A former U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 3rd congressional district from 2011 to 2021, Justin Amash has always stood out for his commitment to upholding the Constitution and pro-liberty principles, which often placed him at odds with party colleagues. 

During his time in Congress, Amash was widely regarded as a leading advocate for government restraint. Originally elected as a Republican, he parted ways with the GOP and became an Independent on July 4, 2019. In April 2020, Amash joined the Libertarian Party, becoming the first and only Libertarian to serve in Congress.

While he did not seek reelection, Justin Amash has continued to be vocal on a number of issues since his term ended in January 2021. Most notably, he is a prominent critic of the increasingly partisan and dysfunctional political system in the United States. 

Amash has also continued his advocacy on a range of issues such as ending political gerrymandering and opposing U.S. intervention abroad. Indeed, his ability to challenge the status quo made him a prominent figure in American politics.

As we delve deeper into the life and career of Justin Amash, we’ll explore how his principled approach has shaped his journey through a political landscape where conviction often takes a back seat to conformity.

Who is Justin Amash?

Justin Amash was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on April 18, 1980. His parents, both Arab Christians, had emigrated to the United States from Palestine and Syria. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Michigan in 2002, before continuing his studies at the University of Michigan Law School, where he obtained a Juris Doctor degree in 2005.

After a brief career as an attorney and working for his family’s business, Amash was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2008. Two years later, in 2010, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives at just 30 years of age.

Amash has stated that limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty are his core values which inform his votes in the House of Representatives, where he is recognized as having a strong commitment to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. He has also credited Frédéric Bastiat and Friedrich Hayek as major influences on his political thought.

Furthermore, Amash distinguished himself as a unique figure among Congressmen by embracing transparency and direct communication with his constituents. While many politicians cast their votes in relative obscurity, Amash took to social media to publicize his votes and provide comprehensive explanations for his decisions.

Principles over party politics

Throughout his political career, Justin Amash has recognized the threats posed by excessive government spending. He has put forward policies aimed at preventing overspending, balancing the budget, as well as arguing for a simplified tax code.

During his time in the Republican Party, Amash was known for frequently disagreeing with his fellow party members on a range of policies. He has consistently advocated for decreasing military spending and is a fervent opponent of NSA anti-terrorism measures involving mass surveillance

Notably, Amash also dissented on matters such as immigration policy, having opposed measures to redirect and increase funds for a border wall, while also opposing Donald Trump’s executive order for a travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim majority countries.

As well as being an outspoken defender of civil liberties, Justin Amash is also a fervent advocate for greater transparency in politics. He posts explanations of his voting rationale online and is in favor of introducing a new independent procedure for the delineation of districts in order to combat political gerrymandering.

Major differences with the Republican Party culminated in Amash becoming the first Republican lawmaker to advocate for the president’s impeachment, in May 2019. Shortly thereafter, he left the party and became an Independent. He subsequently voted in favor of an impeachment inquiry — the only non-Democrat to do so. 

Amash’s decision to part ways with the Republican Party and become an Independent on the Fourth of July in 2019 was a symbolic break from the growing partisanship that he saw as a cancer eroding the core values of American politics. 

His move to join the Libertarian Party in April 2020 was another significant moment, marking the party’s first-ever representative in the House of Representatives. These decisions underscored his commitment to pursuing alternative paths in a political arena that often demands conformity to the two-party system.

Exposing a broken system

One of the most compelling aspects of Justin Amash’s political journey lies in his unapologetic exposure of the deeply flawed political system he witnessed firsthand.

Throughout his decade in Congress, Amash observed the inner workings of a system where party loyalty often supersedes principles. For a number of years, partisan bickering has increasingly taken precedence over constructive policy-making, resulting in the gridlock and dysfunction that Amash so strongly denounces.

As Amash often points out, Congress is broken. It has gradually evolved into a performative body wherein individual representatives are stripped of any ability to create change.

Over a decade ago, Speaker Boehner restricted and Speaker Ryan subsequently ended the ability for members of Congress to submit legislative amendments. 

Since then, the new house rules have been maintained by every subsequent speaker, regardless of their party. As a result, congressional power has effectively been controlled by the speaker of the House, the president, and the senate majority leader.

Moreover, the process of setting rules has been gradually taken over by regulatory agencies instead of being the remit of elected representatives. This dysfunctional phenomenon is only increasing, allowing unelected bureaucrats to do most of the lawmaking.

On top of this, party leadership has been consolidating power over individual members. Those who do not tow the line face consequences. 

Indeed, members who follow their individual judgment will see themselves stripped of committee assignments and even have their party turn against them by funding challengers in their primary elections.

Alongside an unprecedented consolidation of executive power, the nature of the current system stokes the flames of hyperpartisan polarization. This in turn only serves to embolden political leaders on both sides to seek more power over their opponents, whom they perceive as an existential threat. Yet expanding the scope of government power, regardless of who is wielding it, is fundamentally detrimental to liberty.

From issues such as the national debt to civil liberties and the need for transparency, Amash has continued to emphasize the importance of focusing on principles over party.

Ultimately, Amash’s journey is not just about his own political evolution, but about an unrelenting commitment to a more functional, accountable, and responsive political system in the United States.

The question of why Congress is broken will be an important topic of conversation at Students For Liberty’s upcoming LibertyCon International, where Justin Amash will sit down with Reason‘s Nick Gillespie to discuss his insights into the current state of America’s political system. 

Students For Liberty’s flagship annual event, LibertyCon International will be held in Washington, D.C., on February 2-4, 2024. It promises to be the place for engaging with leading experts and connecting with others who share a dedication to advancing pro-liberty ideas and creating a freer future.

Click the button below to sign up for updates and secure your spot at this exciting event. We can’t wait to see you there!

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.