Justin Amash and Bill Huizenga both held town hall meetings in our community on Tuesday. As an advocate for issues of social justice, I decided to attend both meetings. I did not speak but observed much during these meetings.
Justin Amash attracted about 90 people, about fifteen were women, and I believe two were people of color. The crowd was largely welcoming. Attendees asked questions including veteran benefits, VA accountability, immigration reform, the Paris agreement, and global warming among other topics. Rep. Amash tried to answer the questions as best as he could. He was willing to get into specifics, and he came across as warm in nature.
Bill Huizenga had about 25 people in attendance, five or six who were women, two who were immigrants, with the rest being white males. Without the group who was present advocating for immigration reform, along with staff, the number of attendees would have been closer to a dozen people. Holding a town hall meeting at 3:30 pm on a Tuesday perhaps is problematic.
The difference between the two representatives was stark even apart from the attendance. Rep. Justin Amash tends to answer questions in detail. Rep. Bill Huizenga speaks in generalities with most answers. Amash rarely deviates from his strict interpretation of the Constitution; Huizenga rarely deviates from the current party line.
My frustration with both, however, lies in their willingness to put aside their claimed convictions, in favor of continual support for their political positions.
Rep. Amash believes in a unadulterated free market. Yet he forsakes the Orthodox commitment to the marginalized of our society. With his perspective, eventually we will have only two classes of people, those with much wealth and those who are the poor. This is our trajectory. Anything else defies reality. To do such is self-deception for the sake of holding to his libertarian view of the Constitution, which also happens to be the same position his primary financial backers hold.
Rep. Huizenga, a graduate of Calvin College and a member of the Christian Reformed Church, holds a view that politics can be done apart from a deep longing for justice and mercy, both of which are central to his denomination’s theology. The Christian Reformed Church has recently supported the Paris Agreement on climate change. Calling for Immigration reform for our 12 million immigrants who are undocumented are also high priorities for the denomination. Yet, Rep. Huizenga has adopted political positions on these issues that are in complete opposition with his faith affiliation.
For a community that holds integrity as a high value, our two representatives hold moral convictions apart from their political convictions. Among our previous esteemed West Michigan representatives, most notably Vern Ehlers and Paul Henry, this was not the case. Their personal convictions and political convictions went hand it hand. Why we are not expecting the same today is baffling.