His Mom Ran Hadassah. His Brother Made ‘Glee.’ Now Evan Falchuk Is Going Into Politics.
The 44-year-old healthcare entrepreneur wants to be Massachusetts’s next governor and maybe start a third-party revolution
Falchuk is in many ways a candidate of this political moment, when healthcare and the ugly partisan fight over healthcare reform are the dominant topic of discussion. When he talks about the limits of contemporary political discourse, he doesn’t have to reach far to illustrate the points he wishes to make. “Take an example from healthcare,” he told me when we met at his office. “The typical political debate becomes, ‘Government should do more,’ or ‘No! The market should do this, keep government out.’ You can be debating this all night long if you want to. It’s a great thing to argue about if you’re in a dorm room. In real life, it’s totally disconnected.”
He spent nearly 15 years at Best Doctors, taking a nine-person specialty operation his father started in the 1980s to help direct patients to medical experts in Boston and turning it into a clearinghouse for helping insurers provide a network of experts for offering second opinions. When Falchuk joined, in 1999—after spending five years in Washington working in securities law—he struck the company’s CEO, David Seligman, as “an old soul.” A year later, with business foundering, Seligman said Falchuk—still just 30—had the vision to imagine what was possible for the firm. “Evan and I were faced with, ‘Do we sell the company, or fix this together?’ We looked each other in the eye and said, ‘We can make it happen,’ and we did,” Seligman told me. “I can see it like it was yesterday.” Today, Best Doctors employs more than 600 people—though when Falchuk left, in July, to focus on his campaign, he drew much of his staff, including Beltz, from the company.
Falchuk talks about voters and their concerns with respect and empathy, like they are consumers making rational choices, rather than a teeming mass of disaffected morons. While others might bemoan low voter turnout as a sign of an apathetic electorate, Falchuk sees it as a sign that the system is broken. “It’s a symptom of a deeper problem,” he explained, “which is people feeling like the political process is not a way for them to be engaged in the civic life of our country. And that’s bad because the political process is the way you should be engaged in civic life.”
Hence the United Independent Party, intimately connected in the candidate’s mind with his run. “You don’t get out of this rut by one election,” Falchuk told me, citing a recent Gallup poll in which 60 percent of American voters declared a desire for a third party. “It’s a cause as much as a candidate running.” Falchuk wants to ensure that even if he doesn’t win the gubernatorial election, he will be able to effect change in the Massachusetts state legislature. This is why he didn’t start by running for a less ambitious office. “If all I wanted to do was get myself elected to some office, of course I could run for city council or state rep. But the goal is to build this movement. The goal is really to change the dialogue.”
Of course, it’s possible that low voter turnout signals something else: satisfaction with the status quo. Massachusetts, unlike Washington, isn’t gripped by partisan gridlock; despite the regular appearance of Republicans in high offices, Democrats have almost total control over the state legislature, which means they get things done—pass budgets, adopt legislation. “Evan is arguing that’s not a good way to run a democracy, that we need a system where everyone has a voice and can have an impact,” said Tim Vercellotti, the director of the Western New England University Polling Institute in Springfield, Mass. “What he has to do is make a case for it.”
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