Prog/Con Panel Discussion


Hosted as part of the Hauenstein Center’s Common Ground Initiative this summit brings together leading scholars and writers of different intellectual traditions and political persuasions, to discuss how the collision of progressivism and conservatism shapes, has shaped and will continue to shape our national identity.

Americans have ample reason to think deeply and critically about the roots of progressivism, conservatism, and the various ways the two have interacted in history. Today, the widening gap between left and right, as well as the fractures inside the Democratic and Republican parties, have caused widespread political confusion and upheaval.

Opportunities for meaningful discussion often devolve into talking-head repartee and triumphalist chest-thumping. From the tiresome melodrama of cable news to the insipid feeds of social media, it has become clear that spending too much time in one’s own echo chamber comes with certain risks: assumptions unquestioned, perceptions unchallenged, conclusions uncomplicated.

In this age of crippling polarization, the time is ripe for a reexamination, and even redefinition, of what it means to be progressive, and what it means to be conservative, in the twenty-first century. Our summit will provide a rigorous setting for national thought leaders to discuss the ways in which progressives and conservatives might share common ground and common cause: historically, culturally, and philosophically.

2021-2022 Progressive/Conservative Summit


A conservative, a progressive, and a libertarian walk onto a stage. They engage in robust discussion. No, that is not a joke. 2020 brought forth issues long plaguing the nation, from the inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to the election conspiracies fueled by polarizing social media platforms, if not politicians themselves. As Americans increasingly write off those they disagree with as “the other” on these and other issues, we lose vital opportunities to seek understanding and find areas of actionable common ground. The gap between left and right continues to swell, and fractures within the Democratic and Republican parties have forced Americans to ask: what’s now, and what’s next for these movements?

The Hauenstein Center, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and the Progressive Women’s Alliance are proud to reconvene for the 2021 Progressive Conservative Summit. Jane Coaston, the host of The Argument podcast, sets the stage for good-faith debate on Friday evening. On Saturday, David French, senior editor at The Dispatch, and Matthew Yglesias, co-founder of Vox, examine what’s now and what’s next for conservatives and progressives alike. Panel sessions include discussions on the 2020 Census and Election results, offering thoughts for the shifting coalitions and cultural clashes among America’s left and right. The Summit concludes with a discussion between French, Yglesias, and Coaston. 

We will continue to offer a digital alternative for all of our events as we consider the health and safety of our members, students, and the community. We strongly encourage higher-risk populations to engage in our events virtually by visiting or call in at US: +1 (929) 205-6099 Webinar ID: 872 2239 4732  to view the live broadcast.


Friday, October 1: 

     7:00 PM      Keynote: Jane Coaston The Importance of Good-faith Debate

Saturday, October 2: 

     9:00 AM      Breakfast and Registration

     10:00 AM     Keynote: David French What's Now and What's Next for Conservatism 

     11:45 AM     Panel: Shifting Coalitions and the Future of the American Electorate
                             How will shifting demographics impact future elections, and what impacts will be had on the legislative process? Join our morning panel as they discuss insights from the 2020 Census and Election.

     1:00 PM      Luncheon Workshop Facilitated by Brian Bowdle and Lisa Perhamus
                             What does active citizenship look like in our democracy? Join a discussion to share why you align where you do politically and what led the person next to you to fall where they do.

     2:30 PM      Keynote: Matthew Yglesias What's Now and What's Next for Progressivism 

     4:15 PM      Panel: Isms--A Cultural Clash of Left and Right
                             Ideology at the root? At a time when democratic norms are pushed in the name of partisan gain, join us as we must seek to understand the underlying philosophies that inform progressivism and conservatism.

     5:30 PM      Public Networking Reception

     7:00 PM      Keynote: Jane Coaston, David French, and Matthew Yglesias Common Ground
                           One nation, indivisible? Join us for the culmination of this year’s Summit as our keynote presenters share the stage for a roundtable discussion exploring opportunities for actionable common ground.

Panelists and Speakers

Keynote Speakers


Jane Coaston is the host of “The Argument.” Previously, she was senior politics reporter at Vox with a focus on conservatism and the GOP. Her work has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, NPR, and in National Review, the Washington Post, the Ringer, and ESPN Magazine, among others. In addition, she is a former resident fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. She attended the University of Michigan, and lives in Washington, D.C. 

David French is a senior editor at The Dispatch and a columnist for Time. A graduate of Harvard Law School, David is a former senior writer for National Review and a former senior fellow at the National Review Institute. He is a former constitutional litigator and a past president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. David is a New York Times bestselling author, and his most recent book, Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation, was released last September. David is a former major in the United States Army Reserve and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. 


Matthew Yglesias is a pioneering political blogger. Since the Internet Dark Ages of 2002, Matthew Yglesias cofounded the popular news website Vox in 2014 where he currently works as a senior correspondent covering politics and economic policy and hosts “The Weeds” podcast twice weekly. He’s known for bringing a combination of humor and analytic rigor to superficially tedious matters ranging from senate procedure to parking regulations to monetary policy, illuminating the most arcane aspects of politics and economics in an accessible way without ever dumbing things down. 

Panel: Shifting Coalitions and the Future of the American Electorate

Moderator: Ruth Kelly served on the Grand Rapids City Commission from 2010-2019.  She has a degree in Political Science from Aquinas College and a Masters in Educational Technology from Grand Valley State University. She is the recipient of the first Gerald R. Ford Leadership Scholarship and served on several city and community boards. Prior to running for election, she worked on both issue and candidate campaign committees including Mayor George Heartwell’s and Mayor Bliss’ campaigns for commission and Mayor.  Having served in a non-partisan elected position she is delighted to moderate a discussion on the future of the American electorate. 

Douglas Koopman, Ph.D. is a professor of political science at Calvin University, with a Ph.D. in American government from the Catholic University of America in Washington. D.C. His academic specialties are American political institutions and religion in American politics. Doug joined the Calvin faculty in 1995 after 15 years of working in national politics. He has interrupted his academic work at times for assignments in politics, government, and higher education leadership. 

Ben Boren is currently the 1st Vice-Chair Affiliates Director for the Libertarian Party of Michigan. He is also the Outreach Director for the Northwest Michigan Libertarian Affiliate. A northern Nevada native, he has spent the last four years living in Charlevoix, Michigan and surrounding areas. 

Kathleen Bruinsma is a Grand Rapids attorney, a former board member of the Progressive Women’s Alliance of West Michigan, and a member of the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees. Ms. Bruinsma received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with honors from Providence College and her Law Degree from the University of Notre Dame. Before joining private law practice, Kathleen was a Legislative Director on Elder Affairs for the City of Boston. She has volunteered for the campaigns of progressive candidates in multiple states since 1986 as an envelope stuffer, field organizer, and voter protection attorney. She and her husband have a son and a daughter.

Panel: Political and Cultural Isms

Moderator: Jeffrey Polet is the author of articles and essays on the founding of America, education, hermeneutical theory, religion, political life, and other topics in American and Continental political theory. He has edited two volumes on religion and American democracy. His writings have appeared in many journals, including Modern Age, The American Conservative, The Hill, The Political Science Reviewer, The Spectator, and First Things.

Micah Watson is a native of California, where he completed his undergraduate degree at U.C. Davis. He earned his M.A. degree in Church-State Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and holds M.A. and doctorate degrees in Politics from Princeton University. He joined the faculty at Calvin College in the fall of 2015, where he served as the William Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar Chair for the 2015-16 year and became the Program Director for Calvin’s new Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) Program. In 2020, he became the Executive Director of the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics and is currently the Paul B. Henry Chair in Political Science. 

Dwayne Tunstall, Ph.D.  is a professor of philosophy at Grand Valley State University. He is the author of two books: Yes, But Not Quite: Encountering Josiah Royce’s Ethico-Religious Insight and Doing Philosophy Personally: Thinking about Metaphysics, Theism, and Antiblack Racism. He has published over twenty journal articles and book chapters on a variety of topics, including diversity in education, race and racial identity, religion, and social philosophy. He has given numerous presentations on these topics at professional conferences, colloquia, and public lectures.

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Page last modified October 1, 2021