Monday, July 31, 2017

Constitutionalist Justin Amash vs Señor Trumpanzee, The GOP And The DCCC


Blue America is not affiliated with the Democratic Party in any way. We're a progressive PAC. We often back progressive candidates-- like these this cycle running against corrupt Blue Dogs and New Dems in primaries-- but we've never endorsed a Republican. The closest we ever came was in 2012 when we pointed out that the Democratic Party hack running against Justin Amash-- Steve Pestka-- was far worse in every way. Pestka even won the endorsement of Michigan's top anti-Choice organization. In the current session, Amash scored a 47.22 ProgressivePunch Crucial Vote score. , the same as 3 right-of-center California quasi-Democrats (Ami Bera, Lou Correa and Raul Ruiz) and better than 16 other creatures who run as Democrats and vote as Republicans. These are the current scores:
Justin Amash (R-MI)- 47.22
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- 47.06
Gene Green (TX)- 47.06
Al Lawson (FL)- 45.71
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)- 44.44
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)- 44.44
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)- 44.44
Jacky Rosen (NV)- 44.44
Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)- 42.86
Tom Suozzi (NY)- 42.86
Stephanie Murphie (Blue Dog-FL)- 40.00
Dan Lipinksi (Blue Dog-IL)- 33.33
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)- 30.56
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)- 30.56
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- 27.78
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- 25.00
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)- 19.44
The video up top is of an interview the libertarian website,, did with Amash in Las Vegas last week. It's gotten some national attention because Amash calls for the disintegration of both political parties. Keep in mind, both Boehner and Ryan-- consecutive leaders of the House Republicans-- have financed Republican primaries against Amash and have continued to punish him for his independent stand on issues. Since being elected in a Grand Rapids-based swing district, Amash has worked across the aisle on several issues-- especially around national security and domestic spying-- in ways that drove the GOP establishment bonkers. He also signed on to a resolution for an independent commission to investigate Putin-Gate. Trump is demanding that some nut case fro his crackpot wing of the GOP primary Amash.

He started the interview by responding to a question about the White House looking to fire Jeff Sessions and Non Mueller by pointing out that Señor Trumpanzee "doesn't really understand how the Justice Department works, and that he really needs to keep some distance from these investigations. But, it's Donald Trump, and he's gonna do what he's gonna do... Setting aside the constitutional concerns, there are ethical concerns, there are rule of law concerns, so we want to make sure that when a president is in the White House that he's living up to all of the ethical standards, that he is allowing the system of justice to work itself out the way it's supposed to work without any interference, and there are those concerns. So I don't want to go the constitutional route yet on this kind of thing, but certainly there are rule of law and ethics concerns... [T]here are always political consequences. So polling numbers will change if people think that the president can't be trusted. There are those political realities, and you'll have more and more Republicans who are uncomfortable with the way the White House is operating. So, I think over time, that's probably what will have the biggest impact here. Whether it will impact the president's behavior over the next few years, I don't know. But it might have an impact over the next election cycle." Highlights from the interview:
Welch: You have one of the great Twitter feeds out there in Congress, and a week or two ago you tweeted something along the lines of, "Having principles is better than just resorting to 'what-aboutism' all the time." Do you see a lot of what-aboutism happening from your caucus these days when it comes to treating with and reacting to the actions of President Trump?

Amash: Yeah, it's not just from Republicans in Congress, Democrats in Congress do this too, and so does the general public. I think we should be concerned about hypocrisy, where one side is doing something we think is okay, and then the other side does something and we think it's bad. So there are reasonable concerns about hypocrisy, but that doesn't mean that every time President Trump or Republicans do something we should just say, "Well, the Democrats did the same thing." Because there's no accountability in that.

At some point, people have to decide to make the change themselves. They can't always blame the other side and say, "Well the other side did the same thing." That's how you get these third-world despotic systems, where everyone says, "Well, the other side does it, so we just want our strong man to beat up on them when he's in power." And you see that all around the world, Venezuela and other places where people's rights are restricted on the basis of, "Our guy is in power now, we should do the same thing that they did to us."

Welch: Do you feel like the Republican Caucus, in particular, has been ... As someone, you're a critic of congressional inaction, and advocating it's responsibility, do you feel like Congress has been doing well in it's oversight responsibility of the executive branch under President Trump, not so well, just right ... What's your assessment of that so far?

Amash: Not so well. The number of committee hearings has dropped significantly. When you had the Obama Administration in charge, you had a lot of Republicans making sure that we were investigating every little detail, and now, you don't have that as much. And you certainly have many members who are concerned about what's going on, but you don't have it to the same degree. And that's not to say that in any particular situation the president is necessarily doing something wrong, but we always have to stay on top of things as a congress, that's part of our role, to have oversight. And I think it's good for everyone if we oversee the executive branch and find that nothing was wrong in a particular situation, that's better for everyone. It's better for Republicans, it's better for Democrats, it's better for the country.

Welch: Let's talk a little bit about other ways that Congress abdicates it's responsibility. This week, if I'm not mistaken, the authorization for use of military force was in play as part of the Defense Authorization Act, and it kind of vanished overnight. What happened there, what's the status of that?

Amash: Yeah, it was in a Defense Appropriations Bill, and it was seemingly stripped out. So, the idea was to restrict the government from using that old authorization for use of military force on whatever they want today. So, there is a lot of pressure in Congress, on leadership, to do something new. To put a new authorization in place if we want to go after ISIS, if we want to do things in Syria, and Yemen and other places, there should be a new authorization. It doesn't make sense now, so many years later, a decade and a half later, to be using the same authorization as though we are fighting the same war. It's a different group of actors, the people we're fighting today aren't the same people who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.

So, if we want to continue that fight, let's get a new authorization with the appropriate limitations. And I think that there should always be a time limitation on authorizations. So there should be a requirement that they have to be reauthorized at some point. That doesn't mean you're telling the enemy when the war is gonna end, it just means that Congress has to do it's job and say, "If this battle's continuing, we have to have another authorization."

Welch: Was this as close as we've come since 2001 to actually re-upping and requiring the re-uppage of the authorization of use of military force, and what happened to it? What was the process by which in vanished?

Amash: Yeah, it was the closest we've been. Allegedly, it was allowed on there by the chairman of the committee without the blessing of Republican leadership, without the blessing of the White House. And so, I think whether it was the White House or House leaders, they came in and said, "We're stripping this out. We don't think this is the appropriate venue." And my understanding is, they're putting a different provision in there in the bill so that we can do a watered down version of what was there from Representative Lee.

...Welch: What else have you seen from Attorney General Sessions that has set off your alarm bells?

Amash: Everything. Whether it's indefinite detention ... There's a whole host of things out there. The drug war, his belief that we should continue to prosecute people for minor drug offenses ... But at the same time, those are things that Congress has a duty to change. So if we don't like the way the law is being enforced, if we think that Jeff Sessions should spend his time on more important matters, then we have a responsibility to change the law. So, let's change the law. Let's change the law on civil asset forfeiture. Let's change the law on sentencing. Let's change the law on indefinite detention. Let's change all of these laws, and then there's no excuse for the attorney general to do the wrong thing.

Welch: EXIM Bank. Listen, we've been talking about criminal justice reform for three or four years, and a lot of surveillance, post-Snowden revelation reform, and all these kinds of things. EXIM Bank was euthanized for like a week and half at some point, and it seems to be rising up. Talk to me, specifically, about what you're trying to do with murdering that crony capitalist thing in it's sleep on more time, but why can't Republicans do even Republican things right?

Amash: I've been asking myself that question for a long time. But the Export Import Bank is a no-brainer. It's a corporate welfare bank. We should do away with it. I've had legislation over the past couple terms to get rid of the Export Import Bank, to phase it out, so it's actually a pretty modest piece of legislation. It gives them a little bit of time to phase things out. But the Export Import Bank should go away. We shouldn't be financing other countries to purchase stuff from big corporations in the United States. That's just a transfer of wealth from everyday Americans to these big companies. And they'll say to you that, "Oh, it doesn't cost anything," but taxpayers are on the hook. So if you used normal accounting principles, you'd see that taxpayers are on the hook for the liability here, and we have a major problem that has to be addressed.

So, let's get rid of it, and in many ways, it's a symbol of other types of corporate welfare at the federal level, and at the state level. So let's get rid of it, because I think it's a pretty easy target. It's a target that's right in front of us, and they don't have the number of board members necessary right now to operate, it hasn't been operating really the way it's traditionally operated for the last two years because of the lack of board members, and the world hasn't fallen apart. Boeing still exists, all these other companies are still doing just fine. So we can do away with it, and help out regular Americans.

They'll tell you, as well, that small businesses benefit from this, but actually, it's a very small percentage of businesses that benefit from this. So we're talking about a fraction of a percent, and all of these people are essentially paying taxes, whether it's small businesses or individuals, are paying taxes to help support something like the Export Import Bank, but very few get any benefits from it.

Welch: Starting with Ron Paul's run for presidency, which I think helped at least partially inspire you, and the Tea Party Movement of 2009 and 2010, there was this creation out of the ether of a Liberty Movement, and it felt like there was some momentum going in this direction on the EXIM Bank and other things that we've talked about elsewhere. And now, we have a president and a movement around him that's pretty nationalist, pretty populist, which is not necessarily in a very libertarian direction, although there are big exceptions on regulation. And then on the left, it's just going straight Bernie Sanders here on economic policy, which is very hostile to a lot of issues of economic freedom. What happened to the Liberty Movement, or are we thinking too much in terms of high profile national politics?

Amash: Well, there's always been a strain of nationalism within parts of the Liberty Movement. There was, in some sense, an alliance between libertarians and some people who had more nationalistic views, whether it's on economics or other issues against the establishment. So they had allied themselves against the establishment. And now that you have President Trump, who's very clearly in one of the camps there, many people who were part of the Liberty Movement, but were more on the nationalistic side, now don't want anything to do with the libertarian part of that movement. I think that's caused some friction, and maybe it's time for people in the Liberty Movement to rethink some of those alliances, think about some of the principles that we hold. We believe in free markets, we believe in people being allowed to trade and live with whoever they like, and we don't need the sort of nationalistic side of it undermining those principles, because they're in conflict.

And if you look back on people like von Mises, or Hayek, or others, they spoke very negatively about this nationalist strain. They didn't like the idea of nationalism in a country. They thought it was a very bad idea, and dangerous to liberty.

Welch: On your Twitter feed, you have pinned a George Washington quote warning about parties and factions. I've seen, over the last month, you've had events with a couple of high-profile Democrats and libertarians ones to be sure, Jared Polis and Beto O'Rourke ... What are you doing? Are you going rogue? What are you doing here?

Amash: I think the parties are a problem. That became more clear to me when I entered Congress, and now I've been in Congress for a few years. I can see that a lot of the inability to move forward on more libertarian ideas is because we have this two-party system that really controls all of the levers. And you have Republican leadership that basically decides on all of the outcomes in advance, and doesn't allow issues to be debated on the floor. And I believe that a lot of these libertarian views would be successful in a floor vote if they were allowed to be debated, but we don't have that opportunity under this leadership team, and you're not going to get that opportunity under Democratic leadership.

So it's not that the parties are problematic because bipartisanship is a cure-all and is the greatest thing in the world, there's a lot of bad things that happen through bipartisanship. In fact, many of the worst pieces of legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. So it's not a call for bipartisanship, it's a call for non-partisanship. I think that we need to move away from this idea that you just have two parties who are at war with each other, and one party is good and the other party is evil, because that leads to all sorts of bad outcomes. You get 'End justifies the means' thinking in just about everything, and liberty doesn't really have an opportunity to flourish in that sort of environment.

Welch: So, what do you do? I mean, you can nonpartisan your own brain, but you're still a Republican, and the system is still like this. What can you do, to further that kind of goal or ethos?

Amash: Well, I'll keep speaking about it, for one thing. I speak to young people all the time and try to encourage them not to be beholden to these two parties. They don't have to be Republican or Democrat, they can be something else. Right now, I would say that the largest group out there are Independent people, people who aren't aligned with one of the two parties. So, we need to make sure that the next generation is thinking about this, and hopefully, over time, these two parties start to fall apart. They're getting smaller each year, which is why, I think, the partisan rhetoric is getting elevated, because they're actually smaller and smaller each year, and they're becoming more extreme.

Welch: Just to make sure you know what you just said, you're a Republican advocating for the Republican Party to fall apart.

Amash: Well, I think, over time, that's what has to happen. I think both parties, not just the Republican Party, I think the Democratic Party as well. I don't think that in the modern era that you need this sort of institutionalized party system to run for office. Back when you didn't have internet, it made more sense. People didn't even know who they were voting for, they didn't meet the people, they couldn't hear about the particular individual's views, so they had to depend on the party systems to tell them who to vote for. And in this day and age, you don't need that. I can go straight to Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere, and tell people exactly what I stand for. And young people, I think, understand that better than our generation and older generations. So, I think there's an opportunity to really have a paradigm shift here, but it might not happen in the near future. It might be the next generation that has to do that.

The DCCC would never back a candidate like him, but MI-03 Democrats are lining up behind a Medicare-For-All progressive named Jeff Thomas as their candidate against Amash this cycle. In making his announcement last month, he pointed out to the media that "(Amash) voted in support of the American Health Care Act, a bill pushed by Donald Trump that would take health coverage away from millions," Thomas said in the release. "He has shown indifference to protecting the Great Lakes, and failed to join the bipartisan effort to aid the people of Flint. The people of this district deserve a representative who will respond to our needs and concerns, not just follow a rigid ideology wherever it leads."

In 2016 Trump beat Hillary in the district-- 51.6% to 42.2%-- while Amash beat his Democratic opponent 59.5% to 37.5%. There are 5 counties in MI-03 and Bernie won all of them in the primary. But the vast majority of the votes in the district come from Kent County. Bernie beat Hillary there 43,375 (62.5%) to 25,899 (37.3%) but Bernie also significantly outpolled Trumpanzee (35,285) that day. The only other county with a significant number of voters is Calhoun County and that was also Bernie country. He beat Hillary 5,810 (51.5%) to 5,230 (46.4%) and beat Trump (5,800) as well, albeit narrowly. Bernie won MI-03 but the DCCC isn't interested in backing a Berniecrat against Amash-- which is why they are a loser party and will always be a loser party as long as Pelosi and Hoyer are calling the shots at the DCCC.

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At 9:32 PM, Anonymous wjbill said...

Inquiring minds want to know. Are you completely satisfied with your vetting of Talia Fuentes as an endorsed candidate? I know there are no guarantees. Change in this district is so badly needed (as you know). Hope you can reply.

At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amash is neglecting the effect of the big money bribery on the survival of parties.

It is parties (rather, the oligarchs therein) who raise the billions in bribery to pay for individual campaigns. Without that money, few individuals can afford their own or raise enough. As long as one party exists and accepts billions, there must be another one (even if they pretend to be NOT-the-first).

He makes the point that in the internet age, you don't need parties since voters CAN go and research for themselves.

But he neglects how stupid voters are and how many lies are out there and also how little 2 in 3 care about the process (the R third care about hate). They will always use the parties to know who NOT to vote for, therefore who TO vote for.

The parties act as middle-men/aggregators in this river of money and also as the filter to ensure that the recipients of that money are properly corrupted.

The money NEEDS the parties.

At 6:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

people are tribal by nature... or rather they are xenophobic and will cleave to those who are like them by nature.

political parties are part of this limbic instinct. Well, except for the Ds who betray their tribe regularly but are never faced with large-scale exodus from the tribe. Curious. The devil you know??


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