WestSouthwest: Mother Jones Magazine looks at Justin Amash and the Republican Party

Nov 26, 2013

Justin Amash-AP file photo
Credit The Associated Press


Reporter Tim Murphy discusses his article Will GOP Rebel Justin Amash Bring Down the NSA - and His Own Party?

Murphy told WMUK's Gordon Evans that Amash came on to Mother Jones' radar screen because he is a break with the Republican Party in many ways. That includes his age (33 years year old) and his ethnicity (part Palestinian, part Syrian). But Murphy says it's also because he has broken with the party on issues such as surveillance, and has become a "thorn in the side" of Republican leadership.

Amash is part of a group of "Ron Paul" Republicans that represents a libertarian wing of the party. Murphy says Amash is a star with that faction of the party. But he says establishment Republicans such as John McCain have had big disagreements with Amash. Those have mostly been over surveillance and national security. 

Murphy says Amash's work to build a coalition to limit data collection by the National Security Agency was somewhat surprising. The Grand Rapids Congressman was able to bring together Republicans and Democrats who may not agree on other issues. While the amendment failed this past summer, Murphy says it showed that Amash had found a coalition to oppose unchecked data mining by the NSA.

Despite his work with Democrats on the surveillance issue and the disdain of some of his fellow Republicans, Murphy says Amash has solid conservative credentials. He does a face primary challenge next year from businessman Brian Ellis. Ellis is also a member of the East Grand Rapids Board of Education. Murphy says Amash is well-positioned for that fight with a full war chest. The danger for Amash could be that he represents a district long thought of as part of the "Republican establishment." It's been the home district for Republican Congressmen like Gerald Ford and Vern Ehlers. But Murphy says during his travels with Amash around the district, he found wide support for his stance on the NSA. 

Amash has moved quickly to establish himself in Congress where normally seniority is at a premium. Murphy says Amash, who is in his second term, doesn't worry about currying favor with the Republican Congressional leadership. Murphy says in some ways the Grand Rapids Republican has used that to his advantage. Amash was stripped of his spot on the Budget Committee after locking horns with House Speaker John Boehner. Murphy says in the end that helped Amash's credibility with libertarian-leaning Republicans. 

Murphy says Amash's youth is reflected in his use of technology (explaining each vote on Facebook and "trolling" people on Twitter). Murphy says Amash also uses his social media skills to get his message out. He says that has helped Amash when he has been involved in public disputes with Republican Congressional leaders.

Amash's political future will not include a run for U.S. Senate this year. He decided not to seek the seat held by Democrat Carl Levin, who is retiring after next year. Murphy says Amash appears to be looking forward to a long career in the House. While the comparisons to former Congressman Ron Paul and his son Kentucky Senator Rand Paul will likely continue, people who talked to Murphy said Amash may be able to accomplish more in Congress. Murphy says Amash doesn't have the baggage of negative publicity that has come to the former Congressman and the current U.S. Senator.  

But Murphy says Amash's influence is likely to be limited to a few issues. Murphy says for instance it's not likely that the entire Federal Reserve System is going to be undone anytime soon. But he says Amash may continue to influence the debate on security and surveillance.