iron Dome as proof of his sympathies for jihad.
Never mind that all of these charges were lies, that every vote he takes is grounded in ardent principle and strict fiscal conservatism, or that as the only Arab-American Republican in Congress the ads piggy-backing on Nunes’ claim amounted to cold, calculating racism.
Amash put his faith in the intelligence and wisdom of Third District voters, knowing that an informed and engaged grass roots will always triumph over a removed, elite establishment charge mounted in D.C. He also understood that libertarian and constitutional conservatism are waxing not waning on the right, and that a clear and cogent message highlighting the dead end that is big business corporatism would carry the day.
So forgive me if I do not begrudge Amash one iota his taking a few exultant jabs at the very sources of this nasty and libelous campaign. Ross Kaminsky agrees. The right wing establishment needs to be called out and shamed every chance we get, or else they’re going to continue believing that the grass roots are mere puppets to pandered to every other November. I say more elected Republicans should deploy words like “disgrace” and “obscurity and irrelevance” and “you owe me and this community an apology” the way Amash did in his victory speech. We can have decorum when the ideological war within our own party is won.