Future Badger forums tackle free speech, polarization of America

Like many organizations that survived the coronavirus pandemic — at least we think we’re surviving —the Columbia Basin Badger Club is starting to wonder what the future will hold.

Will we simply go back to the way things were? Probably not.

A year ago, we had to postpone what promised to be a great Badger forum on health care out of concern for the safety of our members and guests, many of whom are at high risk for complications of Covid-19.

We thought – as did most folks – that we would be on hold for a couple months. Maybe until July or August.

Little did we know.

What we did know at the time is that we had a firm date for retired Marine Corps general and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis to speak in June. That’s when we discovered Zoom.

Our first virtual Badger Forum had more than 1,100 registrants from all over the globe to hear Mattis discuss leadership in a time of crisis.

Our members have been able to hear directly from – and put questions to – a range of speakers on Zoom that we likely would never have been able to present in person. In addition to Mattis, we heard from former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown, Association of Washington President Kris Johnson and political commentator Peter Wehner, just to name a few.

Logistics and costs involved would have made it impractical to present people of this stature to our audience had it been necessary to bring them here in person.

But we also know that our members also miss the social nature of in-person Badger forums.

And therein lies the challenge.

We’re working to understand the potential to present future forums in a “hybrid” form.

More to come on that.

For now, we’ll continue to present virtual Badger forums on important topics of the day.

This month our topic is “Citizens United: Free Speech or Democracy for Sale?” It’s set for March 18.

Speakers include professor Timothy Kuhner, an expert in campaign finance and constitutional law; Cassidy Faber, an activist who supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United; and State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, who will argue that the U.S. Supreme Court was correct.

On April 15, we’ll get right to the heart of the issue: political divisions in our country that have taken on some very disturbing features in recent years.

In the Badger forum, “Why can’t we just get along? The political polarization of America,” author and professor Seth Masket, director of the University of Denver’s Center on American Politics, will offer insights based on his research.

And that’s not all.

Upcoming Badger forums will look at growth management (or lack thereof) in the Tri-Cities, lessons learned from the pandemic and a close-up look at competition between the U.S. and China.

Check our website, columbiabasinbadgers.com, for details and to register.

Nonmembers pay $5 to attend. Members of the Badger Club still enjoy a $5 discount on each forum and pay nothing when they register. Come join us.

Kirk Williamson is president of the Columbia Basin Badger Club.

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