Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA9) said he’s concerned with the United States’ deep divisions regarding social issues and also a lack of confidence in myriad institutions, including for him, the performance of President Donald Trump.
Whether it’s Republican/Democrat, city, household or neighborhood viewpoints, Smith — who spoke at the Rotary Club of Mercer Island virtual meeting on Aug. 25 — said it’s crucial to work together to solve problems.
On the political front in guiding people through these uncertain times, “I think the biggest piece of advice is always understand that it’s about working with people and respecting people,” he said. “Be inclusive, listen, and always, to me, the beauty of democracy and the reason democracy works better than any other system, is because it listens to everybody.”
There’s plenty of outrage in American politics, said Smith, who feels that by seeing through the anger and standing side by side to try and reach a positive conclusion can improve the quality of life in communities.
“That’s what I try to do both here and back in Washington, DC,” said Smith, who’s the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, which has passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 59 straight years. They’re aiming for a 60th consecutive approval this year.
Getting the pandemic under control will help the economic crisis, he said, adding that since coronavirus is reported to be stable, there’s good reason to believe that there could be a vaccine coming in the near term. Wearing masks and social distancing has been working, he said.
“Even if the virus disappeared tomorrow, we’d still have an economic problem. We’re not digging our way out of this in a week or a month or two. I think it’s really important that Congress passes another Covid relief package,” Smith said.
Moving on to police reform, Smith said, “We should be moving towards a better sense of what it is to be secure, to have a police force that works more in concert with the community.”
One Rotary member asked Smith to address Slade Gorton’s ability to work across the political parties’ aisles and gain admiration from both sides. Former U.S. Sen. Gorton (R), who passed away on Aug. 19, worked with Smith several times in Congress and was one of several role models who influenced Smith in working across both aisles as well.
Rotary member Liz Kramer is grateful for the types of discussions the club brings to the table.
“I know we’re not supposed to lean politically one way or the other, but what Rotary does very very well, and I’m a relatively new member, is have the conversation to educate each other,” she said of all Rotary members.
Another Rotary member Tracy Drinkwater touched upon the schools situation, which Smith briefly discussed. He said it’s important to eventually reopen schools, and added that the community spread of coronavirus needs to be under control to safely do so.
“I think we all need to be on board with what’s happening in the schools. I’d really like for all of us to realize that it’s not worth any child or staff member’s life to risk anyone getting Covid,” she said. “I fully stand behind our schools being all remote, and as an educator — and an educator of educators — I would like to say that we’re all working really hard to try to make it a better experience than it was in the spring. Although it doesn’t compare to the ideal of in-person learning, it is what we have to deal with right now and we’re going to do our best and we hope that students will do their best as well.”