I have been a long time admirer of Dr. Lawrence Lessig. I have had the opportunity to listen to him speak in person. I once even applied for a job working for him(I didn't pass a phone interview this guy). So when I heard that he might run for president I was excited. For those of you who have not heard about Lessig's campaign, it is a single issue campaign, campaign finance reform.
His campaign is so single issue he has promised to resign the presidency as soon as he achieves his goal. Personally I'm disappointed as I think he would make a great president. I also understand how off putting it can be to many that he's not committed to the job as president. He views his promise to resign as a statement about how important and difficult he thinks this issue is. Lessig believes with out an absolute mandate that his election would provide, no politician will be able to accomplish campaign finance reform.
My original interest in Lessig was not because of campaign finance reform. It was copyright law. Lessig originally sought out to change copyright law. He was the main force behind Creative Commons Licensing. He argued before the supreme court to overturn a copyright law he believed unconstitutional. After his lawsuit failed he sought legislation that would allow legal publication of orphaned creative works. He found that he could not get anywhere when it came to changing copyright law, because politicians had to pass legislation based off who donated to their campaigns. There were no big donors for his cause, so he started a group called Change Congress, which was eventually renamed to Root Strikers.
Here's an example, from a recent interview where he was asked about education, of the kind of responses we could expect from Lessig if he was allowed to participate in a debate:
"We could radically lower the cost of text books in education, if Congress committed aggressively to openly licensed educational materials. But Congress–especially the Democrats–can’t make that decision without provoking the ire of the copyright industry. In case after case, the decisions Congress must make it must be able to make without fear of financial consequence to itself. But under this system, it can’t, and won’t, until we free Congress from the corruption of this money."
Unfortunately the DNC is keeping Lessig out of the debates by requiring he poll at one percent. That may sound reasonable but the media companies that do the polling won't allow respondents to select Lessig as an option. If anyone mentions his name he is marked as "Other". This may be due to his work in copyright reform, Lessig is not a favorite of much of the media.
I call on the DNC to let Lessig into the debates, and to have more debates. We have several other experienced candidates who deserve to have their voices heard in a policy driven discussion. More debates and more inclusive debates will help all of the candidates. The debates will show case the many practical results oriented policies the party's candidates have to offer. Allow Clinton and the others to show case our solutions, and please allow Lessig to explain how our current system is broken.
* The image associated with this article By gohsuket (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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