The Jan. 6 breach and riot at the U.S. Capitol, and the larger effort to overturn the results of the election, have brought new attention to the larger need for political reform — fixing the bugs in the system of democracy, to use a metaphor offered by Jon DeVaan, the former Microsoft engineering leader.
DeVaan has become deeply involved in the political reform movement since retiring from Microsoft in 2013 after more than 36 years at the company. He’s on the board of Represent Us, a bipartisan organization seeking to end corruption in politics.
In recent weeks, he has also served as an informal ombudsman, of sorts, to Microsoft as the company navigated a controversy over its political donations before announcing last week that it would not donate during the 2022 election cycle to members of Congress and other political leaders who who supported efforts to overturn the election.
DeVaan joins my colleague John Cook and me as the guest on this week’s GeekWire Podcast, discussing the events of the past month, the path forward for political reform, and the role that tech companies and other businesses can play in the movement. Below, he shares recommended books, articles and other resources that have informed his understanding of the issues.
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Jon DeVaan: It was my pleasure to speak with Todd and John about democracy reform in the podcast. I mentioned many references that are interesting to anyone who wants to learn more and get involved in the movement. I list those along with others I think are great primers on democracy reform.
- The first is a study done at Princeton about how citizens have nearly zero impact on public policy.
- The second is a Harvard Business School analysis of the “Political Industry” and its bad effect on economic competitiveness:
- The Economist’s ranking of democracy (the USA’s democracy rating has been falling for over a decade): Democracy Index 2020 – Economist Intelligence Unit (eiu.com)
- Dark Money by Jane Mayer – This book outlines the political dynamics that birthed the modern conservative movement and the money strategy that bankrolled it.
- How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt: Why everyone should be afraid of where the USA is right now.
- Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy by Daniel Ziblatt: Why reform of the GOP is urgently needed (or a new center right party)
- On Democracy by Robert A Dahl – This is an academic book but is the best explanation of what democracy is (really self-government in various forms) and why it is the best form of government known so far. This is my philosophical bible on what makes good democracy reform.
Movies – Not all of us have time to read books!
- Dark Money (not related to the book): A deep dive into money’s corrupting influence
- Slay the Dragon: Why gerrymandering is bad and how to fight it.
- Eastpointe: How ranked choice voting helps create better representation.
- RepresentUs: Champions local and state laws that make the political system work for regular people
- Unite America: Champions local and state laws emphasizing independent and reform minded political leaders
- FairVote: Champions ranked choice voting nationwide
- IssueOne: Champions democracy reforms in Congress
- ProtectDemocracy: Champions accountability and prevention of presidential power
- Leadership Now Project: Building a coalition of businesses to champion reform
Groups in WA:
- Fair Vote WA: Championing ranked choice voting in WA
- Fix Democracy First: Champions a host of reforms
- The Sightline Institute: An excellent research group working on democracy reforms and other social issues
Twitter – Follow these people and groups to gain perspective
- Charlotte Hill
- Lee Drutman
- Trevor Potter
- Marc E. Elias
- Heather Cox Richardson
- Teri Kanefield
- Brennan Center
- Evan McMullin
- Vote At Home Institute
Originally published at https://www.geekwire.com/2021/upgrade-democracy-former-microsoft-executive-jon-devaans-primer-political-reform/ on .