GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Former US Congressman Justin Amash may not be done serving the public. But in order to get back in the game, things need to change in DC.
He sat down with FOX 17 today to talk about the future of Congress and the political game that needs to be changed on the inside.
“You don’t just represent one party, you don’t just represent the people who voted for you, you represent everyone,” said Amash.
The 40-year-old served Michigan’s 3rd Congressional district for 10 years, from 2011 until this past January when he decided not to run for re-election. Republican Peter Mejier now represents him.
“I encouraged him to stay independent, to be a person who thinks for himself, to stand up for himself, and stand up for the people he represents,” said Amash. “And I think the most important thing you can remember as a representative is that you represent all the people of your district.”
That representation includes legislation. Lawmakers are often given bills that they vote on that day, but they are hundreds if not thousands of pages long.
No one can read that all before the deadline. Not lawmakers, not the American public, and not the journalists reporting on it.
“Nobody would do this in the private sector,” said Amash. “You’d never conduct any sort of business transaction like selling your company or even a personal transaction like a mortgage on a house or something. You wouldn’t do that if the person you’re dealing with said, ‘ok you’ve only got an hour to review this’, or ‘by this afternoon’. People have to take time to make big decisions.”
And those decisions, he says, are often made behind closed doors. It’s the process that the American people do not see – where votes are traded for incentive like dinners and bill readings.
The political show House of Cards on Netflix, he says, is more functional than our current Congress.
“In House of Cards, the people actually seem to care about the legislation much more than they do in
Congress,” said Amash. “You would see episodes on House of Cards where they’re really concerned about getting particular legislation through, and what’s in it, and in Congress mostly they don’t care about that stuff. They don’t care about the details, they care about the message.”
Another big issue slowing things down, Amash says, is the popularity contest like high school. Either you’re in with the cool kids or you’re out.
Basically a political game of chess and if you don’t follow the party’s top leadership, you’re considered a pariah.
“And this is again, true of both parties, even when you’re in the minority party like the republicans are the minority right now but if they don’t stick with Kevin McCarthy, they’re on the outs,” he said.
We’ve all seen lawmakers bash each other on social media and then end up on national networks doing the same thing.
“I’m not a guy who’s seeking the spotlight and I don’t care for it,” he said. “I wanted to be a legislator. I went to Congress to be a legislator to actually work on legislation. Not to be an entertainer.”
Amash has been a republican, independent and now libertarian. He wants to serve the public but not with how Congress is operating now.
The change on the inside needs to come from the outside and he says it all starts with the American people.
“We essentially have an oligarchy and that is a serious statement to make because I love this country and I love our system of government,” said Amash. “And with all the changes we’ve made to improve the system and make it into what could be a very great system Congress is completely dysfunctional. We don’t use the system we have. The system we’re using now is one that is not reflective of our Constitution and not a representative system of government.”
Amash did not specifically say what’s next for him but he is working on a couple projects and tells me that running for future office is not out of the question.
We talked about everything from politicians and their social media accounts, ending qualified immunity, the fact that lawmakers haven’t been able to add amendments to bills for five years, even legalizing sex work.
You can watch the entire interview below: