Common Ground Committee held its eighth public forum on Wednesday, October 11th to a capacity crowd at Middlebury College to “Find Common Ground on Economic Opportunity in the Trump Era.” Panelists featured were former Democratic Congressman Barney Frank (MA), and former Republican Governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief of Staff for George H.W. Bush, John Sununu
The political science department at Middlebury College and Common Ground Committee together with The Christian Science Monitor co-presented the event. Gail Chaddock, the Monitor’s former deputy Washington Political Editor, moderated the event, which was part of Middlebury’s “Critical Conversations” initiative, developed in response to a nationally publicized incident in which student protesters shut down a presentation on campus by conservative commentator Charles Murray last March.
During an engaging discussion, our distinguished panelists agreed:
- That free trade is beneficial but needs to be structured to not leave groups of American workers behind,
- That giving DACA workers a path to citizenship is a moral issue that won’t have a significant economic impact,
- That foreign aid to developing countries is important and needs to be continued,
- That NATO allies are not paying their fair share toward their own defense costs and the United Nations,
- And that corporate tax rates need to be structured to encourage companies to bring back corporate profits that have been kept overseas.
Beyond the policy agreements, the two panelists concurred that American political discourse has broken down and they had a common prescription for repairing it. Most importantly, they both emphasized the importance of free speech, even when it is unpopular or upsetting to others. They urged the Middlebury audience to engage in our existing political process, especially by voting in primaries. If mainstream voters don’t vote in primaries, then candidates with more extreme views make it through to general elections, and further the polarization of politics.