Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, a former Republican and one of President Donald Trump’s most ardent critics from the right side of the political spectrum, said on Tuesday that he is launching an exploratory committee and would likely seek the 2020 Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination.
The Republican-turned-independent said on Twitter that the US was ready for new leadership and posted a link to a new campaign website.
“Americans are ready for practical approaches based in humility and trust of the people,” Amash said. “We’re ready for a presidency that will restore respect for our Constitution and bring people together.”
Fellow Trump critics on the right criticised the decision, insisting that any third-party bid for the US presidency from the right would only increase the odds of Trump being re-elected in November. Writing in the Washington Post, former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, who himself mounted a brief challenge to Trump in the Republican primary, called Amash’s decision “disappointing”.
“The pettiness and corrosion of both parties in Congress are no joke, but they are not the immediate threat to the viability of our government,” Walsh wrote. “That threat is Trump. And that’s why Amash running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket is such a terrible idea.”
Trump, however, said he welcomed the challenge.
In an appearance on MSNBC on Wednesday, Amash brushed his fellow conservatives’ concerns.
“There are millions of Americans who aren’t represented by either Donald Trump or Joe Biden, who aren’t represented by the Republicans or the Democrats,” he said. “And those millions of Americans deserve a choice on the ballot. And it’s pretty silly to say, well, we shouldn’t allow another candidate to be on the ballot.”
Amash is seeking re-election to his Michigan congressional seat as an independent, but faces a slate of Republican challengers eager to see him removed, among them Peter Meijer, a military veteran and the grandson of Fred Meijer, whose grocery store chain is a Michigan institution.
Amash was the first Republican in Congress to say Trump deserved impeachment. He quit the Republican Party in July 2019, saying he had become disenchanted with a political system that is “trapped in a partisan death spiral”.
“The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions,” he wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece published at the time.
“Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis,” Amash wrote.