What about social issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and gays in the military? Polls show voters have less concern about these issues than the economy, or even terrorism. Huizenga, who is pro-life, says the abortion issue will have to be attacked at the margins for now. He wants to add restrictions on abortion to the health insurance reform law and thinks the old coalition of fiscal and social conservatives that served Ronald Reagan well can be revived.
Having worked in Washington before, Huizenga says he's aware of the disease called "Potomac Fever." How does he intend to inoculate himself against it? By maintaining roots in Western Michigan, he says, and by keeping to a schedule of three days in Washington, four days in his home state.
Has he figured out a way to respond to attacks by Democrats that Republicans only care for the rich? "We have to live our lives in ways that demonstrate compassionate conservatism," he says. Huizenga and his wife are involved in organizations that help the homeless "and other things. My argument is that instead of expecting the federal or state governments to step in and have that as their role, it has to start with me as an individual, my church, my community and I'd better set the example."
Politicians have been setting an example. Unfortunately, for too many, the examples have been bad ones. Perhaps Bill Huizenga, whose background is in small business, will be different. It helps that while he will be a freshman member of Congress, he's not a rookie.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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