By Drew Sutherland ’21
On Tuesday, October 27, U.S. Representative Jim Himes spoke with the Gray Party about modern politics and his life as a representative in Congress.
After some brief technical difficulties, the Zoom meeting began with Rep. Himes speaking about his background in politics. He said that he was always interested in politics ever since high school, but never considered public office. After over 10 years of work experience in New York City, where he worked as a banker and ran a nonprofit that built houses for the poor, he decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. He did not think he would win, yet he was sworn in and has continued serving Connecticut’s fourth congressional district since 2008.
Rep. Himes then spoke about what work as a U.S. Representative entails. Himes currently sits on two major committees, the Financial Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee. The Financial Services Committee deals with the economy of America, while the Intelligence Committee works with the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency to protect the country against issues of national security. A majority of his work is in these committees, as well as debating bills on the House floor and meeting with lobbyists and advocacy groups.
While listening to Rep. Himes speak, there was one thing that I found apparent: his care for his constituents. Rep. Himes represents Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional district, which includes the cities of Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Greenwich. He currently lives in Cos Cob, a neighborhood in Greenwich, from which he catches an early morning train the four days a week he must be in Washington D.C. Rep. Himes said that he “spends more than half of his time in Connecticut” and that his real job is to “represent and respect the constituents, for his primary obligation is the welfare of the people of Connecticut.” He does this often by attending Rotary Club meetings and Eagle Scout ceremonies, as well as merely trying to speak to as many of his constituents as often as possible to learn their perspectives on issues. He also described himself as “socially very liberal, but also business-oriented” due to his district’s major focus on business. Himes considers Connecticut’s Fourth House District a “purple district,” meaning that it contains a balanced mixture of both Democrats and Republicans.
As the conversation ended, the topic turned to partisan politics and modern political debates. Rep. Himes began by stating that the purpose of government is to “make people’s lives better.” He cited the Civil Rights Act and Social Security as examples. He continued to speak about partisanship and the fact that “it’s hard to have a political conversation in America today that doesn’t get heated…politics have become tribalized.” But he continued to give a reason and a new perspective on why modern politics has become this way. Rep. Himes stated, “Our system of government relies on disagreement…compromise is very important.” To paraphrase Himes’ words, the left and right disagree, in order to compromise, which hopefully benefits both parties. However, Himes continued by saying that “President Trump has thrown a wrench into the left-right system. What used to be predictable between left and right has taken a third dimension, and it’s harder to form compromises for these reasons.” To end the conversation, Rep. Himes said that “one of the real crimes in our society is the fact that young people are the least likely to vote.”
Representative Himes’ virtual visit to campus shed a light on a politician’s dedication to their constituents, as well a new perspective of America’s heated two party system.