America’s most interesting development since November is the Republican Party becoming more interesting. Consider the congressman from Grand Rapids, Mich., who occupies the seat once held by Gerald Ford, embodiment of vanilla Republicanism. Justin Amash, 33, may seek the Senate seat being vacated by six-term Democrat Carl Levin, who was elected in 1978, two years before Amash was born.
Michigan supported Barack Obama over native son Mitt Romney by 9.5 points and has elected just one Republican senator since 1966. The governor, however, and nearly all other statewide officers are Republicans, the GOP controls both legislative chambers, and Amash, son of a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother, would benefit from Michigan having the nation’s second-largest Arab American population (almost 200,000).
He absorbed a libertarian understanding of opportunity from the example of his father, who began his very successful business career by buying stuff from small wholesalers and selling it door-to-door. Amash graduated magna cum laude with an economics degree from the University of Michigan, then earned a law degree there. “Some of my views,” he says mildly, “were a little bit different from my Republican peers.” He began reading Friedrich Hayek and other representatives of the Austrian school of economics, and less than four years after he left Ann Arbor, he was in Michigan’s Legislature, where in his one term he cast the only “no” vote on more than 70 bills.