August 12, 2014 at 1:00 am

Michigan, Georgia pols show the fork in the GOP's road

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, is part of the new generation of lawmakers that doesn't play nice with party leaders. (Rex Larsen)

Rep. Justin Amash has just beat back a primary challenge and will now defend his seat in Congress from Michigan’s 3rd District in the general election. And recently Jody Hice won the nomination to be the GOP candidate for Congress from the 10th District of Georgia, replacing a retiring incumbent Republican.

While in their general election runs both will face Democratic opponents, these two candidates are, in a sense, running against one another. They represent two of the three factions currently battling for the soul of the Republican Party.

Amash is from the libertarian faction. He is outspoken in his efforts to roll back the state’s role in our lives, both on the economic and civil liberties fronts. He famously voted against John Boehner for House speaker, seeing the GOP leader as too much of a sellout.

The establishment Republicans found him too extreme.

Thus, some of his own GOP colleagues from Michigan, as well as the Chamber of Commerce, backed businessman Brian Ellis as primary challenger. Amash won, 57 percent to 43 percent.

Much has been made of Amash’s anything-but-polite victory speech in which he said of Ellis: “You owe my family and this community an apology for your disgusting, despicable smear campaign. … I ran for office to stop people like you — to stop people who were more interested in themselves than in doing what’s best for their district.” Among other things, Ellis had called Amash, an American of Arab descent, al-Qaida’s best friend in Congress.

Down in Georgia, another candidate who is not a favorite of establishment Republicans triumphed as well. Jody Hice won a run-off election to replace retiring Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican.

But this was not a victory for the libertarian faction.

Hice, a right-wing Baptist preacher, is from the extreme social conservative faction of the GOP. He wants to break down the separation of church and state.

He has campaigned to have the Ten Commandments posted in government buildings. In a 2012 book he asserted that gays have launched a scheme to “sodomize” children. It sounds like he’s running for pope rather than Congress, though the current pope actually seems more open and tolerant than Mr. Hice.

Amash and Hice might be in the same party but they represent very different ideologies.

Amash has made a reputation taking establishment Republicans to task for not making the re-establishment of liberty and limited, Constitutional government Job One.

Friends of freedom should hope he and others in the GOP will similarly challenge extreme social conservatives who give priority to limiting liberty rather than defending it.

Edward Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.