Katherine Gehl (00:00):
Fascinatingly, the key problems are actually in the rules of how we vote, and if we change those, it will automatically make votes more important than money, make voters and citizens more important than special interests, and it can be done through referendums or legislation in the states.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:25):
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, and that’s Farmacy with an F. F-A-R-M-A-C-Y, a place for conversations that matter. If you care about what’s happening in the world today, care about politics, you care about why we can’t get things done in Washington, then this conversation is going to matter to you because it’s with an extraordinary woman who wrote a book with her partner, Michael Porter, called The Politics Industry, which we’re going to talk all about. Katherine, I know her for a long time, both professionally and personally. She’s a business leader, writer, speaker, political innovation, activists.
Dr. Mark Hyman (00:59):
She was president and CEO of Gehl Foods, which is a $250 million high tech food company in Wisconsin. She held many positions in policy and government and industry. She went to Notre Dame and Catholic University and has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in Northwestern, and she is on a mission to change how politics are done. Because she says it’s an industry that is not serving citizens, but by private interests. That is what we need to change clearly now. Welcome, Katherine.
Katherine Gehl (01:34):
Mark, I am so happy to be here, so happy to see you and talk to your viewers.
Dr. Mark Hyman (01:39):
Yeah, thank you. Now, I was trained as a functional medicine doctor, and my goal is to look at the root causes of problems and disease, and it’s what led me to write Food Fix, which was really about the root causes of why my patients were eating food that was making them sick and why we have this food system that needs change. I realized that what you’re doing, what you and Michael are doing, is trying to change the conversation around the politics of what instead of the politics of … to the politics of how, how we govern and how our leaders are elected and where the dysfunction comes from. Because if we don’t deal with it at the root, we can’t begin to solve the big problems we have, whether it’s the food industry or climate change or social injustice. We’re seeing as we’re recording this podcast, George Floyd was recently murdered by the police and there are race riots and riots gone all over the country. There’s incredible instability.
Dr. Mark Hyman (02:37):
We’ve 40 million people out of work, greatest since the Great Depression. We have a complete pandemic that’s locking down our society. We have social unrest, economic and health disparities that existed in this country are being revealed for everybody to see and bear nakedness. Everybody’s wondering, “How did we get here? How do we ended up here?” I think your thinking about this provides a real map. So what led you to write this book? The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy, which just seems like we really need to do right now.
Katherine Gehl (03:12):
Yeah. We really need to do it right now and really we needed to do it years ago, of course, so we wouldn’t ideally have ended up in this place. It’s almost hard to have a conversation in the midst of so much trauma as a country, to have a conversation that’s about process and where we should go from here. Yet I actually want to say I am profoundly grateful to be able to have this conversation in the midst of these tremendously troubling and difficult times, because this is what keeps me going, which is to say I think I know that we as citizens, as Americans, have power of which we may not be fully aware to change some really key issues in our political system which could put us in a better place to address all of the troubling situations that you just described.
Katherine Gehl (04:22):
As I share the emotional distress of this time with everybody around the country, I also am please to say let’s get together and change things so we don’t get here again. Now, to your question though, why did I write this book? Well, it actually is similar to you, which is to say I had issues about, which I was passionate, things that I cared about as a business leader, as a mother, as a citizen, and I was involved in the political system in traditional ways. I worked to help candidates get elected, I worked on policy, I worked on culture and calls for bipartisanship, and eventually, and I can’t believe it took me so long, I ended up realizing that none of those things were making any difference. It wasn’t mattering so much who we elected. They couldn’t fix it. Definitely people can make it worse, but no politician is coming to save us and can really fix the things that need to be fixed.
Katherine Gehl (05:32):
The policies we advocate for so many people agree with them across both sides of the aisle, and yet they don’t vote for them. We don’t get them done, we don’t take action, we don’t deliver results, and eventually, I read an extraordinary book written by a man named Mickey Edwards, a former Republican Congressman, and the book was called The Parties Versus the People. In that book, he basically turned the bulb on for me, which is to say we always talking about Washington isn’t broken. Washington is broken. Sorry, we always say Washington’s broken, and when Mickey said is, “Oh no, it’s not broken. It’s working exactly how it’s designed to work.” I cannot unsee that. Once I saw it’s designed that we’re in, I’ve always been a system’s thinker, which is why it’s so surprising that it took a long time to see it but I think I share that with a lot of Americans. We think politics works differently than everything else we do, but it’s a system and it responds to incentives and people in the politics industry do rational things.
Katherine Gehl (06:38):
Once I saw that, I said I got to delve into this, and then we came up, we were able to find the biggest problem points in the system. After I knew that not only was it the system, but I knew that there were things that we could do that would make a difference. I said, “I’ve got to let my company go. I need to sell that company, and I’m all in on changing the system so that we can get results.” For people, not results for politicians. Results for the country, for Americans.
Dr. Mark Hyman (07:15):
It seems like right now our democracy is threatened more than ever, and we’re seeing the destabilization, polarization, divisiveness, anarchy far right, far left groups. I mean, it’s just unlike anything I’ve ever understood, and I think that there are a lot of things you described in your book about how we got here. I remember being at a lecture at Cleveland Clinic one year where Peter Orszag, who was the director of [crosstalk 00:07:44]
Katherine Gehl (07:45):
Dr. Mark Hyman (07:45):
… Obama, yeah. We have some management budget. He showed us incredible graph of political voting from the ’60s until now in Congress, in the Senate. In the ’60s it was a complete blending, like a Venn diagram, and then it slowly moved apart. So there was really this complete separation. Wat you say in your book, in the work you’ve done with Michael, is to highlight that this is not by accident, that this is by design. How do we get here? How did these structures that lead us to have the inability to put public interest and public health over private profit happen?
Katherine Gehl (08:28):
Yeah. Let me talk about that, and let me first hold up my book and say that this graphic on the book is from that exact slide that Peter Orszag showed you [crosstalk 00:08:39] of voting patterns.
Dr. Mark Hyman (08:40):
Oh, that’s so funny.
Katherine Gehl (08:41):
This is when they overlap him.
Dr. Mark Hyman (08:43):
[crosstalk 00:08:43] That’s exactly right. Yeah.
Katherine Gehl (08:45):
Yep. We both love that visual and know that’s the problem. How did-
Dr. Mark Hyman (08:49):
[crosstalk 00:08:49] ’60s, a lot of stuff that happens. Civil rights happened, Medicare happens, all sorts of social benefit programs happened under Johnson. The Great Society programs. So there was a lot of stuff that actually happened. Even under Nixon, the EPA was formed-
Katherine Gehl (09:05):
Dr. Mark Hyman (09:06):
… [crosstalk 00:09:06] regulations. A lot of stuff that was for the benefit of our citizens and the benefit of our environment that got passed, and now we’re seeing there’s a rolling back to all of that.
Katherine Gehl (09:16):
Yeah. We definitely used to be able to get things done. Let me tell you what is a core problem in our system. We all, in our lives, do the things that we’re rewarded for doing. Here’s how the rewards work in politics. I want you to imagine two circles. Okay? One is elected officials acting in the public interest, and the other is the likelihood that these politicians will get elected and reelected. There should be a connection between those things, which is to say that acting in the public interests should be the thing that makes you get elected and makes you get reelected. But in our existing system, these things are separate. There’s actually no connection between getting things done that need doing for Americans and getting elected. I want to talk about why that’s so. I mean, essentially what the system is right now is if you do what needs doing, if you do your job the way we need you to do your job, you’re likely to lose your job. That’s a completely crazy design. Any organization we worked for that was like that would fail too, right?
Dr. Mark Hyman (10:38):
Katherine Gehl (10:40):
Yeah. So here’s-
Dr. Mark Hyman (10:42):
Can you give an example of how that would look? You’ve got people elected serve in the public interest and who font but they still get elected. How does that work?
Katherine Gehl (10:49):
Yeah. For example, let’s get the fact about that, Congress has about a 10% approval rating, but has over 90% reelection rating, right? It’s a marketplace where the consumer, the customer who’s dissatisfied has no power to buy a different product. Let me step back for a moment. So I want to talk … There’s no connection, right? And that means we don’t get results. Everything’s complex, but I’m going to simplify it here. The most powerful reason why we don’t get results is because we have party primaries. Let’s just think about Congress only for today’s conversation. Right now when we go and elect people, we go vote in a party primary for a Democrat, you vote for the Democrat in the primary. If you’re Republican, you vote for the Republican. The party primary has very low turnout. Usually under 20% of eligible voters turn out in the midterms. The party primary, people may be familiar with this, it tends to push the elected officials further to the right and the left because the people who turn out for the primary, very few, are more ideological than voters as a whole.
Katherine Gehl (12:07):
There’s always that, “Oh, they’re just saying that to make it through the primary, and then they’re going to quote tack to the center.” That doesn’t really happen anymore. But nonetheless, there’s some knowledge that people get pushed to the side in these party primaries. You have to be super far to the right or super far to the left. Now, that’s a problem, what people say to get elected, but much more, the bigger problem is that the influence of the party primary extends to actually governing, to what people do when they’re making a loss. So imagine yourself for a moment as the politician, and you’re in Washington, D.C. and you have an opportunity to vote yes on a bipartisan compromise bill, a landmark piece of legislation, like what you referred to the things we used to do, like civil rights and Medicare and welfare reform and interstate highways, things that we accomplished previously. Well now, when you have a chance to solve one of today’s problems, healthcare, immigration, fiscal debt deficit reduction, the questions that you as the politician ask yourself, maybe one you might ask, “Is this a good idea?”
Katherine Gehl (13:21):
Or you’re going to ask, “Is this the right policy for the country?” Or maybe, “Is this what the majority of my constituents want?” But in fact, you don’t ask yourself any of those questions. You ask yourself, “Am I going to make it back through my next party primary if I vote for this?” And if the answer to that single question is no, and on all the big issues it virtually always is for both sides, then the rational incentive to get reelected dictates that you vote no, and the answers to all the important questions are rendered fundamentally irrelevant by the party primary system. So I talk about the party primary as creating what I call an eye of the needle, so a tiny little eye of the needle through which no problem solving politician can pass. Because problem solving, solutions are complex, and in this diverse society we would need to come together and get some of this and some of that.
Katherine Gehl (14:29):
I’m going to be stereotypical here. If a Democrat can never vote yes for something that has $1 of benefit decrease and a Republican can never vote yes for something that has $1 of tax increase, and never come together to solve anything, they can’t make trade-offs. And if they do and their party leadership doesn’t want them to do that, then in the party primary they’re threatened with a primary. Primary isn’t just a noun anymore. It’s a verb, as in we’re going to primary you, and that means that we’re going to run someone further to your right, if you’re a Republican, and kick you out in the primary, or we’re going to run someone further to the left and kick you out in the democratic primary. So that’s a control mechanism. So we solve nothing.
Dr. Mark Hyman (15:21):
Wow. It’s fascinating because we have I think good people wanting to do good things, but they get paralyzed by not being able to do it, and they’re not actually elected by that many people. There’s so many forces against them, whether it’s special interest, donors, the gerrymandering of districts which redistricts in ways that force things, the voter suppression. I mean, it’s endemic to the system and it seems like both parties are involved in it. I mean, [crosstalk 00:15:52] wasn’t the Democrats who allowed for the gerrymandering and the Republicans utilized it or something like that? I mean, it just seems like a mess. I think for me as a fairly uneducated political student, it seems to me that it’s … You’ve got these large forces at play that are very hard to overcome, and the kinds of changes that you say happened were happening … they were institutionalized within the political system. Like you said, we actually have the system that was designed to work the way it’s working. It wasn’t an accident. It’s not that it’s broken, it’s actually working because it was bit by bit-
Katherine Gehl (16:28):
For some people.
Dr. Mark Hyman (16:29):
It was bit by bit changed to actually allow for this kind of disenfranchisement of the citizen and the empowerment of corporations and special interests and donors who actually are trying to do this. Lawrence Lessig, who is also Harvard, where Michael Porter teaches at the Harvard Business School, you probably know him. He-
Katherine Gehl (16:48):
I know Larry.
Dr. Mark Hyman (16:50):
He wrote a book called America, Compromise, talking about how … the idea that there’s Lesters in America. He did a great TED Talk on it, how there’s very few number of people, about 132 people, that control the majority of the donations that go driving the political process. Whether it’s Soros on the left or the Koch brothers on the right. I mean, you’ve got literally billions of dollars flowing in, and then you also wrote in one of the articles you written with Michael Porter was that when you look all in, in election process, in a cycle, it’s $100 billion flowing in from special interests and donors that are driving the political system. You’ve got the average person on one hand and you’ve got $100 billion on the other hand, how do you actually navigate that? Because it just seems like a lose-lose situation.
Katherine Gehl (17:38):
Yeah. A comment on two things here. First of all, when you talk about the system is built for Democrats and Republicans, built to benefit those in the industry, I want to reinforce that, which is to say we think Democrats and Republicans are always fighting, right? But I want to tell your viewers that the political industrial complex, which is what we call this big system, the two sides of that work really well together in one particular way, and that is to rig the rules of the game behind the scenes to protect themselves jointly from new competition. They want to have just two of them and they don’t want to have any other new competition, and that they do very well. So I often [crosstalk 00:18:29]
Dr. Mark Hyman (18:29):
[crosstalk 00:18:29] monopoly, like a duopoly, right?
Katherine Gehl (18:31):
Yeah, it’s a duopoly. We call it a duopoly. Yeah. Another way of saying that is politics isn’t broken, it’s fixed.
Dr. Mark Hyman (18:37):
Ah, it’s fixed. Yes.
Katherine Gehl (18:40):
Dr. Mark Hyman (18:41):
Fixed [crosstalk 00:18:42]
Katherine Gehl (18:42):
I smile. I mean, we laugh about that, but only for a moment. Here’s what we need to understand about that duopoly, and I’ll come back to Larry Lessig a little later, when you only have two … Remember I just talked about party primaries and I said that’s why we don’t get any results. Now, I want to simplify and say, and the reason there’s no accountability for not getting any results is for one other structural reason. So if you didn’t get results in your job, you get fired. [crosstalk 00:19:15]
Dr. Mark Hyman (19:18):
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:19:19] people didn’t get better, then they wouldn’t come back.
Katherine Gehl (19:19):
Right, they wouldn’t come back to you, exactly. But in politics, as we said before, we don’t seem to be firing anybody in Congress, even though we’re dissatisfied. Well, why are we not firing anybody? Well, because in politics there’s only two choices. So no matter how set dissatisfied you are with what your side is managing to accomplish, you still likely prefer what your side says therefore than what the one other choice says therefore.
Speaker 3 (19:54):
Hi, everyone. Hope you’re enjoying the episode. Before we continue, we have a quick message from Dr.
Dr. Mark Hyman about his new company, Farmacy, and their first product, the 10 Day Reset.
Dr. Mark Hyman (20:03):
Hey, it’s Dr. Hyman. Do you have FLC? What’s FLC? It’s when you feel like crap. It’s a problem that so many people suffer from and often have no idea that it’s not normal, or that you can fix it. I mean, you know the feeling? It’s when you’re super sluggish, your digestion’s off, you can’t think clearly, or you have brain fog or you just feel run down. Can you relate? I know most people can. But the real question is what the heck do we do about it? Well, I hate to break the news, but there’s no magic bullet. FLC isn’t caused by one single thing, so there’s not one single solution.
Dr. Mark Hyman (20:35):
However, there is a system-based approach, a way to tackle the multiple root factors that contribute to FLC, and I call that system the 10 Day Reset. The 10 Day Reset combines food, key lifestyle habits, and targeted supplements to address FLC straight on. It’s a protocol that I’ve used with thousands of my community members to help them get their health back on track. It’s not a magic bullet, it’s not a quick fix. It’s a system that works. If you want to learn more and get your health back on track, click on the button below, or visit getfarmacy.com. That’s getfarmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-C-Y.com.
Speaker 3 (21:10):
Now, back to this week’s episode.
Katherine Gehl (21:12):
So neither side actually has to produce results to stay in power. They just have to be slightly less disliked than the other side. They have to be the lesser of two evils, and that’s why they can continue to ignore the customer who is the voter, and serve the customers who are the donors, the special interests and these other parts of the political industrial complex, which brings me back to Larry Lessig. Money in politics is a problem. No question. However, the answer is not to artificially reduce the amount of money in politics, it is to increase the power of the vote. Because the vote is how we as Americans, that’s like the currency that we use in this industry.
Dr. Mark Hyman (22:07):
It’s like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. She had the power to go home to Kansas all the time. All she did was click her heels three times. Americans don’t vote. I mean, I worked at Cleveland Clinic, and this young African American woman who was a medical assistant who worked with me very closely and we became very friendly and close, and I said, “So you’re going to vote?” This was in the 2018 elections. “You’re going to vote?” She’s like, “No.” I said, “Why aren’t you going to vote?” She says, “Well, it doesn’t matter. My vote doesn’t count. It doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. Nothing changes. The same mall thing.” She really felt disenfranchised, and I think we see this incredibly in America. Most of the democracies, there’s no 70% or more voting turnout. Here it’s dismal. Is it less than 50%? Then in the election that really matter, like you said, the primaries there’s 20%, which means that 80% of the people’s voice is not heard, which doesn’t really seem like a representative democracy anymore.
Dr. Mark Hyman (23:05):
How [crosstalk 00:23:05] that? How do we [crosstalk 00:23:06] apathy, the political apathy and the disenfranchisement that people feel? I mean, I don’t know why, but I always … I was so excited to vote my first presidential election. The guy I voted didn’t win, but I still was really honored to be able to actually vote and wanted to actually make a difference. I think it does sometimes feel like it doesn’t matter, but you still have to go because this is a democracy and people are just so disconnected from that, and yet they complain about how the world is. How do we get people to change their consciousness? Because it’s true. We could do a nonviolent takeover of the government, if we so chose. We can find different candidates, we can elect them, we can fund candidates. I mean, there’s 200 million Americans. Everybody gives $10, that’s $3 billion we have toward elections for president. We could do it, but it’s really not happening.
Katherine Gehl (23:58):
Yeah. Here’s the thing. I actually agree with your colleague at the Cleveland Clinic, who said, “My vote doesn’t matter.” Most votes don’t matter. The only votes that matter right now are in the primary, and it’s only in the primary where you know whether that’s a democratic. If it’s a democratic district, it’s only votes in the democratic primary that make a difference. But here’s, again, instead of trying to get people to turn out to do something that doesn’t make a big difference, let’s change the system so if they turned out it would make a big difference and then they’ll start turning out. Instead of funding get out the vote campaigns when it won’t change anything other than who wins and neither side will give us results, let’s make it matter. Here’s how we do that. So coming back to when I said there’s only two, we have to make it so there’s more than two.
Katherine Gehl (24:52):
Think about everything that the free enterprise system has delivered. Why is our technology so great? Because everybody’s competing to improve the product so that we will buy it. We need to make our politicians compete to deliver results for us, and if they don’t, we need to have another option. We need to be able to say, “Oh no, no, no. If you don’t deliver results for me and you only deliver results for special interests and donors, I’m going to pick someone else.” So we got to get some other people to pick, and the only way we can get new competition in the system is by lowering the barriers to entry. I’ll give a factoid, because there is corruption in the system. Right now the politics industry makes their own rules, and the parties made a rule together that if you want to contribute money to a Democrat or Republican, to the Democratic political party, you can contribute $855,000 every year, Mark, to the Democrats, if you want, and if you want, you can also contribute another $855,000 to the Republicans.
Dr. Mark Hyman (26:06):
Which [crosstalk 00:26:07] do.
Katherine Gehl (26:08):
What did you say?
Dr. Mark Hyman (26:09):
They play both sides against the middle, right? So they-
Katherine Gehl (26:11):
Yeah, some do, right? But that’s what individuals could contribute that. But if you wanted to give to a really brilliant person that you knew who was running as an independent for Congress, you could give that independent, who wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican $5,600 only once every two years. That’s 313 times different. That’s a rule. It keeps out a new competitor that might make voters happier and would put pressure on the other people to actually do some stuff, right?
Dr. Mark Hyman (26:50):
You can’t give 855,000 to a Democratic candidate or Republican candidate. You can give it to the party.
Katherine Gehl (26:56):
Well, it’s a combination what you give to the party, to the candidates and all these party committees. But the party uses that to support their candidates. So yes, you can still give $5,600 to the actual candidate, but that independent candidate has no party to support them then, so they can’t benefit from the other $850,000 essentially. Right? So there’s no one else who can help them run all those additional ads and get out the vote people and give them the technology, give them the data. But nonetheless, it’s really fascinating. That’s a corrupt rule, but the real problem is that we have a system where whenever there’s a new competitor, they’re said to be a spoiler. Have you ever heard of that? The spoiler argument?
Dr. Mark Hyman (27:46):
Katherine Gehl (27:46):
Does that ring a bell at all?
Dr. Mark Hyman (27:47):
Katherine Gehl (27:47):
Okay. Let me tell you what this is, and then we’ll need to get to how we can fix these two things. Remember we have party primary. Now, I’m going to tell you the one other problems, so it’s called the spoiler problem. So what happens is, and let’s use the presidential election as an example, although I focus on fixing Congress, but presidential selection is a good example, you have a Democrat running and you have a Republican running. If someone else wants to run, let’s say as an independent, they want to run to the middle. They want to say, “I’m going to be a new kind of solutions-oriented candidate, and I’m not going to be way over here or way over here.” Well, the parties get very upset about that because they say, “Oh, whoever’s running, you’re going to spoil the election for our candidates.” You might remember-
Dr. Mark Hyman (28:30):
[crosstalk 00:28:30] Right.
Katherine Gehl (28:31):
Yeah, like [inaudible 00:28:32] You might remember Howard Schultz. Super well-respected former CEO of Starbucks, founder of Starbucks, and he considered running as a Democrat about a little more than a year ago and for precedent, and the democratic party was livid because they believed that if he ran he would take just enough votes away from the eventual democratic nominee to spoil the election for the Democrats-
Dr. Mark Hyman (28:58):
[crosstalk 00:28:58] run as an independent, you mean?
Katherine Gehl (28:59):
Yeah. He wanted to run as an independent, so they thought he’d spoiled the election for the Democrat and give the election to Trump. On this other side, if some Republican super successful CEO wanted to run, the Republicans would also be livid because they would believe that that person would steal enough votes away from Trump to spoil the election for Trump and give it to the Democrat. We have to get rid of the spoiler problem because the spoiler problem … because they’re right about that. If a third party comes in, they’re often going to spoil the election for one or the other, and that’s why we never get started. That’s why no new competition happens. That is the single greatest problem, and we can fix that.
Dr. Mark Hyman (29:48):
Katherine Gehl (29:48):
We need to fix the party primary, because we don’t get any results because there’s an eye of the needle [crosstalk 00:29:54]
Dr. Mark Hyman (29:53):
Can anybody vote in the primary? Can anybody vote?
Katherine Gehl (29:57):
Dr. Mark Hyman (29:57):
Can anybody vote in the primary?
Katherine Gehl (29:58):
Well, no, it depends on the state. In about half the states, you can only vote in the primary if you’re registered as a Democrat or Republican. That’s really bad, which is to say if you’re not a party member, you can’t even vote in the election that matters.
Dr. Mark Hyman (30:12):
[crosstalk 00:30:12] checking a box on your thing. If you just check a box saying, “I’m a Democrat,” you can vote? On your vote [crosstalk 00:30:18]
Katherine Gehl (30:18):
In about half the states … All the states have different rules. Some states you have to register. It’s really complicated. Some states it’s much easier, like where I live in Wisconsin, we can vote even if we’re not registered and you can just show up and everybody takes a ballot. But some states make it really hard. But even if we change those rules where everybody can vote easily, it wouldn’t change it if we still had party primaries and we still had no new competition. So if we get rid of party primaries and replace them with something I can talk about, and we get rid of this inability for new competitors to get started, that won’t solve everything. Democracy, it’s messy, it’s hard, et cetera. But we will now have a system where politicians compete to solve the problems of the voters, because the voters will have the most power.
Dr. Mark Hyman (31:12):
Given those changes, people empowered to make those changes, they don’t seem likely to ever happen unless there’s some other way to do it, like a ballot [crosstalk 00:31:22]
Katherine Gehl (31:22):
But the thing we need to change is the way we run our elections, and the constitution … Here, I have a little exhibit. This is the pocket constitution. Okay?
Dr. Mark Hyman (31:35):
Something everybody should read in America, actually.
Katherine Gehl (31:37):
Yeah, right. But look at how short it is. No, everybody thinks that everything is in the constitution, and it turns out that the constitution only has a couple of sentences about how our elections should run. Then the constitution gives all the power over elections to the states, and the states make these rules individually, and what that means is that every state can change the rules that we’ve identified as the biggest problem. What’s totally amazing is in half the states the people can vote to change the rules. They don’t even have to get their state legislature to do it because half of the states have referendums, so they can get a question on the ballot.
Katherine Gehl (32:26):
So you go in and you vote [crosstalk 00:32:28] for the president, your congressperson, and then you vote yes or no on whatever is this ballot question. What I’m going to propose is that we change the rules to be something called final five voting, so people would go in and they would vote. I vote yes on final five voting, and if over 50% of the people vote yes, those rules would be changed. We don’t have to get Congress to change the rules.
Dr. Mark Hyman (32:50):
So citizens can put a petition to get something on a ballot in a referendum. But it require [crosstalk 00:32:55] a level of education and understanding of all this. It’s just hard to imagine people getting, right? I mean, if everybody in America read your book, I think we’d get there, and I think they probably should. But I think how do we … I mean, this is something that I feel like I spent a fair bit of time thinking about, and it’s something that just is all new to me. I think it’s probably needed a lot of people listening.
Katherine Gehl (33:22):
Thank you for spending all this time with me. This is not the kind of time that every citizen is going to have. So you only have to spend this amount of time with enough people who decide to start the campaigns, and then people start the campaigns, which is small group of volunteers. That’s how change happens. Small group of volunteers starts a campaign, and in these states where you need the petition, they stand outside the grocery stores and the polling places and they collect signatures. When they get enough signatures, it gets on the ballot and it happens. Let me say, this is already happening around the country. Maine, the State of Maine had a referendum where they passed one half of what Michael and I propose is the most important thing to do. They pass ranked choice voting. Alaska, the State of Alaska is having a referendum in November on the proposal that we suggest and they collected signatures and it’ll be on their ballot, if all goes well.
Dr. Mark Hyman (34:24):
[crosstalk 00:34:24] 50 state grassroots effort to create these initiatives, you’re getting people on the ground, and when people come out of the polling stations you get them to do it, you’re powerful.
Katherine Gehl (34:34):
Oh yes, and it’s happening.
Dr. Mark Hyman (34:36):
Katherine Gehl (34:36):
I just founded an organization called the Institute for Political Innovation, and the focus of my organization is to take these ideas and help people turn them into action, although I focus a bit on the other side, which is to say there are half the states where you can’t put it on the ballot. So I’m helping people start campaigns to get their legislature to change the rules.
Dr. Mark Hyman (35:02):
Katherine Gehl (35:02):
But then I work collaboratively with other organizations who are helping citizens start the campaigns in the legislative states, and these movements are all out there. There are experts, there’s Katie Fahy, there’s Karen McCormick. I’m just throwing out some names of some ordinary women who have already created and led these victories at the ballot box.
Dr. Mark Hyman (35:26):
[inaudible 00:35:26] The other thing that’s so interesting is how do you get the right people to run? Because it seems like we have an increasingly dumbed down Congress and White House which is terrifying to me. We want the smartest people in the country like you and Michael Porter running the country, not a bunch dimwits who really can’t solve our problems and who are so corrupted by the [inaudible 00:35:49] I mean, I know good people in Congress and they are just so discouraged, and all the good people quit and they’re quitting in droves. I’m like, “No, stay,” and they’re like, “No. This is just … We can’t stay.” It’s such a [crosstalk 00:36:02]
Katherine Gehl (36:01):
Yeah, because who wants to live in a system where there’s no connection between doing what needs doing and the likelihood of getting elected? Who wants to feel that pressure every day? There are still even so amazing people in Congress. Actually, we have leadership on these issues from Chrissy Houlahan, a democratic legislator from Pennsylvania, and Mike Gallagher, a Republican from Wisconsin. They have come out. They actually wrote the forward in our book and they said-
Dr. Mark Hyman (36:30):
Katherine Gehl (36:31):
“It shouldn’t be this way.” We served in the armed forces, We were on the same team. And now all of a sudden we’re serving in Congress out of the same love of country and we’re considered to be opponents. It shouldn’t be that way. So they too want to see things work differently because actually it’s not a great job.
Dr. Mark Hyman (36:48):
Katherine Gehl (36:48):
Not a great job to not be able to get things done that you know need doing.
Dr. Mark Hyman (36:54):
Yeah, so frustrating.
Katherine Gehl (36:55):
Long story short, I’d like to summarize a bit what we talked about so far. We don’t get results, there’s no accountability for getting results, the structures that make it that … We can complain all we want about donors and special interests, but fascinatingly, the key problems are actually in the rules of how we vote, and if we change those, it will automatically make votes more important than money, make voters and citizens more important than special interests, and it can be done through referendums or legislation in the states. So there is no reason for us to feel despondent about our future. There’s a reason to feel concerned, there’s every reason in the world. Things are not going well now, but we have so much more power than we knew, and we can change these things once we put our focus on the right things. I’m happy to tell you quickly what the packages that we should implement.
Dr. Mark Hyman (37:58):
Yeah. I mean, I want to hear that. I mean, what’s really fascinating is you’re really talking about re-engineering the machinery of elections, and you’re saying something that is new to me, which is for most of the time thinking about this, I focus on the problem of money in politics, campaign finance reform and citizens united, and things that have really co-opted government and made it a servant of business and personal large money donors. What you’re saying is something quite different and actually very empowering, is that if we change the rules of engagement about how elections happen, it will change the equation to put voters in charge and not special interests and money. Right? That’s a big paradigm shift.
Katherine Gehl (38:47):
Yeah. It puts up-
Dr. Mark Hyman (38:49):
[crosstalk 00:38:49] right.
Katherine Gehl (38:49):
The other thing that I love about this new system is it puts voters in charge, but it also puts elected officials in charge, meaning once they’re elected, it gives them freedom to be able to work together to craft solutions because they are not artificially forced to adhere to a strict ideology that gets them back through their party primary. So they can work together. I mean, what an amazing concept? They can come up with new ideas instead of the same old tired ideas. I mean, this is so amazing. They’ll have actually better job. It will be better for people, it will be better for them. Who will lose? Well, party leadership loses. They don’t have the same control. But I’m okay with that, are you?
Dr. Mark Hyman (39:45):
Katherine Gehl (39:46):
Dr. Mark Hyman (39:47):
[crosstalk 00:39:47] a good job right now.
Katherine Gehl (39:48):
Yeah. Okay. Self-interested special interests lose, although I would argue that anybody who was in there trying to get, I don’t know, some benefit for their company, some individual line item benefit will be far more benefited by a stable, thriving country than by any individual thing they could carve out of this corrupt and dysfunctional system.
Dr. Mark Hyman (40:19):
Well, that requires a level of longterm thinking. [inaudible 00:40:20]
Katherine Gehl (40:20):
Okay. Let’s not pin our hopes on that. Let’s pin our hopes on-
Dr. Mark Hyman (40:23):
I agree with you.
Katherine Gehl (40:23):
… your viewers, saying that they want to have these campaigns in their states and they can come to my website. I mean, I want people to buy the book, but more than that, I want things to change. So they come to the website, Gehlporter.com. Maybe you can put that up. We can connect people with organizations where they could get these campaigns started, which [crosstalk 00:40:45] would be a campaign for final five voting. What?
Dr. Mark Hyman (40:49):
Katherine Gehl (40:52):
Yes, [crosstalk 00:40:52]
Dr. Mark Hyman (40:52):
I encourage people to go there to look at the book, just to buy the book, to understand these issues and to become an activist in your own community, because what you’re saying, Katherine, is very powerful is that we have more power than we think. We’re just not using it.
Katherine Gehl (41:06):
Yeah. To the degree that people are applying their power, they’re looking to the wrong solution. They’re not focused on the most powerful solution. They’re focused on money and politics. Let me say, if we were able to right now in this crazy system, artificially limit the amount of politics by a factor of 10-
Dr. Mark Hyman (41:31):
Money, you mean?
Katherine Gehl (41:32):
Money, yeah. Limit the amount of money in politics by factor of 10, the only thing we would do if we don’t change the incentives, the connection between results and getting reelected, is we would just make it 10 times cheaper for self-interested money to get the same results. You have to change the incentive for the politicians to deliver results, and that means that you should be not able to get reelected if you haven’t solved problems.
Dr. Mark Hyman (42:01):
Yeah. [inaudible 00:42:02] functional medicine is very similar. You can treat the symptoms all day long, but unless you deal with the root cause, the problems aren’t getting better. I think you know that, I know that, I think it’s sort of self evident, but it’s something that … What is the root cause? For a lot of people I think it’s money in politics. What you’re saying is something really quite different. I mean, it certainly plays a role and it drives the system and it keeps it going, [crosstalk 00:42:27] but it’s not the thing that needs to get fixed to fix the bigger problem of a dysfunctional government.
Katherine Gehl (42:32):
Or it’s not the thing that needs to get fixed first. Also, after we fixed the first thing, maybe you’d have people who would be willing to put rational limits on money in politics. This is interesting. You know how you in functional medicine you have these circles and everything is related, and then you figure out what do you fix first?
Dr. Mark Hyman (42:52):
Katherine Gehl (42:52):
What do you fix first? That’s my message, is that final five voting, which is the name for the change [crosstalk 00:43:01] we need to make is what we need to do first.
Dr. Mark Hyman (43:03):
Explain final five voting.
Katherine Gehl (43:05):
Okay. Final five voting is the name for how we should vote to fix these problems. First of all, with final five voting, we get rid of party primaries. You’ll still have a primary, but it will be a nonpartisan primary. It’s just one ballot, every candidate running, Democrats, Republicans, independents, greens, new party, runs on the same ballot and the top five finishers advance to the general election. Then we have a [crosstalk 00:43:43]
Dr. Mark Hyman (43:43):
We can have a Republican and Democrat? Republican [crosstalk 00:43:43]
Katherine Gehl (43:43):
Oh, you can have two Republicans, two Democrats, and an independent.
Dr. Mark Hyman (43:47):
Or you can have five Democrats or five Republicans depending on the-
Katherine Gehl (43:48):
You could, and if it was a super democratic area, you would have a very dynamic competition between different versions of Democrats. [crosstalk 00:43:55] Not everybody’s the same. There’s no way to reflect the diversity of ideas and solutions and thoughts of the public. Now you got five, you got a great debate in the general election, and then in the general election we make one change, which is we implement something called ranked choice voting. So you see these five candidates? Think of yourself at a cocktail party right before that election. Well, at least if you could be at a cocktail party. Right now, you’d have to be at a Zoom.
Katherine Gehl (44:26):
Okay. So think of yourself, and you’re like, “Oh, those five, I love that one. I want that candidate. I want Amy.” Then you’re like, “Ah, if I can’t get Amy to win, then I’d be fine with this person,” all the way down to your fifth choice, you’re like, “Over my dead body do I want that person to win.” In the ballot, in the actual voting booth, the way that looks is you just mark them in order of preference, first choice, second choice, third, fourth, and fifth. You can mark as many or as few as you want. If you only want to say, “This is my first choice,” no problem. But otherwise you mark all of them, and then when the polls close, all the first place votes are counted. If one of those five candidates has over 50%, so they won a majority, then that’s great, they win.
Katherine Gehl (45:22):
But if out of those five, they’ve split the votes in a way that whoever’s in first place doesn’t have a true majority, only has 20% because everybody got 20%, then whoever came in last is kicked out. Okay? Now, if you had voted for that candidate who came in last your second choice vote is counted instead, and we rerun the race between those four candidates [crosstalk 00:45:53]
Dr. Mark Hyman (45:52):
On paper, not actual race?
Katherine Gehl (45:55):
Right. Not actual rights, sorry. We recount the totals, vote totals. It’s like a series of runoffs, but instead of having to physically come back and vote again, you just cast all your votes at once.
Dr. Mark Hyman (46:09):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s amazing.
Katherine Gehl (46:11):
Then you end up electing the one of the five that gets over 50%, so it’s the person who has the broadest amount of support to the greatest number of voters.
Dr. Mark Hyman (46:26):
And one or two or … yeah.
Katherine Gehl (46:27):
Right. You’ve eliminated that spoiler problem. So if someone comes in and they’re running and they only get 10% and they get kicked out because they’re last, they didn’t spoil the race for someone else. [crosstalk 00:46:43] You can now have new competitors come in with new ideas and that will hold accountable whoever does get elected. So it takes the power of competition to influence what people will do once they’re elected. There were forms that I talk about, so final five voting, which is nonpartisan top five primaries and ranked choice voting in the general election. That reform is not focused on changing who gets elected. It’s focused on changing what they do. Okay. It might change who gets elected, but I’m agnostic about that. I want people [crosstalk 00:47:35] they’re called to when they’re there be working for their entire district, be working for the public interest, be accountable to the public interest and be free to use their talent to solve problems without being guaranteed they’re going to get kicked out and their primary.
Dr. Mark Hyman (47:57):
Yeah, powerful. Powerful.
Katherine Gehl (48:01):
No, it’s still fabulous.
Dr. Mark Hyman (48:02):
The second piece of this aside from re-engineering the election machinery is re-engineering the legislative machinery, which is once they get in, how do you get them to do stuff in a way that’s coherent and that gets debated and it gets voted on and passed? Someone said to me, it was a very deep insider in Washington, he said Washington is designed … the founding fathers designed a Congress to not pass a lot of legislation. The reason that he said was because otherwise we’d have this whipsaw in policies in the United States that would be chaotic and all over the place and changing all the time.
Dr. Mark Hyman (48:40):
That it has to be hard to pass legislation. For all the bills that get submitted, very few actually get passed. Is that true? And what kind of reforms need to happen for the legislative machinery to allow for the kinds of policies that are going to move things forward, whether it’s the things we’ve talked about or whether it’s the food system, which is my passion? How do we fix the policies that are so broken around the food system that are driving all the consequences of chronic disease and climate change and social justice and more? How do we deal with that?
Katherine Gehl (49:13):
Yeah. I think the person who was talking to you about that it’s designed to be slow, I mean, that’s what we always say. But we’ve come to a point where the question is not slow or fast. The question is anything of value or nothing, it’s gridlock or nothing these days. I want to answer that question with a little bit of an example. So let’s go back to the pocket constitution. Okay? Remember I said only a couple sentences about how elections are supposed to be run? Then there’s only a couple paragraphs about how the House and Senate are supposed to be run. Okay? I got an exhibit here for you.
Dr. Mark Hyman (49:48):
It’s a pretty thin book.
Katherine Gehl (49:53):
This. Here we go.
Dr. Mark Hyman (49:54):
Katherine Gehl (49:54):
This is the size of the House rules book.
Dr. Mark Hyman (49:59):
Katherine Gehl (50:00):
Dr. Mark Hyman (50:01):
These are all made up there?
Katherine Gehl (50:02):
Yes, 1500 pages of legislative machinery, and if I add another three reams of paper, I can get the Senate rules book on top of that. We went from what the founders suggested to making up over all these years, this.
Dr. Mark Hyman (50:18):
Three [crosstalk 00:50:19]
Katherine Gehl (50:18):
Now, how do you run your life if this was a set of rules?
Dr. Mark Hyman (50:24):
I mean, the Bible isn’t even that long.
Katherine Gehl (50:25):
It’s crazy. I mean, one would say, “I know. We have some big problems to solve. Let’s come together in a room, and then before we get started, we’ll count off by twos, we’ll divide into warring teams, then we’ll follow these multiple mega sets of rules and then I’m sure we’ll solve something.” I mean, it’ll never happen. Right? That’s totally [inaudible 00:50:55]. So we totally got to change that, and I want to give you and your viewers a bit of an example of how this works. There’s a rule that some people might have heard of, it’s called the Hastert Rule, and-
Dr. Mark Hyman (51:08):
[inaudible 00:51:08] that got kind of [inaudible 00:51:08] for misconduct?
Katherine Gehl (51:08):
He did. He did, yes. That is a tragedy, and the Hastert Rule is a tragedy also. Now, he didn’t make up the Hastert Rule, just he started using it perhaps more than it had been used before and so now it’s all of a sudden called that. Believe it or not, despite these huge number of rules, the Hastert Rule isn’t even written down. But let me tell you, but it’s super powerful. We’re always worried about the filibuster. You know how people are always saying, “Oh, we need to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate?” But very few people talk about the Hastert Rule, but here’s what that is. It’s a well-accepted practice of the speakers of the house, both Democrats and Republicans.
Katherine Gehl (51:51):
Right now people may know that Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House because the Democrats are in charge, and right before that when the Republicans had the majority in the House, Paul Ryan was in charge. Both Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan can use this Hastert Rule. What that means is that the speaker is not going to allow a vote on anything unless a majority of the majority, which is to say a majority of the speaker’s party, wants to vote yes for that bill. So even if the whole entire house would vote to pass it, the speaker won’t let it be voted on.
Dr. Mark Hyman (52:35):
Katherine Gehl (52:35):
One person, one person.
Dr. Mark Hyman (52:38):
Katherine Gehl (52:39):
Unless speakers ignore this practice, which they do from time to time but rarely, even legislation that is supported by a majority of the country-
Dr. Mark Hyman (52:49):
And both parties.
Katherine Gehl (52:51):
… in both parties, often has no chance of passing because there’ll never be a vote. It’s not because it doesn’t have support. It’s because there’ll never be a vote. In our democracy, this one person is going to say no. So let me give you a real life consequences to that. So remember in 2013 we had a government shut down? It was 16 days. We’ve had another one since then that was shorter. But what isn’t well known is that that 16 days shutdown could have been averted entirely, never had to happen, or it could have been ended at any point in time if then House Speaker John Boehner had allowed a vote on a piece of legislation to end the shutdown that the Senate had already passed, and that had majority support in the House from day one, meaning that pretty much all of the Democrats plus a minority of Republicans wanted to vote yes on it right from the start.
Dr. Mark Hyman (53:59):
Katherine Gehl (54:00):
But because not a majority of Republicans wanted to vote yes on it, then under the Hastert Rule Speaker Boehner said they weren’t going to vote on it.
Dr. Mark Hyman (54:10):
Katherine Gehl (54:11):
So the shutdown ended only when Speaker Boehner broke with his party and broke the Hastert Rule and allowed that vote to happen. So effectively, this made up practice, just made up, not in the constitution, cements majority party control in a legislature that is supposed to represent all US citizens. In this particular case, that rule cost our country $24 billion in a 16-day shutdown that 90% of Americans did not want from the start.
Dr. Mark Hyman (54:51):
Yeah, incredible. One example of some of the stuff that needs to get addressed, but that’s going to require the lawmakers to actually address it, which they’re disinclined to do because it protects them in the current model. So unless we clean the House, so to speak.
Katherine Gehl (55:10):
Although, it’s really interesting. Actually, a lot of these rules mostly protect party leadership, and they make the day to day job of the 435 other people quite … I mean, I can’t totally speak for them, but they’ll tell you behind the scenes, as you said, they’re saying it’s not worth it, it’s not working well here. Here’s what happens. We need to change the election rules first, we need to get final five voting, and then when people are elected under final five voting, they will have the freedom to come together to say, “We need to change these rules.” You couldn’t change these rules right now because the elected officials don’t have the power essentially, and there’s not incentive to change these rules now. Whereas if we do the election stuff first, then later we can also add on this legislative piece.
Dr. Mark Hyman (56:13):
Incredible. So God bless you for taking this on because it’s complicated. It seems a little obscure to most people, but it actually is probably among the most important things we need to focus on now if we want to get our democracy back on track, if we want to get our economy back on track, if we want to deal with some of our biggest problems that we’re facing as a nation and globally, which are a lot. I think I’ve been focusing on the food system, but I think this is almost a prerequisite for how do we begin to think differently about how we make stuff happen that matters to people we care about. I think this is really incredible work that you and Michael Porter have done.
Dr. Mark Hyman (56:47):
I think he’s always been a hero of mine because he’s really talked a lot about value in healthcare, which no one was talking about before him, which means we should pay doctors in healthcare systems for results, not just going through the system. So that’s what we’re doing in Washington. We’re not paying for results, we’re paying for just, … I don’t know what we’re paying for, but in healthcare now we have an opportunity to start to shift to value-based care, and that was really from his leadership. So he’s a big hero of mine, you’re a hero of mine. I think this is great work. I think everybody should get a copy of this book. Why don’t you hold up the book for everybody to see? It’s an incredible book.
Dr. Mark Hyman (57:22):
It’s called The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save our Democracy. You should go to Gehlporter.com, that’s G-E-H-Lporter.com. Learn more about the book. You can buy it there, you can join. Actually, maybe you can start an initiative in your community and your state to actually get these ballot measures on and let’s change it. Why not? We have more power than we think. We’re all like Dorothy with ruby red slippers. We never know we had the power, but I think it’s clear from your incredible book that we do. I just encourage people to not be discouraged, not be frustrated or apathetic, but to take charge because right now things are going to pot. My wife and I took a walk this morning, we were talking about where we’re going to go if the country falls apart.
Dr. Mark Hyman (58:05):
We’re going to move to New Zealand. It’s like, “I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to leave my country. I don’t want to leave my home. I want to be here,” but I think there’s moments like this in history where the dysfunction is so great and the breakdown is so great that it’s forcing us to take a look at things, which is not a bad thing. It’s how we got civil rights, it’s how we got a lot of other things happening when things really broke down and people started speaking up. Well, we’re in this horrible mess right now, and a lot of people are suffering. I think it’s a moment of also reckoning and thinking about how we do things differently. I really thank you for being on The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast, Katherine. It’s been an amazing discussion. I’ve learned so much.
Katherine Gehl (58:44):
Amazing. Let me thank you, Mark, for the leadership that you are in this country for the cause of food as medicine. I want to say you have personally made a difference for me and for my health, and I wouldn’t have the energy to be doing this work if it weren’t for having made changes that you advised me to make. So thank you.
Dr. Mark Hyman (59:05):
Thank you, Katherine. That’s very sweet of you to say. So thank you all for listening to The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast. If you love this podcast, please share with your community and friends and family. Leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.