A Lifetime of Service
Disclaimer: while this particular article focuses on the conservative movement and the tea party, Inspireafire is non-partisan. We understand that there are true patriots fighting for justice and liberty from all political parties.
I first met Norm Hughes in 2010, about the time I felt the need to involve myself in politics. For those of you who’ve undertaken such a venture, you know how easy it is to become frustrated, overburdened, and disheartened. I worked hard to get the people in my party elected, only to soon discover that politicians are all less than perfect. And politics will disappoint you every time.
If not for Norm, my frustration would have lead me to give up my hopes of making any kind of real difference in my government. After hearing his story, I soon realized that we don’t do this for political gain, but because God moves us to fight for justice, not for a political party. And sometimes political parties don’t fight fair.
“It’s the trouble with being a Christian,” Norm told me during a car ride home from a political rally, “the guys who abuse the system make up their rules. We have a much higher standard to live by.”
Norm calls himself a former Republican, though always a conservative. And he’s quick to point out that the truly honest people in Washington and Lansing can sit on either side of the aisle, but they’re woefully outnumbered. “We’re the remnant,” Norm said to a small gathering one night, “just like Israel. We’ve got to carry on while the majority sleep.”
Norm Hughes has been a warrior in the conservative movement since he first knocked on doors for Barry Goldwater. By the time Ronald Reagan came on the scene, Norm was an active participant in Michigan politics. He’d served as Michigan Conservative Party Chair, Michigan Conservative Union Chair, and sat on the board of the American Conservative Union. He was the Michigan Executive Directer of the 1976 Reagan campaign and was a Reagan delegate to the 1976 and 1980 GOP Conventions. Mind you, the incumbent Presidential nominee in 1976 was Gerald Ford, a Michigander. Anyone familiar with state politics will tell you that going against one of your own at a national level is a sure way to lose friends in your party. Norm, however, put his values over party loyalty. He was a conservative through and through. Gerald Ford, he felt, did not share his values. Reagan did. After Reagan lost the primary that year, Norm ran for Congress in 1978 and 1980, defeated both times in a heavy union state that only tolerates moderate Republicans. However, he returned in 1984 as a presidential elector and was selected to put President Reagan’s name into nomination at the meeting of the Electoral College.
During all this time, even after being stonewalled by his own party when he ran for congress, Norm held fast to his faith.
Norm’s hard work for the Reagan Revolution would pay off. In 1982, he was appointed to serve as the Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy and then as Senior Policy Advisor and Associate Director designate for Emergency Operations at FEMA. He talks often about how he cut his own budget in half at the Department of Energy, much to the annoyance of the Washington elite. He even tried to refuse a new desk for his office, stating that the one already there would suit him just fine. He lost that battle. It seems, in Washington, you don’t even get to choose a less elaborate lifestyle.
After Reagan left office, Norm returned to Michigan to settle into his architecture business. Much of his work involved the design and building of churches throughout southern Michigan. He also settled into family life, spending time with his wife, Susan, and two children.
And for the next twenty years, Norm watched as Reagan’s conservative initiatives were slowly eaten by the establishment politicians in both parties. Tired of politics, he chose to concern himself with his business, family, and church.
And then the Tea Party came along. Norm watched quietly, at first, as this new movement quickly gained momentum. Americans had never seen anything like it–millions of people pleading that the U.S. government do less for them. They came from every corner of America. The young, the old, every race, every religion, gathered in groups large and small to protest a government that had grown well beyond its means with no intention of slowing down.
What Norm saw was a resurgence of his beloved conservative movement. And Norm saw one more chance to get involved and retake an America he’d thought forever lost. What he quickly discovered were many well-intentioned, patriotic Americans determined to change what they saw as a disastrous course. And not one of them had a clue as how to accomplish that task. What the tea party needed, Norm realized, were a few old war-horses who’d gone down this trail, taken their bruises, won a few victories, and then gone off to pasture. War horses just like him.
Norm had another concern. The new “conservatives” had a common disclaimer: we don’t want to push the social agenda, we’re only concerned with fiscal responsibility. This, of course, included faith. “You can’t have conservatism without faith,” Norm would say, “a moral grounding is the first point of the entire movement.” While some would argue that you can be moralistic without faith, Norm would illustrate how many public servants who claimed the moral high ground quickly fell away once immersed in the trappings of Washington. “It’s why the founders, almost to a man, insisted on men of faith the lead the country.”
Norm has remained a steadying influence in my political life. And Norm’s steadying influence has been his faith in Jesus Christ, which he states, without shame, in front of tea party activists and elected officials alike. Faith, in fact, is the one issue that brings about true non-partisanship. We’ve all listened to politicians invoke God’s name at a fundraiser or campaign speech, and we’ve all felt that most of these people were only saying what they thought their audience wanted to hear. One never gets that feeling with Norm. He’s one of the few men I’ve known who are absolutely set in their values and resolute in their refusal to waver, even if it means losing elections or losing allies.
I pray that there are many more Norm’s out there, sitting in town hall meetings, men and women who should be happily retired but are willing to roll up their sleeves one more time to defend the nation that they love. Thank you, Norm, for all that you’ve already done and all that you have left to do. God bless you and God bless America.
Norm today, with his granddaughter, living the good life in Michigan.