The following is a conversation between Katherine Gehl, Co-Author of The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save our Democracy, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Katherine Gehl, Co-Author of The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save our Democracy

Denver: America’s political system is dysfunctional. We all acknowledge that. But the truth is: it is working exactly how it is designed to work, which isn’t for us, the ordinary citizen. While many of us throw up our arms in despair or simply gripe and complain about it endlessly, my next guest has carefully analyzed the problem and offers solutions to address it.

She is Katherine Gehl, the Co-author of a wonderful and an important new book titled The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Katherine! 

Katherine: Denver, I’m so happy to be talking with you.

Denver: You know, it is certainly a novel approach to analyze our political system as an industry. How did you come upon that idea, Katherine? 

Katherine: Well, it’s really because I, too — well, I was a business person. Still am at heart although I’ve sold my business. So I was very concerned about politics and was engaged in traditional politics, like helping candidates, but totally dissatisfied with results. 

And in 2013, I was overseeing a revision, an update — a dramatic update — of my company’s strategy. I had a food manufacturing company in Wisconsin. And during that time, as I was analyzing my industry of low-acid aseptic dairy products and using the Five Forces that Michael Porter had created at Harvard Business School decades ago, I realized at the exact same time how all of this was applicable to what I was seeing in politics. 

So here’s one half of my brain working on cheese sauce and diet drinks, and then this other half of my brain is having just like, sort of “Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing!” — barriers to entry, collusion between the parties, the value going all to to the rivals, the customers losing. It was just extraordinary and illuminating.

Now, Denver, I just kept that to myself for some period of time: A) I was full time running my business; and then I was full time in a transaction. And it was so obvious to me that I didn’t really explain it that way to other people. I just found it really fascinating.

 Well, after I sold my company, and I got involved in political change full-time, I realized that business people were MIA — missing in action. I realized that they saw politics as some irrational other, like somehow what was going on over there was so dysfunctional and so beyond understanding that they kept their heads down in their businesses, where while you don’t control everything, they knew how to make a difference.

And so I decided I need to draw up… write up a thesis for investment in political philanthropy to bring into the fold business leaders, civic/ philanthropic leaders, by using these terms of competition to make it all comprehensible to them, and most importantly, to make the ROI — the return on investment — of engagement in political innovation evident… because people don’t invest if they don’t see the return, and the return here is a functional government capable of solving problems. But unless we could make that case, nobody would get engaged with any part of their agency, and I’m not just talking dollars — influence, network, resources. And so that’s where it all came from. 

Denver: Well, that is so interesting. And isn’t it funny how innovation is usually a combination of fields coming together… and bringing them together where new ideas spring. 

Katherine: Yes.

Denver: Politics as an industry — that’s a completely different lens, and I think it’s a little amorphous to a lot of us. So how do you define the industry? Who’s included in it? And how big is it?

Katherine: So when we talk about politics as an industry, the best way for listeners/viewers to think about that is the two core companies, Democrats and Republicans, combined with all the other players in the industry. So for example, the suppliers, the campaign talent, the lobbyists, the pollsters, the media, the advertising firms… every organization that makes its living, grows its revenues off of this engagement in the politics industry– both of running and winning campaigns, and then running a process of influencing legislation. So, again, I think for the regular viewer, you just want to think of all those people playing that political game, and that is close enough, meaning that’s how their economic fortunes go up or down; it’s whether they grow that industry or not. 

We took a very analytical look at the political industry for an initial publication that I did with Michael Porter at Harvard Business School back in September of 2017, and it showed the politics industry as being $16 billion annually, which is large. I’m going to tell you that I always think of that as just a tiny number because, effectively, that $16 billion is buying leverage over $4 trillion of government spending. 

Denver: There’s a multiplier in there. No question about it

Katherine: Yes. So it’s big. It’s big, it’s powerful, and it’s also an essential industry. We talk about essential workers, so this is an essential industry, and we can’t opt out. This is what we’ve got, and it’s the gating factor and now, the primary impediment to solving virtually every major issue that our country needs to address. 

Denver: Absolutely. And it’s getting bigger all the time it seems now with think tanks being part of this industry. I remember the day when they used to be nonpartisan. I can’t find hardly any anymore. Well, how does competition in politics differ from competition in your world of business?

Katherine: So there’s competition in politics, and to us watching, it can seem very intense because they’re all yelling at each other, and they’re competing all the time, and they’re actually running a competition.

…politics is the only industry where the players in the industry are the ones who make the rules governing that industry.

Denver: Calling each other names!

Katherine: Yes. Absolutely! And then we see who wins and who loses, and we can count up the seats and count up the votes. So that seems like intense competition, but actually there’s collusion behind the scenes.

Let’s explain. So politics is the only industry where the players in the industry are the ones who make the rules governing that industry. 

Denver: Interesting.

Katherine: When I talk about this in front of business audiences, someone will invariably come up after to say, “There should be an antitrust case against the Democrats and the Republicans because they’re colluding to keep out other competitors.” But interestingly, and not surprising, once you really understand how this industry functions, antitrust rules don’t actually apply to politics

So they apply to the industry I was in; they apply to any other industry that people here watching are engaged in, but not to politics. And the effect of that is that both the Democrats and the Republicans actually want each other to continue to exist, right? Because part of how they raise more money and grow their industry is by having an enemy, someone to compete against. If they actually just won and made the other side go away, nobody would be engaged in the industry anymore because there’d be nothing to fight over. 

Denver: That’s right.

Katherine: So they want to keep that intense competition, but here’s what they don’t want. They don’t want a third party. 

Denver: Got you.

Katherine: They don’t want independence. They don’t want other people taking a share of this pie. And that means that the competition is unhealthy. 

Healthy competition pushes the people, the actors in the industry, the suppliers, the rivals, the distribution channels to deliver value to customers because that’s how they win. But an unhealthy competition, like what we have in the politics industry, they don’t have to deliver value to the customers to win. They only have to deliver value to a tiny bit of the customers, which are party primary voters, special interests, and donors.

…their industry has this unhealthy competition, which means that customers are not well-served. In any other industry, competition is what gets us results, innovation, and accountability — all of which are missing from our politics. 

Denver: Yes, the hard core.

Katherine: And so their industry has this unhealthy competition, which means that customers are not well-served. In any other industry, competition is what gets us results, innovation, and accountability — all of which are missing from our politics. 

So why do we keep improving every other product? We’re either improving the features in our cars or our phones or our washers and dryers, and we’re lowering the costs at the same time because they need to do that to keep the customers. And yet in politics, they can keep going even though the American public has virtually never been more dissatisfied. There’s something fundamentally un-American about it, but it’s also just fundamentally the worst way you could arrange a system to solve what they’re supposed to solve. 

Denver: It is the classic duopoly. There’s no question about it. And it was funny, Katherine, when you mentioned about writing the wrong rules, and I just was thinking about that when you said it. I think of robocalls; it doesn’t apply to politics. I think of their health system, health care; they have their own health system. I think of social security going broke; they have their own retirement system. 

So to your point, they have written all the rules. They can’t even be… probably you have to  be really bad at corruption to be convicted of corruption if you’re a politician, because they have narrowed the definition so much that none of it applies to them. And that is really interesting. 

Katherine: Yes. And Denver, to just emphasize your point, how does that happen that they get to make all of these rules, and we all know they’re wrong, but there’s no real outcry? Because they basically tacitly agree to never mention it. So when they talk about how bad the other side is, they don’t say the other side is bad because they got us this separate healthcare system because they did it together. 

So, they don’t tell on each other. So they both do these bad things, and they don’t tell on each other for those things. And because nobody else can come in the industry, we can’t have a third party because of the barriers to entry that they’ve created.  Then nobody else is incented to tell the truth.

 I’ll give you one example just to add on to yours. Fundraising rules. So the parties create the fundraising rules, and in the last go-around they created together, that it is possible for you Denver, if you would so choose, to give $847,500 to the Democrats this year, if you’d like. And they’ll divide it up in all these parts. 

Denver: I’m going to pass on both parties, OK?

Katherine: OK. And then if you–but let’s say you didn’t pass on the Democrats, you could also give the same amount to the Republicans in that year. But if you wanted to support Amy Smith, Independent candidate, for Senate, not beholden to the duopoly, you’re limited to $5,400 every two years. It’s a 313 times difference! 

If you can’t get any capital…like you’re an entrepreneur, you’re a political entrepreneur. You’re going to be an Independent. You can’t get any capital to get going. How…? That’s such a great way for them to just keep their positions without giving the customers what they need 

Denver: Utterly obscene. Not telling on each other… I’m just thinking of growing up with my siblings, and we should have had that rule because we always told on each other.

Katherine: You’re not very good at that collusion. 

Denver: No. In fact, we accused the others even if they didn’t do it. So look, whether this political system works or not, I guess one way to measure it is by outcomes, and those would be the economic and social outcomes that it produces. So, Katherine, looking over recent history, how have the outcomes of this country compared to those of other nations?

Katherine: Great question. There is a delay in our understanding, as the American public, of our trajectory. So really over these many decades since World War II — well, even before that, but in this post-World War II expansion, America has been ascendant. We have been the leaders and pioneers in quality of life improvement, in economic growth, in technology, innovation, and science, everything. And we still think of ourselves as the leaders, or at least near the top because we still are the richest. 

But the relative nature of our lead has certainly changed, and in many cases, we are no longer even close to the top. My co-author, Michael Porter from Harvard Business School, actually co-founded and leads a project called the Social Progress Index, and that compares the United States to the other liberal democracies with developed economies. There’s about 35, and we come in near the bottom on multiple measures that we once led. We have to come to terms with that reality. 

The same is true for our business competitiveness. Another fabulous project, which I’ve worked a lot with at Harvard Business School, the US Competitiveness Project, and kudos to that group of people that’s led by Michael Porter and Jan Rifkin.  And they have also documented the decline of the United States, both as a place to do business and as a place for employees to do well. We’re just not the best country of opportunity anymore. There can be multiple reasons. Everything’s complicated, but when you look into it, you’ll trace the biggest barrier to our progress to be the federal government, and out of that, Congress. Out of that, Congress.

Denver: So, Katherine, as you went searching for an answer to this dilemma, you went through, let’s say, the five stages of political grief. What were those? 

Katherine: Yes. So there I was, a citizen but paying attention, and I thought, “I better stop complaining. I need to get engaged.” So, essentially — this is in the mid-2000s — I had two choices: Should I get engaged with Democrats? Should I get engaged with Republicans? 

I was from Chicago. I was friends, friendly with then state Senator Barack Obama and tons of people who were engaged with him. I believed in him and I got engaged in that campaign. I spent two years on it. And then when he won and we had the administration, I was, over the next two years, between the inauguration and the midterms, deeply disappointed in what happened in Washington, D.C. I actually believed in the post-partisan, all-come-together government that I thought we were going to get. I was wildly naive. Just wildly naive. In any case, I realized, “Wow! There aren’t candidates you’re going to be able to send… there’s no mythical change candidate that’s going to fix it all from the top.” So, I was like, “I can’t work on candidates. I know what I’ll do. I’ll work on policy.” 

Denver: Ah! There you got it.

Katherine: Yes. I’ll work on policy. I was distressed by the collapse of Simpson-Bowles and the government shutdown and all that stuff. I joined the CEO fiscal leadership council, the fabulous organization called Fix the Debt. And then after I’m engaged in that for a while, I’m like, “Oh! Behind closed doors, everybody knows what we’re supposed to do in Washington.” And they agree we should do that, but there’s no political will. 

“I know. I’ll work on culture!” So I got involved with another great organization called No Labels, and they were working to bring everybody together across the aisle and forge relationships and bipartisan consensus. There was a lot of traction for people to be engaged, and then after a little bit there, I was like, “OK. Everybody says they’re a no-labels person, but when push comes to shove, they vote the same way.” They still go here and here. OK. Not culture, but which, by the way, No Labels has made a lot of adjustments to that political reality over the years, too, and they’re quite a force now. But nonetheless, I said, “Oh, it’s not just: ‘Let’s all come together.'” 

So then I said, “I know!” Fourth stage of grief, “I’ll work on candidates again, but this time I’ll work on Independent candidates, no relation to duopoly.”

Denver: Eureka! That’s got to be it. 

Katherine: Now, we’ll just get new people. And then I realized after a while, “Oh, we can’t get them elected,” which is running straight into these barriers to entry.

Denver: The rules you just talked about a moment ago. 

Katherine: And so then, obtuse as I clearly was, I finally came to: “it’s the system.” So remember in the Clinton campaign of ’92, James Carville had that “It’s the economy, stupid!”?

Denver: I certainly do remember that. 

Katherine: So what happened to me is: it was finally like: “It’s the system, stupid.” That’s me talking to myself, OK? Now, I realize it’s the system. It’s the game. It’s the rules of the game. It is: our political system behaves like a piece of machinery. 

The way we elect people is going to spit out the kind of behavior that we see in Washington, D.C. reliably and ongoingly, and the dismal outcomes that we see unless we alter that machinery, those rules of the game.

Denver: Oh, that’s good. I’m glad you said machinery there. 

Katherine: The way we elect people is going to spit out the kind of behavior that we see in Washington, D.C. reliably and ongoingly, and the dismal outcomes that we see unless we alter that machinery, those rules of the game. And so I’ve never looked back from the system. I’m full-time. I’m all in

Denver:  Before we get to your two recommendations on how to change that system, let me ask you this first. I think a lot of people think to change those rules of the game, you’re going to have to change the Constitution somehow, add an amendment or two or something like that. Is that the case? 

Katherine: It’s not. Now, there’s a process in the Constitution for amendments, and some day people may decide they’d like to have some. I’m a business person. I’m totally about action. Here’s two things I didn’t want to do in this work: I did not want to have a really fascinating analysis of the problem, period. Because so what if we have a new, nice way of understanding what’s wrong? Thinking about it from a competition lens. I only wanted to do that understanding so we could get to solutions. 

And then the second thing I didn’t want to do is have solutions that would theoretically work, but that we couldn’t actually achieve. 

Denver: Got you!

Katherine: What a waste! I don’t want to do that. So everything I recommend is in the nexus of powerful and achievable. So I’m not recommending things that are nice to have, but won’t really change the likelihood that Congress delivers outcomes in the public interest. And so things have to be powerful. They have to change the likelihood of results. And then they have to be achievable. We have to be able to complete these political innovations in the time span of years, not decades.

And one thing I want to quickly say here, Denver, is as I’ve just alluded to: the focus of the work that I do is not about changing who gets elected. It’s about changing what the winners are incented to do, and on whose behalf they’re incented to do it. We could have, under healthy competition, still Republicans, still Democrats. We could have many of the same people. They would be doing different things. So I’m agnostic about Democrats, Republicans, et cetera. I’m agnostic about all of that. What I want is a system where the only way to get re-elected is by having accomplished things in the public interest. 

Denver: You make the point in the book about Perot. Although he didn’t get elected, he did lead to a budget surplus because he was on TV every night with those charts, and then that carried over. So although he did not win the prize, he influenced the person who did. Well, you come up with two wonderful recommendations. Share them with us. 

Katherine: So I talked about machinery a moment ago, Denver. And after we look at competition and say, “This is unhealthy competition,” then we say, “What about the system?  The rules have created these systemic problems that lead to unhealthy competition.”

 And divide that into two areas. First, there’s what we call the elections machinery. So the rules of the game of how we elect and re-elect people. And then there’s legislative machinery, which is the norms, rules, and processes of governing. They’re both completely dysfunctional. They both, as I said before, reliably, like a machine, deliver what we’re seeing. So we have to re-engineer both of them. 

But we’ve got to start with elections machinery. So that’s the one I’d like to focus on here. So how we vote dictates the incentives that are in the minds of our senators and Congress people when they’re deciding how they’re going to vote on a bill, or what bills are going to advance, et cetera. And right now, the primary challenge there is:  the primary, which is to say we have party-controlled primaries. 

They push people further to the left and the right than the voters as a whole really are, but they also push them further to the left and the right than where the solutions are going to be. They make it impossible for the Congress people to focus on the solution… because remember I said behind closed doors, people agree on a lot of things? Here’s the other thing they agree on behind closed doors. “Yes, but that’ll never happen because I would never make it back through my primary as my Republican self. And you know what? My Democratic colleague across the hall, they wouldn’t make it back through their primary either.” So we agree, but we all know we’re not going to do that. 

Denver: Good summary. That’s it. 

Katherine: We’re just not going to do that. So we are staring as a country at the party-controlled primary system and hearing from people that that just means “dead on arrival, dead on arrival, dead on arrival,” on every important issue that we need to address. Then why do we act as if we can’t change it? 

And now getting back to the Constitution. Article One of the Constitution gives the power to the states to make all the rules about the elections, and we can change them at the state level for federal elections at any time. The Constitution is designed for that. It invites us to pay attention and be the authors of the rules of the elections that are governing the behavior. So it’s really incumbent upon us to fulfill the responsibility that’s given to us, the responsibility and the opportunity that’s given to us by the Constitution in Article One to oversee those rules. So we’ve got to get rid of party primaries because they’re the biggest barrier to results. 

And then the second thing we need to do is: we need to open up a space for new competition because competition…like you mentioned, Perot was new competition, and he not only brought new ideas in, but he put pressure on both sides to then deliver balanced budgets because they didn’t want a third-party to get going under Perot. And so who won out of that was Clinton in the election, but it was the American public that won when we had healthy competition. 

So the main reason we don’t have healthy competition is because we have what’s called winner-take-all-elections. They’re plurality elections. Now, let me just explain that. In America, the winner is the person with the most votes. Now, that seems so rational, and we never think about it, and I never thought about it. But then I ended up discovering, learning from other people who long ago figured this out, that what that means is in an election with more than two candidates, someone can win with less than majority support. 

So in a three-way race, you could win with 34%, meaning the other two candidates split 66% between them. That seems undemocratic and not very representative, and it isn’t representative. But the real problem is: that is why we don’t get new competition because new competition, a third in that race that’s usually two, is said to be a spoiler or a wasted vote.

Denver: We hear that all the time. That’s right.

Katherine: So if new competition is always going to spoil the race for the candidate to whom they’re most similar, they’re always going to be pressured to stand down. No one’s going to give them any money. No one wants to support Jill Stein in 2016 because they think she’s going to take votes away from Hillary Clinton. She was from the Green Party. No one wants to support Gary Johnson from the Libertarian party in 2016 because they think he’s going to take votes away from Donald Trump. So you can’t get this healthy competition. 

Denver: Look what happened to Howard Schultz of Starbucks when he tried to get in.  That was short-lived.

Katherine: And it was vicious! And it was vicious by the Democrats because they believe that he would draw enough votes away from the eventual Democratic nominee and hand the election to Trump, and the Republicans would be equally as vicious if they thought the threat was coming from their side. 

So now, here’s the thing. Let’s not stare at that all the time and be frustrated by it. Let’s just fix it. Let’s just fix it. Fix it. Which is to say, let’s get rid of plurality voting, and we replace it with a method called “rank choice voting.” I should say once we get rid of the party primary and we have open top five primaries, then you’ll have five candidates in the general election, and then you rank them all the way from my favorite, “Oh my goodness! I hope this person wins!” to something like “Over my dead body do I want this person I’m ranking in fifth place to win!” 

And then that creates this series of instant runoffs after the polls closed, so that you elect the candidate with majority support — so the candidate with the broadest appeal to the most number of voters. But the most important thing it does for the results that we want, need, and deserve is that rank choice voting gets rid of the spoiler and wasted vote problems. 

So now, we can have new competition, putting pressure on the incumbents, and either the incumbents will change the awful results they currently deliver and then continue to thrive, or they will be replaced by new competition. You cannot– look, I have no problem with Democrats. I have no problem with Republicans. I have no problem with parties. I have no problem with two parties. Here’s what I have a problem with — that the current two are guaranteed to be the only two, regardless of what they do or do not get done on behalf of the American public. That’s the problem. 

So we put these two things together, open “top five primaries,” rank choice voting in the general election. The combination is called “final five voting.” And we implement the final five voting system for elections to Congress by changing the rules in each state, and then we change the incentives that those people in Washington, D.C. in Congress, the Senate and the House, are answering to. And that’s how we get different results. 

Denver: Fantastic. You’re a great storyteller, by the way. I don’t think the duopoly is going to like this at all. So what’s your game plan to get this done? Have you been able to identify champions, or are you targeting specific states, and getting resources you need? How are you going to operationalize this? Or how are you doing that? 

Katherine: This is really interesting. First of all, we, as humans don’t really like change. So it’s shocking, but true that even as things are so bad, people are like, “Oh, change? Oh, maybe that’s going to be worse.” And I keep saying, “Well, what could be worse?” But nonetheless, that’s not how we’re going to be arguing.

Denver: That’s not how we operate. Right. We like the status quo.

Katherine: So people don’t like change. There’s no question that this threatens the existing power structure in the duopoly, but let me give you an example of a truth. The job of a member of the House of Representatives, a junior member, one of 435 people, is not very good. Their only option is behavior in lockstep allegiance to their side of the duopoly. They may have thought they were going to Washington to lead and to solve problems and to figure out how to improve things — 

Denver: “Mr. And Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington” doesn’t exist anymore.

Katherine: No, it doesn’t exist. My point is those jobs aren’t very good. So candidly, if you talk to those House members, after they understand it, they may not be willing to be publicly for it, but they definitely would like to be elected under that system, and have a good job under that system, and be a lot more powerful relative to their leadership than they are. Meaning, their bosses would be the people in their district or their state instead of just the leadership of their party. 

And I always say, “Look, you guys. We’re not getting rid of jobs, right? This is not –, there’s no layoffs. We’re going to have the same number of races. You can all run and win. But now the way to run and win is to solve problems. How cool is that?” It’s actually so much better for virtually everybody in elected office, except for leadership who would lose power, to the people from this situation. 

But nonetheless, here’s what I’ll tell you. Yes, the duopoly will come out against it. The power structure will be against it. The entrenched interests who won’t know how they would manage under a fair system of open competition will be against it. In half the states, you can bypass all those people, and you can put “final five” voting on the ballot as a referendum.

Denver: Citizens can do it, right?

Katherine: Yes. And then the citizens can do it. They can vote it in. 

Now, in the other half of the states and actually in any state, even those with referendums, you can pass legislation, So your state legislature can pass a bill for final five voting, and the governor can sign it, and then that’s how your federal representatives will be elected. 

And here’s what’s interesting about that, Denver. You know, we’re so divided. I want to tell you one thing about which we’re not divided at all, that everybody agrees on: Congress is broken. Everybody agrees. 

Denver: Yes. 90% plus think it’s broken. Yes.

Katherine: It is broken. And that’s across ideology. So let me tell you, we don’t agree if the presidency is broken. We don’t agree if the president is the right one or the wrong one. We don’t agree if our state legislatures are broken, or the governorships are broken or whatever. That tends to go: if your part is in, you like it. But Congress, everybody agrees that’s broken, and we’re right about that. 

And so we actually have the opportunity to go to the state legislatures and say, “Hey. Let’s pass this bill on final five voting and the governor can sign it, and we’ll have this huge accomplishment in our state, a political accomplishment, and we’ll be fixing a real problem with Congress.” And so there’s far more opportunity to get this done than you think at first glance. 

And I think it’s shocking, and it just makes me so happy that in the work that I’ve done over these past years, to discover that my most highly recommended solution, which is final five voting — have five open primaries, rank choice voting during general elections — is also in the scheme of achievability, practically the most achievable thing we could do. That’s extraordinary. 

America was founded on the greatest political innovation of modern times, and political innovation is once again the key to our future. And we can make this happen.

Denver: The sweet spot. That’s what you needed. That sweet spot. 

Katherine: Yes. I just can’t believe that we got those two things. The most powerful and the most achievable? We should go for it. This is what we do as Americans. America was founded on the greatest political innovation of modern times, and political innovation is once again the key to our future. And we can make this happen.

Denver: Let me ask you about the greatest political innovation, that being democracy. And as you know, younger citizens are far less supportive of that form of government. They don’t really buy into the concept. They think that it’s really no better or superior to other forms of government. I think only about 40% of all Americans are satisfied with American democracy, and 43% think that socialism would be good to try on. How does that impact what you’re trying to do?

Katherine: Here’s a truth that I think is helpful for all of us to understand. People, humans — we care about our families. We look at our children, and we want to know that they will have a better life than we had. As our democracy has become incapable of solving problems and delivering results for people, we’ve now had a democracy not combined with results that have people believe their children will have a better life. So if people have to choose between results for their children and people they love in quality of life or democracy, and they can only have one, they’re going to choose results. That’s just the way it works. 

And the point of democracy was yes, all of our amazing ideals of freedom and representation and the rights that we have in a democracy, but the reason that worked is because it was coupled with then this effective government that delivered the results. So we need to keep together both a healthy capitalism with a healthy democracy, all regulated with rules of the game that makes sure that the benefits of democracy and the benefits of capitalism are widely shared, and then people will be for it. 

So those younger people, they just haven’t experienced a democracy which is also delivering results.

Democracy is made by the people. It’s not just that democracy is for the people. It’s made by the people. So we have to change these rules of the game so that we can reconnect democracy with results for citizens. And in so doing, we protect the great American experiment that has delivered so much, and it’s still the best way to go

Denver: They’ve seen all the bad of democracy. It hasn’t been producing.

Katherine: And, of course, having said that, we know that we might reach for something else and then discover that as bad as this is, authoritarianism combined with populism or socialism will deliver less, and also, we’ll lose our democratic ideals and rights. 

I think often of Winston Churchill, who said, “Look. Democracy is the worst form of government out there, except when compared with all the others.” That’s what we need to save. Democracy is made by the people. It’s not just that democracy is for the people. It’s made by the people. So we have to change these rules of the game so that we can reconnect democracy with results for citizens.  And in so doing, we protect the great American experiment that has delivered so much, and it’s still the best way to go

So I say, nonetheless, look, I’m totally realistic. We put in final five voting; we’ll still have lots of things to fix. There won’t be some major utopia. I’m not naive at all like I was back in 2008. It will still be really hard, but what I say to people is, “You know, here’s what we’ve got right now. We have democracy, which is messy and hard, and now we also get bad results. With final five voting, we will have democracy that is messy and hard, but with some good results to show for.” 

Denver: There you go. I’ll buy into that.

Let me close with this. The people — what would you have listeners do, our fellow citizens, do to become part of this movement and help make this change?

Katherine: Thank you for asking that because, in the end, it’s all about action. People who are watching or listening, I recommend two things. First, I really do invite people to buy the book, which is called The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy. 

Denver: Here we go.

Katherine: Thanks much, Denver. And I want to make clear that all the authors’ proceeds, every royalty that comes to me and my co-author Michael Porter, is going right back into a not-for-profit organization that’s working to make these changes a reality. So, by buying the book: A) You’re going to love it. There are fascinatingly interesting stories about how screwed up it is. Also, it puts a lot more depth into what the solution is and how to move that forward. And while doing that, you’ll essentially be making a contribution to this work.

The second thing I invite your viewers to do is to go to my website, which is And here you can engage with us to find out how to match your interest with something that needs doing that suits your needs. 

So we need people who will join campaigns that are starting in all of these states. We need people who will found campaigns in states that don’t yet have them. We need political philanthropists who will fund campaigns for these changes. We call political philanthropists a special interest for the general interest, so that’s the one you want to be a part of. And we need people who will evangelize about these changes because we have to make people aware of this fact. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Denver: No, it doesn’t. And I think in this post-COVID world we’re in right now, we’re heading into, what a perfect time to really take a look at our system and make it better. 

Katherine: Yes. People should now talk, to the degree that you’re going to have any gathering with your family at Thanksgiving or the winter holidays, everybody should now talk about politics because they should talk about political system change. Totally nonpartisan, not a Trojan horse for party advantage, and you can get agreement. And it’s hopeful and it’s doable. It’s like the best thing going.

So be an evangelist, and you’ll have more tools for your evangelism on our website, And again, you can get in contact with us, and we’ll match you up with a campaign in your state that needs leaders, joiners, funders, et cetera. 

Denver: Fantastic. The book is titled The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy. So lucid, so reasoned, exceptionally well-researched, so timely, and very entertaining like our guest. I would urge everybody to pick up a copy. 

Thanks so much for being here today, Katherine. It was a real delight to have you on the program. 

Katherine: Thank you, Denver. Have a wonderful day.

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