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Who Said I’m a Divider, and Not a Uniter?

David Sirota

At various times in my career - as with anyone in the business of making trouble - I have been attacked as a polarizer, a finger-pointer, and/or a divider. But the picture above should tell you, in fact, I am neither. At left is Austan Goolsbee, the University of Chicago economist who is Barack Obama's chief economic adviser. He and I have become friendly over the last few years. Though we have a number of disagreements on some policies, I think we both respect each other, and challenge each other - and through that, we've developed an ongoing dialogue about economic issues that has been rather productive. At right, is Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), an old friend from my time working for his congressional colleague Bernie Sanders. DeFazio, who hails from an Oregon swing district crucial to Obama's performance in that swing state, is one of the most passionate fair trade advocates in the Congress. While I was walking out of the Pepsi center today, I happened upon Goolsbee and then, while we were chatting, saw DeFazio. What a perfect time for a little bridge-building. That's what this picture captures - these two very different political animals meeting each other, and starting to discuss the economic issues that a potential Obama administration would tackle. Goolsbee, I think, offers some hope that a new trade policy can be forged. As I wrote in an newspaper column a few months ago, Goolsbee is one of the few economists who acknowledges that trade deals - as written - are neither "free" nor "fair." They are rigged. Indeed, this is precisely what Goolsbee and DeFazio started discussing. Conventions are often billed as nothing more than overhyped television shows, enlivened by corporate-funded cocktail parties. There's truth to that, but there's also truth to the idea that conventions lubricate political movements by bringing together very different people together for the kind of human interaction that builds working relationships. Professor Goolsbee and the jeans-and-beer Congressman DeFazio couldn't be more different, but getting them to start talking - or even to simply know each other personally - is the kind of thin that make these events valuable.

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David Sirota is an awardwinning investigative journalist and an In These Times senior editor. He served as speech writer for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.
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