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DAVIDSON: Grateful for a year of affecting change in West Michigan

• Nov 30, 2018 at 3:00 PM

The holiday season is underway. For many of us, this is an opportunity to take stock of the year that was and look forward to the year that will be.

Every year, I give the ultimate thanks for my wife of 24 years and the three great kids we have raised here in West Michigan. I am eternally grateful for having had a childhood filled with support and opportunity, and for parents who, despite making less than the median household income, could afford to send me to college and our family’s significant medical bills. We’re thankful we can offer the same support to our three kids.

This year, I’m also immensely grateful for the opportunity to have run for elected office over the last 18 months. We may have gotten fewer votes than my opponent. At the same time, I feel fortunate for what we achieved even if I won’t be going to Washington.

Here’s what I mean:

Despite the results, tens of thousands of voters across West Michigan were mobilized in the past year and are showing signs that they’ll pay close attention to what Congress does and how the decisions that people like their congressman, Bill Huizenga, make will affect their lives.

I’m grateful that Congress, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans the Senate, can serve as a check and balance on a reckless executive. Unchecked since 2016, the Trump administration has rammed through — or tried to ram through — bad, financially irresponsible and morally offensive policies. Tax giveaways for wealthy Americans that will stick working families with trillions of dollars in debt and cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Health care cuts that will leave tens of millions of Americans at risk, especially those with pre-existing conditions and folks struggling to afford lifesaving medications, so Big Insurance can rake in more profits. Shortsighted trade policies that hurt Michigan farmers. A free pass to corporate polluters, for-profit colleges and predatory lenders. The list is long. And Congress, full of yes men and women, have so far been short on resolve.

Now, Congress can finally begin living up to its oath to defend the Constitution and hold this president, his political cronies and his family accountable for conflicts of interest and potential corruption that benefit themselves, Wall Street billionaires, big banks and powerful lobbyists at the expense of ordinary folks.

I am thankful that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof’s (R-West Olive) disastrous control of the state Senate will come to an end. At a time when politicians cooked up many terrible ideas, Meekhof’s were especially despicable, from putting guns in schools to covering government in more secrecy to transferring money from working folks into the pockets of the wealthy.

Proposal 2 passed, and that’s good. By 2022, our political districts will be redrawn to end partisan and racial gerrymandering that has given some politicians an unfair advantage for nearly a decade. We’ll have a dynamic new governor who played a major role in expanding health care to 680,000 Michiganders, a new secretary of state who is one of the nation’s top experts on making elections more fair, and an openly gay attorney general whose record of fighting for marginalized groups can make Michigan more inclusive.

I’m thankful that 131,621 people voted for me to represent them in Washington, D.C. Although we lost by 12 percent, our 43 percent was the highest percentage a Democrat has received in this district since it was drawn in 1992, and our vote total was the highest ever by a Democrat. I am thankful that we built a grassroots army of volunteers and donors — Republicans, Democrats and independents — never before seen in West Michigan.

This new movement on Michigan’s west coast will have an enduring legacy. Huizenga can no longer take his electoral success for granted and must live up to the title, representative. This requires listening to his constituents, those who voted for him, but especially those who did not.

I am thankful that many in West Michigan now know their congressman receives millions of dollars from corporate PACs and has voted for big banks, billionaires and corporate polluters, directly in opposition to the well-being of his constituents. I am thankful that the Federal Elections Commission has been alerted to his lavish personal spending, and can finally put an end to this potentially illegal activity. The citizens of Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District can closely watch his fundraising and spending and hold him accountable when his votes align with the desires of his corporate donors, and not with those of the people of West Michigan.

I am thankful that despite this president’s unrelenting attacks, we still have a First Amendment that protects the rights of citizens to speak up and the freedom of the press so journalists can continue to hold the powerful accountable. I’m grateful that our local news media, despite shrinking newsrooms and vanishing resources, still serve as the eyes and ears for our community, welcoming diverse voices, and even the thoughts of a vanquished candidate for Congress who wants the best for our community, our families and our future.

I’ve had the good fortune to have heard thousands of stories from folks of all backgrounds in the past year, to have earned the trust of so many, to have met countless ordinary Michiganders who do extraordinary things every day.

Thank you, and may you and your family enjoy the holidays.

About the writer: Dr. Rob Davidson is an emergency physician at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial Hospital in Fremont. He lives in Spring Lake with his wife, Diana, and their three children: Mia, Sam and Ava. He returns as a Tribune community columnist after a hiatus due to being a candidate this year for Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District.

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