While Kevin Deegan-Krause may be one of the newest board members of the Voters Not Politicians Education Fund, he is also one of the longest running VNP volunteers. In addition to serving on the board of the Voters Ed Fund, Kevin is also a member of the policy committee.
Kevin Deegan-Krause bounced around the country and the world before settling in Michigan with his wife Bridget and two kids. As a professor of Political Science at Wayne State University, Kevin has the opportunity to combine his passion for educating students and his research on democracy on comparative politics, democratic institutions, political parties and national identity, with a focus on Central Europe.
I have the best job in the world—I get to teach Wayne State students about things that are really important—the nuts and bolts of politics and our remarkable city of Detroit—and to research democracy around the world.
In his precious free time, Kevin reads and watches science fiction, competes in VNP’s Trivia Nights, and of course continues his pursuit of the democratic holy grail: free, fair and representative democratic elections. It was that pursuit that introduced Kevin to Voters Not Politicians in the early days of the campaign in 2017.
I first encountered VNP in February of 2017 during a Gerrymandering presentation and for me it was love at first sight. I had seen some other groups dip their toe into the fight against Gerrymandering but here was one that was diving in head first!
Kevin has many fond memories of the Proposal 2 campaign. He constructed a 3-foot model of a gerrymandered district entirely out of legos in order to illustrate to voters the problem of partisan gerrymandering. The model attracted a lot of recognition and positive attention, and Kevin knew from his interactions with Michiganders that the campaign was bound for success. When election night finally rolled around in 2018, Kevin was not only celebrating their victory alongside VNP founders and volunteers, he was thinking about the future potential of the movement.
The most meaningful moment was actually on election night 2018 watching Nancy, Jamie, Amelia, and Katie standing together in the center of the room getting ready to make their victory announcement. The sight of those four powerful women about to announce that we had changed the state’s constitution in such an amazing way was for me a profoundly stirring vision of what our politics and our country could be like. As a volunteer the least I can do is to try to take up the challenge and support efforts to continue the work, because we still have a lot to do.
While Kevin knew that more work needed to be done in order to strengthen our state’s democracy, it was unclear to him at the time if VNP would continue to be the agent of change. Many ballot-initiatives dissolve after the campaign, but Kevin is relieved to see VNP make the transition to a permanent organization.
The biggest and most delightful surprise has been VNP’s shift from a strong upstart ballot-issue organization to a strong, permanent good-government organization that plays a key role in anchoring our democratic system. I had seen a lot of ballot-issue groups disappear once they had won or lost the referendum but VNP stayed!
Kevin is a strong ambassador for VNP. Given his profession and extensive research, Kevin has a 30,000 foot view of the state of democracy in the United States and the world. At times, the problems that we face seem intractable, but what VNP has accomplished in a short amount of time gives Kevin hope that we overcome these challenges.
I talk so much about VNP that people around me politely move to other conversations, especially because I am constantly repeating that it is “my civic home.” But it’s true. I feel like equitable representation and now, unfortunately, basic democratic norms are the biggest political challenges of our era without which the other big problems we face cannot be solved. VNP has risen to that challenge and will continue until the needs are met. I hope for that day, and when I worry that we won’t get there, I remember how hard it was to believe in the mid-2010’s that we could actually do something about Gerrymandering, and here we are!
Kevin continues to explore the challenges facing our democracy in his writings and the classroom. His professional work compliments the work that he does for VNP, as an ambassador, volunteer leader, and policy committee member.
In many ways my work with VNP is the most important thing I do (and it dovetails nicely with what I do in the classroom) because nothing that we need to do in our society (I think especially of efforts to make our way of life sustainable and equitable) is going to be possible without a strong democratic institutions. Our leaders must constantly remain accountable both to one another and to the people, and for that to work, we need stronger ethics and public disclosure rules, ways to constrain the impact of money on elections and legislation, and elections that people know to be safe, secure and fair. VNP is working on every one of those issues and takes the long view, which is the most important work we can do.
On Wednesday, May 11, 2022, Kevin will be hosting a special virtual event for VNP monthly sustainers. He will be discussing political polarization with Wayne State University Professor John Corvino.