Larry Lessig Goes Even Bigger: May Run For President On The Single Issue Of Money In Politics
from the go-big-or-go-home dept
Last year, Larry Lessig got plenty of attention for his MAYDAY PAC, which was an attempt to raise a bunch of money to back candidates who promised to reform campaign finance laws. The 2014 campaign was supposed to be a “test” to raise around $12 million to see what could be done, with an eventual goal of raising a lot more for the 2016 campaign. Even the 2014 campaign was somewhat audacious (and somewhat misunderstood). And after the 2014 election, many argued that MAYDAY was a failure in that it really failed to have much, if any, impact in the campaigns that it took part in. To me, it seemed a bit premature to make that argument, as the whole point of experimenting and testing is to learn, but in politics everything is a horse race, and there is little in the way of long term thinking or strategy.
Either way, just a few weeks ago Lessig announced that he was handing MAYDAY over to Zephyr Teachout, a well-known professor who used to be director of the Sunlight Foundation — and who caused a political stir last year by doing surprisingly well in running against Andrew Cuomo for governor of NYC. Teachout taking over MAYDAY seemed like a natural fit.
But what of Lessig? His own post mortem on MAYDAY suggested he wasn’t ready to give up the fight, and it appears that the results of the first round of the MAYDAY experiment didn’t scare him off from taking chances on making incredibly big bets. Crazy bets. Because now he’s basically running for President. Sort of. Maybe. You kind of have to watch this video to understand:
For now, Lessig is trying to raise $1 million by Labor Day to see if this is possible. If he doesn’t raise that much, the plan will be shut down (and no one’s money will be taken).
I’m not sure what to make of all of this, frankly. Lessig has been trying for a bunch of moonshot ideas over the past few years — including holding a new Constitutional Convention, among other ideas like MAYDAY and campaign finance reform. You can’t say he isn’t being bold and trying some crazy big strategies in trying to make these things an issue. And I really appreciate and respect Lessig and his way of thinking about all of this. But… something about this latest move feels almost too gimmicky. Yes, to get people to actually take on this issue, perhaps a gimmick is needed. And maybe Lessig is right to keep trying ever more audacious gimmicks until he finds the one that clicks. I’m glad he’s trying and I hope he succeeds — and chances are I’ll donate to this campaign. But it still feels like a gimmick, and it bugs me that we need gimmicks to fix our political system. I’m guessing that Lessig might actually agree with that statement, but argue that there’s no way around this unfortunate fact, so he’s going to play the game. I just wish it didn’t need to happen that way.