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Arguments from the Silly Season: Is Amash or Ellis the "No. 1 Conservative"?

Is Congressman Justin Amash: Michigan's No. 1 conservative? And if he is, who cares?

Is Congressman Justin Amash Michigan’s No. 1 conservative?
And if he is, who cares?

I suppose primary battles have to be about something. But in the case of the 3rd Congressional District battle between incumbent Republican Justin Amash and challenger Brian Ellis, it doesn’t appear to be about much.

But if you are interested for some reason in a pissing match over whose “conservative rankings” are more impressive or more legitimate or – best of all – more thoroughly accepted by liberal media “fact checkers,” well then this is the race for you.

In a debate reminiscent of Lloyd Bridges on “Seinfeld,” insisting that he is the “No. 1 Dad,” Amash touts ratings from National Right to Life, the Club for Growth and Freedom Works supposedly showing that he is the “Number One Conservative” in Michigan’s congressional delegation.

Nuh uh, says Ellis, who is happy to cite liberal opinion writers disguised as fact-checkers – including the notorious PolitiFact – to buttress his argument.

The Grand Rapids Press, for some reason, reports more:

PolitiFact found Amash, R-Cascade Township, actually is in a eight-way tie of Michigan’s Republican delegation as those members received 100 percent on the latest National Right to Life voting scorecard. A look into the previous scorecard for legislators shows he had one of the lowest rankings among most Republicans for voting against key measures the organization deemed worthy to support.

Amash spokesman Will Adams took issue with PolitiFact’s findings. On Tuesday, The Washington Post chimed in that Amash’s ad “inflates his conservative cred.”

“Justin has a 100 percent with National Right to Life,” Adams said, “That does, by definition, make him No. 1 in Michigan, and Justin is widely recognized as the top conservative in Michigan.

“If you’re in an eight-way tie, you’re in an eight-way tie for what? No. 1.”

Despite explanations for those votes against the National Right to Life’s agenda — two present and one against — the statewide group, Right to Life of Michigan, pulled its support of Amash in 2012. It since has endorsed Amash’s primary challengerand local businessman, Brian Ellis.

So they’re arguing over interest group rankings of who is the most conservative, and then they’re arguing over the assessment of so-called “fact checkers” as to whether the rankings assigned by the interest groups really do make one or the other the true, real, authentic, official “Number One Conservative.”

Lovely. I’m so happy to live in this district and to have these two choices.

Let me explain to you what this race is really about, because it is certainly not the life-defining matter of who, oh who, is the “Number One Conservative.”

Amash is a libertarian Ron Paul follower who believes everything comes down to personal liberty, and therefore opposes the federal role in almost everything. Almost nothing he supports ever becomes policy, but he is consistent and “principled” and if you like that, you should vote for him.

Ellis is supported by many in the business community who are alarmed by the fact that Amash doesn’t seem to work very well with his congressional colleagues, thus limiting his ability to achieve things that might actually benefit the district and the institutions therein. If these things are important to you, Ellis is probably your guy.

Either way, the race is really a fight over how a congressman should operate, moreso than where he falls on the ideological spectrum. And it certainly isn’t about interest group-generated ideological rankings, as it’s hard to imagine a less relevant factor to help you determine the impact your congressman will actually have.

The things politicians argue about boggle the mind.

Dan Calabrese
Dan Calabrese is editor-in-chief of, the multimedia site owned by former presidential candidate Herman Cain. In addition, he is an accomplished business and trade journalist - and is the author of The Royal Oak Series of Spiritual Thrillers, a three-part series of novels set in Royal Oak, and available for purchase at Dan lives in Grand Rapids.