Finley: Here's hoping Amash can topple windmills

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, holds a town hall meeting at Grand Rapids Christian High School's DeVos Center for Arts and Worship on Tuesday, May 28, 2019.

I've always found Justin Amash to be a perfect representative of the Libertarian movement — compelling on some levels, squirrely on others. 

The Grand Rapids congressman, who has posed as a Republican for the past decade, strikes me as more idealist than ideologue, and he confirmed that on July 4 with his dramatic announcement that he was leaving the GOP. He will sit in Congress and stand for reelection as a true independent. 

Amash believes he can defy the political duopoly and win a sixth term free from partisan encumbrances.

I hope he's right and share his disdain for the two-party system, which is wholly in service to partisanship and aloof from the will of the American people. 

Amash now becomes a man without a party, like myself and so many other voters today.

As of June, according to Gallup, 46 percent of voters considered themselves independent, compared to 26 percent who identified as Republicans and 27 percent as Democrats. The percentage of unaligned voters is up 15 points in 15 years. 

No wonder. Even before Donald Trump, the growing ideological intolerance of the Republican Party made it an unacceptable choice for those whose allegiance was to the GOP's economic conservative roots, but couldn't abide its ever more stringent, social-issue litmus tests. 

And like Amash, they can't stomach defecting to the Democratic Party. Democrats have become even more intolerant of philosophical deviation than Republicans. Their hostility to traditional American values, ridicule of religion and animus toward free markets make them unacceptable for those whose politics hover around the middle. 

"People are sick of these parties," Amash told The Detroit News.

And yet they're stuck with them. There is no viable third party option — note that Amash did not declare himself a Libertarian, even though that's his natural inclination, opting instead to become the only non-attached voting member of the House.

One congressman bolting from partisan politics is not a groundswell. And it's doubtful Amash can even hold onto his seat in the 2020 election.

Working against him is the propensity of Michigan votes to cast a straight-ticket ballot. In Kent County, which forms the heart of Amash's district, 52 percent of voters pull either the donkey's or elephant's tail when they go into the voting booth. Amash will have to convince voters of both parties to break that habit.

Had Amash remained in the GOP, he had a chance of withstanding a primary challenge, despite his call for President Trump's impeachment, because of his high name recognition and crossover support from Democrats.

But with credible Democrats now joining the race, Democratic voters will likely stay home.

As a fundraiser, Amash leaves much to be desired. He's lost his major west Michigan sugar daddies, and will have to raise more cash than ever to mount a successful bid as an independent.

If he does win, it would offer hope to those of us who'd love to see the two major parties lose their grip on American politics. It might encourage other Congress members of both parties to follow.

For now, though, Amash looks like a guy tilting at windmills.

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.