GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Cascade Township, is gaining national attention for his pointed criticisms of Donald Trump.
However, Amash says the problem lies with the entire system, which he said is even worse than the wild corruption and cynicism seen on the fictional “House of Cards.”
Amash hopes voters are ready to follow him on a path independent of parties or PACs.
Amash started Wednesday morning with a trip to the Rising Grounds Café in Grand Rapids, where he explained why he decided to become an independent while sipping a complimentary hot chocolate.
“I really did believe I could somehow change it from within,” Amash said of his days as a freshman Republican lawmaker.
Amash complained that the process is broken because of the party leadership system in the House and Senate that system requires the approval of the leaders before any significant amendments can come to the floor for a vote or even discussed.
“Unless those three people at the top, the president, the speaker, senate majority leader agree with you, it’s not going to be considered,” he told the more than 100 people that gathered at all three of his Grand Rapids stops.
He said that people should stop voting on issues but instead focus on the process and the Constitution.
“You might ask about guns. You might ask about immigration. You might ask about a whole host of issues, but no one is asking about the process of governing,” Amash said.
But for at least one voter, that message is not resonating.
“I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen where most Americans are going to say ‘let’s fix this process,’” said Grand Rapids resident Ellen Wilkerson, who responded this way when asked if she could imagine voting for Amash. “So far, no.”
Amash also called for civility in politics and an end to what he sees as a destructive partisan divide.
“There are evil people on both sides, but most people are good. Most Americans are good people. Most people around the world are good people and we need to start understanding that and respecting each other and loving each other,” Amash said.
It is a message that is working on Kenneth Carey, a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton and Amash.
“You know what? I’ll vote for him, even more, the next election he’s into simply because of him breaking away from the crowd,” Carey said during a stop at New Holland Brewing Company on the West Side.
But Democrats are hoping that Amash’s independent run will split the Republican vote putting the 3rd Congressional District within reach for the first time since 1976.
When asked if Democrats should be excited, Amash said “no, if you’re talking about the Democratic candidates, no.”
“I’m confident the majority of the district is independent-minded, and I have a good relationship with the district. I’m willing to come out and speak my mind and listen to other people and I think that’s going to make a difference,” Amash said.
And what about the speculation that he is really setting up a run for president, perhaps as the Libertarian candidate?
“I’m running for re-election in this district,” Amash said.
Amash is hoping that voters will look past their differences with him on policies, which he has stances that attack sacred cows in both parties.
Instead, Amash hopes they see him as a path to a change for the better.
“You may not agree with me on, and I know you don’t agree with me on every issue. Nobody agrees with me on every issue, not my family, nobody,” he said.
But one area that came up in every stop he made in Grand Rapids was the topic of gun control.
Amash is a staunch believed in his interpretation of the Second Amendment, which he believes gives every person the inalienable, God-given right to own a gun.
And even frequent mass shootings that occur in the United States does not deter his belief.
“It is not worth it to undermine our constitutional system, to undermine our Second Amendment, to undermine our protections. The bigger risk is a government that gets out of control,” Amash said.
It was a topic that dominated one of his stops with Amash, hearing pleas from mothers and teachers saying something needs to be done.
Amash said all efforts to control gun deaths from bans on assault-style weapons to gun-free zones either are ineffective, impractical or unconstitutional.
Amash downplayed the threat saying compared to the number of gun owners in the country, the incidents of shooting are relatively rare.
“There’s always potential — that’s life. There’s always the potential for anything in life, anything could happen in life, but you are not at risk day to day,” Amash told the crowd, many of whom were shaking their heads.
Amash’s campaign hinges on whether voters will be able to embrace his vision of the Constitution and his independence.
It is an answer we won’t have for another 15 months.