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Republican Congressman Justin Amash Breaks Party Ranks to Call Trump’s Conduct Impeachable

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One Republican standing on principle matters. A lot. That’s why Donald Trump is freaking out about the determination by Congressman Justin Amash, R-Michigan, that the president has engaged in impeachable conduct.

It is not that Amash has reached some staggering conclusion. Everyone who has ever considered the Constitution as anything more than a talking point knows that this president has committed fully impeachable offenses. What matters is that Amash, a conservative with libertarian leanings who has frequently put constitutional concerns ahead of partisanship, is reminding Americans of all partisanships and ideologies that the blank-stare Republicans who currently defend Trump do so reasons of petty politics rather than principle. That’s why Trump calls Amash a “loser.”

In fact, Amash is something very rare these days: a Republican who takes seriously his oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The Republican Party was founded 165 years ago by abolitionists and land reformers who placed their faith in the radical—if unrealized—promise of America’s founding: that the rule of law might apply equally to all. They rejected the compromises imposed by southern slaveholders and their northern allies, refusing to bend to the will of the presidents and partisans who who were making the American experiment into a pale reflection of their own infamy.

At its best over the ensuing decades, “the party of Lincoln” has maintained at least a measure of loyalty to the high ideals of its founding. At it worst, the GOP has not just abandoned those ideals but gone to war against them.

No serious observer of the Republican party’s recent trajectory would suggest that the party is today at its best. Most Republicans in Congress are shameless sycophants who are more than willing to sacrifice whatever principles they might once have entertained on the altar of Donald Trumpism. But that’s nothing new. American political parties have frequently deferred to their presidents, even when they are abominations.

Most Republicans who served in the House and Senate during the Watergate investigation served as steady defenders of Richard Nixon, and many remained loyal until the bitter end. Much is made of the cooperation that finally evolved on the House Judiciary Committee. But the majority of Republicans sought to protect Nixon. The committee voted on five articles of impeachment against Nixon. None of them received the support of a majority of Judiciary Committee Republicans. Every one f the 17 Republican on the committee voted opposed two of the articles, and their opposition—in combination with that of conservative Democrats—prevented their approval. Of the three articles that were endorsed by the committee, one drew just two Republican votes, while another drew six votes and another drew seven.

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