Justin Amash laments 'partisan death spiral' but insists White House run won't help Trump

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Justin Amash left the Republican party because it was in a “partisan death spiral” but insists his White House run as a Libertarian won’t help Donald Trump maintain the GOP’s grip on the White House.

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World news | The Guardian

Justin Amash left the Republican party because it was in a “partisan death spiral” but insists his White House run as a Libertarian won’t help Donald Trump maintain the GOP’s grip on the White House.

“Washington is totally dysfunctional,” Amash told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “That’s why I left the Republican party, because there was this partisan death spiral.

“We need someone who’s going to come in as president, respect our constitution, defend our rights, and fix our representative system of government so that people will actually feel represented at home. And I know that millions of Americans want that.”

The former member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus left the Republicans in 2019. He then voted to impeach Trump and remove him from office, as the GOP stayed ranged behind the president.

Amash announced his third-party run this week, to criticism that he risked taking voters from Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic challenger who leads the president in many national and key-state polls.

“We don’t know how the additional candidate changes a race,” Amash insisted on Sunday. “It’s too impossible to figure out. There are too many calculations involved. So, the most important thing is that we have a ballot. If you want to vote for someone, you vote for that person.”

Many observers suggest third-party candidates can change presidential elections.

In 1992, for example, Ross Perot ran as an independent and won 19% of the vote as a Democratic challenger, Bill Clinton, beat incumbent Republican George HW Bush.

Green candidate Ralph Nader’s run eight years later is perhaps the most famous third-party campaign, given that George W Bush beat Al Gore in a desperately tight race.

Nader told the Guardian this week “there are all kinds of other reasons that the Democrats lost” in 2000, not least that Bush “was selected by five out of nine supreme court justices in a judicial coup d’etat”.

But the political strategist Bob Shrum countered that Nader “hurt because he attacked Gore from the left: that was his argument.”

Shrum added: “I don’t know that Amash is in the same position. The assumption that he would take votes from Biden rather than Trump seems dubious to me at best.”

Amash is a stringent conservative, unlikely to appeal to many supporters of a centrist Democrat pushed left on policy by the challenge of Bernie Sanders and committed to naming a woman, quite possibly an African American, as his proposed vice-president.

In 2016, the Libertarian Gary Johnson took nearly 4.5m votes nationally. Trump however lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3m ballots.

The White House was won, as it always is, in the electoral college.

In that fight Amash’s home state, Michigan, was a key win for Trump over Clinton by just 10,704 votes, less than 0.25%, while Johnson won the support of 172,136 Michiganders – or 3.6% of turnout. The Green candidate, Jill Stein, won 51,463 votes, or 1.1%.

Rejecting criticism from the former congressman Joe Walsh, who ran against Trump in the Republican primary and told the Guardian his friend was making “a huge mistake”, Amash insisted “there’s an opening for a Libertarian party to become a major party in this country”.

“I think we’re at a crossroads. There is a difference over the last decade or so, where people are more polarized, more upset, but, actually, most Americans are delightful people, are polite people, want to work with each other, respect each other.

“And these two factions that really control our political system are destroying our system and making it impossible for the rest of us to, frankly, enjoy our lives.”


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