Archive for March, 2011

Can Partisan Reflexes Lead to Philosophical Transformations?

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Originally posted at YALiberty.org

Congressman Justin Amash, who I’ve been praising a lot lately, has been doing a fantastic job on his Facebook page of educating people not only about the unconstitutionality of the President authorizing military strikes without congressional approval, but also regarding specific policies being pursued by the Obama administration, and the actual opinions and ties (hint: al-Qaeda) of Libyan rebel leaders. Amash has done a commendable job standing up as an indispensable voice of conservative opposition to the poorly thought out intervention in Libya – and has been influential in the face of both liberal and neoconservative praise of the operation.

Now of course, when it comes to Libya, my tried and true neoconservative friends wholeheartedly support this intervention as much as they did the policies of Bush, Bolton, Rumsfeld, etc; and honestly, I applaud them for their philosophical consistency. Their reaction, wrong as I think it may be, transcends partisanship and derives from strong convictions. Admittedly, I appreciate the intellectual honesty of it.

But, what both, somewhat confusingly, manages to frustrate and encourage me simultaneously is the seemingly partisan reaction to Obama’s Libya policy that’s currently permeating political discourse. While I was reviewing the great information Amash has posted on the matter, I came across a contributor to the conversation who applauded the Congressman for his work on the issue.However, what I found strange yet compelling was that this person went into a diatribe about how what Obama is doing in Libya can be described as nothing short of complete madness; that he’s ruining the country; that no one should have ever voted for such an imbecile; that people were warned about his incompetence during the campaign, etc. That’s all well and good – but it reeks of reactionary partisanship. Let us refresh our memories for a moment. Who was fervently calling for a “No Fly Zone” over Libya weeks before the President took a position on the matter? A certain Senator McCain.

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The Justin Amash Precedent

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Originally posted at RLC.org

“In 2005, I wasn’t involved in politics in any substantive way. I had never really thought about running for office. I began looking for organizations that shared the beliefs I had — and that’s when I came across the Republican Liberty Caucus. And, really, it’s what’s started my move toward running for office.” – Justin Amash

Congressman Justin Amash, 30 year old freshman RLC member from Michigan, is undoubtedly a rising conservative star with an extremely bright future. I was already impressed after spending some time with him at this year’s Republican Liberty Caucus national convention, but the longer I follow him, the more I find to like. Rarely am I this taken with a person’s integrity; and next to never is the said individual a politician, let alone a Congressman. But Amash is a glaring exception to that general rule, and I couldn’t be more excited about the precedents he’s setting. When I say that Amash is a model for the next generation, I mean it on many levels.

For starters, Amash is a pioneer when it comes to social media – which fits well with the fact that he’s only 30. At facebook.com/repjustinamash, he posts every single vote he takes with an explanation of his rationale, and links to the roll call. I’m not aware of any other politician doing this, especially so religiously. It demonstrates Amash’s dedication to transparency; another aspect of his character that I find impressive.

Additionally, it’s quite rare for politicians to be accessible the way Amash is. While it’s impossible for him to answer every single question posted on his Facebook page, I’ve noticed that he almost always responds to constituents – and on occasion, others as well. When an issue is so contentious as to merit commentary from large numbers of people, he’ll often post clarifications to his positions, and reiterate his well thought out logic.

What all of this really comes down to is the fact that Amash is highly process oriented. He takes the business of voting, and doing it within a constitutional context seriously; a model his colleagues should learn from. On his aforementioned Facebook page, Amash posted a note, explaining why he sometimes votes “present”:

“I will vote “present” on legislation in three circumstances:

(1) when I could otherwise support the legislation, but the legislation uses improper (e.g., unconstitutional) means to achieve its ends. This situation often arises when legislation is drafted in such a way that the law does not apply equally to persons or entities that are doing the same thing;

(2) when Representatives have not been given a reasonable amount of time to consider the legislation; or

(3) when I have a conflict of interest, such as a personal or financial interest in the legislation—a circumstance that hasn’t happened yet and I don’t anticipate happening.”

This speaks to Amash’s unconventional yet refreshing emphasis on procedure. He utilizes (admittedly rare) “present” votes not as a vehicle to avoid taking a position on controversial issues but to, in fact, do the exact opposite by calling attention to inherent problems with certain pieces of legislation. Amash is the most clear and direct Congressman I’m aware of – people simply aren’t used to his approach, since it’s historically been rare for a Representative to vote “present” for any reason other than to avoid the matter at hand. With Amash, that couldn’t be further from the case – and I hope that those who may have assumed that any of his votes are cop outs will reexamine their views on the matter, and engage with Rep. Amash before lashing out.

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