When a ‘Bernie bro’ meets a Republican lesbian

Interviewed by Lilly Constance

Last week I spoke with Keegan Goudiss and Sarah Longwell, who participated in CtK.Campfire’s second cohort.

Lilly: What were your first impressions when you met at the retreat lodge?

Keegan: When Sarah showed up, I was a little tipsy and I launched right into my Bernie spiel. She asked for five dollars and taught me an important lesson about government handouts.

Sarah: You’re being sarcastic right now!

Keegan: It was funny because I didn’t know who you were at all when we had that conversation, and then I looked at the bio booklet and thought “Oh, her firm has worked against a number of my clients and we actually have been pitted against each other on a number of cases.” I felt like we saw eye-to-eye in our first conversation on a couple points, and despite disagreeing on some things, I knew she was a good person and that I genuinely enjoyed having a conversation with her. Maybe if I had known who you were going in, I would have been a little more reserved or mad about the work your firm had done.

Sarah: We had a great opening conversation, but I will tell you that if there’s one group of people that I’m still holding a grudge against after the election, it’s the “Bernie Bros.” Meeting Keegan was funny because I’ve got a lot of bones to pick with the Bernie crowd. I had a stereotype in my head about the kind of person who would go “all in” for Bernie Sanders. Keegan actually still fits that stereotype, I just happened to like him more than I thought I might. I think we had a lot of fun during that conversation, and it definitely set the tone for me for the weekend. I thought, “if everybody here is like this guy, this is going to be great.”

Lilly: So how do you think you will continue to be “loyal antagonists” outside of CtK.Campfire?

Keegan: In the future there may be things I’d run past Sarah to get her perspective. I have friends who are Republicans, but I’m usually in a bubble of people who agree with my beliefs. I know Sarah definitely doesn’t think that expanding single payer health care is a good idea, but talking to her in the future about it will open my mind. It’s beneficial to have that input both professionally and personally.

Sarah: Keegan made the good point that when he looked me up, he realized that we work on the opposite sides of issues. When you’re in Washington, you attack the other side. You’re looking for vulnerabilities, and so there’s not a lot of trust there. One of the benefits of having a friendship with Keegan, especially striking it up in the context of something like Campfire where trust is really important, is that I feel like I can talk to him professionally about some of these issues and know that it wouldn’t be used against me. Anybody looking at us would see that we’re very much on opposite sides, but I feel like we can back-channel with trust, which is unusual in Washington.

Lilly: What surprised you the most about the Campfire experience?

Keegan: What surprised me were the components that actually made me challenge how I think about things professionally. I was expecting to meet some really fantastic people who had different perspectives, but I didn’t expect there to be elements like the leadership exercises that asked me to think about how I communicate and how I challenge other people.

Sarah: For me, it was how not focused on policy it was, and how much effort was put into creating personal relationships. I thought we were going to do a lot more talking about policies, but it was really trying to make us know each other as people and friends. I’ve always thought that sitting in a circle and talking about your lives must be something that people on the Left do. They don’t do a whole lot of that on the Right, and so I think part of me was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Keegan: So have you gotten your office to sit in a circle yet?

Sarah: No. NO!

  Sarah and Keegan at CtK.Campfire

Sarah and Keegan at CtK.Campfire