Reader’s Forum — Paige Bartkowiak

Revolutions from Revelations

Paige Bartkowiak

Paige (Left) and Katie (Right)

I have known Katie Fahey for over two years, working alongside her at Voters Not Politicians while we hosted events 6 days a week and celebrating her 30th birthday together playing lawn games in her front yard. Katie’s positive attitude and willingness to do hard work makes her a strong leader. Katie also never gives up on people, something which made Voters Not Politicians (VNP) such a success. While Katie’s skill with the quill is more akin to writing speeches from her phone; I agree with Unrigged that both Katie Fahey and Alexander Hamilton are true believers in the power of America and the duty to defend the principles and values which make our country great.

I worked on the VNP campaign in 2018 as the Major Event Coordinator on the Fundraising Team. The stories David shares through Unrigged I saw first hand. I came from a more traditional campaign background and the new model of organizing VNP deployed excited me. I was ready to entrust regular Michiganders to host fundraising events, use a homemade quilt to raise money and revolutionize my traditional view of fundraising into the new grassroots tactics we would use to eventually raise over $16 Million. We saw an injustice in our state and we corrected it.

I saw everyday Michiganders deeply care about a political jargony topic: gerrymandering. I studied Political Science at Alma College and graduated feeling frustrated by the old song of corruption. I welcomed the opportunity to have deep intellectually stimulating conversations about fairness, citizenship and voting. I was able to educate thousands of Michiganders on how the system was intentionally designed to minimize voters voices and protect elected officials. After explaining how the system was flawed I saw Michiganders move beyond blaming the other political party into evaluating the fairness of our system and why election officials seemed to be making choices which served them and their donors, but not us the everyday people. We no longer could stand to the side, we rose up.

I first met David Daley on September 26 2018 at a VNP luncheon event in Ann Arbor. While VNP Volunteers enjoyed lunch at the Detroit Street Filling Station, David spoke about the other democracy warriors he had been visiting around the country, whose stories he shares throughout Unrigged. David spoke about knocking doors with groups and calling residents to whip the vote.

The VNP volunteers were delighted to hear stories of others, just like them, from around the country working to take our democracy back. Dave brought a renewed energy to the VNP crowd and was engaged up to and after our 2018 election win. He also reinforced that what we were doing in Michigan mattered and we were not alone in the fight.

David highlights in chapter five of Unrigged the systemic barriers we at VNP had to face. Including a court case which could have been determined by the preferences of the judges donor base, as opposed to the law. Similar to how the King in Hamilton signs “You’ll be Back” to subtly remind people he is in charge and not to cross him, we knew we were breaking historic power structures and this did not make everyone happy but the politics of the system was more challenging than we had anticipated. Politicians and ‘experts’ confessed they were perplexed with our model but we continued. Unrigged does not highlight every challenge we faced but throughout our time at VNP we took on many long standing organizations and challenged the traditional models. Monied interests have long been powerful but we battled through dark monied attack ads placed to confuse voters. We had the law on our side but the system was not. In Michigan we had to have millions of conversations with voters, fight back against dark money to genuinely engage Michiganders to dismantle just one part of our broken system; gerrymandering. We showed the political system you could turn the playbook upside down and still win.

As the leader of VNP, Katie never gave up on the principle that everyday people have the knowledge and ability to be deeply engaged in the sausage making of democracy. Nothing was too complex to be crowdsourced. Katie found a job for everyone, something Unrigged highlights with the anecdote of a birthing doula who served on the policy committee. Katie and David both use the power of story to bring everyday people into the work of saving our country. Afterall, we all have to live here, so we should all play a part in making it a better place.

Paige and David Daley

In early 2019 when Slay the Dragon premiered at Tribeca Film Festival I was able to meet with David again to get an update on his work. He spoke with excitement and optimism and when he described his new book; I knew I would be an early reader. David has seen the good and the bad of campaigns and has unearthed filthy truths about our democracy. But even to this day he is energized by the work of everyday Americans and remains optimistic. His books should provide any reader with a roadmap for making meaningful change, Unrigged is no different. David shared with us his hopes for this book back in 2019 and now, as I am reading the printed version, I realize the power his words have in allowing readers to understand what symptoms appear when the structure is rigged and laying out a plan forward for how the system can be fixed.

Unrigged shines a light on the dark truths of our country, it confronts us with realities most of us would rather not admit are happening in America. We are founded on principles and values we want to see in our community; yet, our elected officials and public servants are not fulfilling those values. Why? The ugly truth behind Unrigged is a desire for politicians to preserve power. Politicians want to stay elected and one of the ways they do this is by drawing districts that they, or their party could never lose. Gerrymandering is a political weapon that has been used to manipulate voters’ voices into not really mattering. When people are gerrymandered they have no way to hold their elected officials accountable. They cannot be voted out, so the people are left voiceless. But with the 2020 redrawing of the lines, gerrymandering was running out of time and VNP was there to outrun and outlast the self interested politicians fighting to preserve their power.

Unrigged works to show that regular everyday people know this is wrong; that is why there is broad agreement from across the political spectrum on democratic systems reform. Unrigged further shows readers how to take that frustration and anger and do something about it. No longer are we just to complain on social media or simply write a letter to an elected official. Now is the time to put the gloves on and work on our country.

Massachusetts’s redistricting maps of 1812 set by Governor Elbridge Gerry established the practice of politicians packing or cracking voters into districts to ensure they will be ‘elected’ again. In November 2018 the people of Michigan came together, Republic, Democrat and Independent alike to slay the political dragon of undue influence in Michigan. We provoked outrage and built comradery around a nonpartisan solution to gerrymandering. We made political gerrymandering illegal and we are ready to help mobilize millions more Americans. After the win in 2018 Katie and I traveled back to Boston where Governor Elbridge had conducted the first gerrymandering of voters and set out on another journey to size the opportunity we saw to be young, scrappy and hungry yet again.

Our system as a whole needs some major renovating and that is why I now work for The People. Katie and I, along with Cathy Stewart from Independent Voting and our other incredible team members were able to recognize what we did in Michigan mattered, was unique and could be replicated. So we are taking the lessons learned from Unrigged and moving them into other states and applying them to other changes that need to happen in our system. We know this is an endless uphill climb and we need you to join us. To find out more about our work visit to learn how you can bring the much needed change to our country.

Paige Bartkowiak is the Head of National Development for The People. Prior to working for The People, Paige was the Major Fundraising Event Coordinator for Voters Not Politicians, a fundraiser for Senator Debbie Stabenow and a field organizer for Bryan Mielke.

Politics for the People Zoom Call

with Author David Daley

Sunday, May 31st


Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

Leave a Reply