Gehl co-authors study on competition in U.S. politics
Former food CEO is on board of Centrist Project
Wisconsin’s Katherine Gehl has taken her drive to reform American politics to Harvard Business School.
Gehl, the former CEO of her family’s food business, has co-authored a report with economist Michael Porter that dissects “Why Competition In the Politics Industry is Failing America.”
“We didn’t write this report to add to the depressing commentary,” Gehl said of the paper released late Wednesday by the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School.
“We wanted to use it to determine what could be done to substantively change the system for the benefit of the people,” she said. “What we wanted to see come out of it is an understanding that Washington isn’t broken. It’s doing what it’s designed to. It’s not designed for the citizen.”
Gehl and Porter are not disinterested observers.
Gehl is on the board of the Centrist Project, which aims to encourage independents to run for office, and Porter has hosted a fundraiser for the group. She also donated and raised funds for the Campaign Legal Center for its lawsuit against redistricting in Wisconsin.
“The report is about politics but it’s not political,” Gehl said in an interview. “In fact, we are not taking stances that are supporting Republicans vs. Democrats or Democrats vs. Republicans.”
The authors viewed politics through a lens commonly used to analyze industries. They maintain the problem in politics isn’t Democrats or Republicans or the existence of the parties.
“The real problem is the nature of political competition that the current duopoly has created, their failure to deliver solutions that work, and the artificial barriers that are preventing new competition that might better serve the public interest,” they write.
Participants in the politics industry “control the rules of competition,” including access to the ballot and setting electoral districts and legislative rules. As a result, there has been a sharp decline in legislation passed in Congress and “the near extinction of moderates” in the House and Senate.
The authors say the “industry of politics is thriving,” pointing to billions of dollars spent over the last federal election cycle.
They say the two major parties “compete to create and reinforce partisan divisions, not deliver practical solutions. The duopoly appeals to its partisan supporters based on ideology, not policies that work.”
Among the solutions offered by the authors is nonpartisan redistricting and nonpartisan primaries. The top-four candidates would move to the general election, where voters would rank the candidates in order of preference.
The authors also suggest “eliminating partisan control of House and Senate rules and processes,” and reforming money in politics, including providing greater transparency in fundraising and spending.
They also call for opening up competition while waiting for structural reform, including electing three to five centrist, independent U.S. senators “to act as a swing coalition.”
Porter said politics need to be “working in a more constructive way,” to help the country thrive socially and economically.
“What we’ve got now is gridlock,” he said. “We’ve got lots of blockers but nobody is solving anything.”
Michael Porter and Katherine Gehl