Larry Lessig Dumps His Promise To Resign The Presidency In An Attempt To Get People To Take His Campaign Seriously

from the well,-it's-something dept

We've written a few times about Larry Lessig's somewhat wacky campaign for President, which was premised on the idea that it was a "referendum" campaign, where his entire focus would be to push Congress into putting in place serious campaign finance reform and then resigning from the Presidency. As we noted, the whole thing was a bit of a gimmick. And apparently that gimmick hasn't been working too well. Earlier this month, Lessig noted that he was being shut out from the Democratic debates, despite being a Democrat running for President and polling roughly on par with a few of the other nobodies in the campaign. The problem is that the Democratic National Committee apparently chose to ignore the campaign and because it refused to officially "welcome" him to the campaign, pollsters aren't including him and thus he didn't have enough polling data to be invited to the debate.
Here’s how you make the debates: After one declares, a candidate is formally welcomed into the race by the Democratic National Committee. Polling firms, taking a cue from the DNC, include that candidate on their questionnaires. Candidates that poll at 1 percent nationally in at least three separate polls earn an invitation. Simple enough.

That’s how the process typically works for other candidacies — but not for mine. The DNC still has not formally welcomed me into the race — despite my raising money at a faster pace than more than half the pack, and being in the race nearly a full month. Polls, in turn, have taken the hint, only including me sporadically on questionnaires: of the last 10 major polls, only three mentioned my candidacy. One poll recently put me at 1 percent (for comparison, candidates O’Malley, Webb and Chafee, who will each get a podium at the debates, are all currently polling at 0.7 percent or less, according to Real Clear Politcs). Were I actually included on every poll, I would easily make the debates.
Late last week, some were a bit surprised when Lessig suddenly started posting a whole bunch of things about his platform that went way, way beyond campaign finance reform. You could read his take on innovation policy, national security, equality, health care reform, criminal justice reform, education, immigration reform, government surveillance, the environment, the internet, tax reform, "the war on drugs" and the economy. As someone who claimed he was focused on just campaign finance reform and would then resign... it certainly seemed odd.

But, late on Friday (not exactly the best time to announce anything but bad news...) Lessig announced that he's dropping the promise to resign, because while it may have gotten some attention as an initial gimmick, it was also dragging him down (including potentially keeping him out of the debates).
If the Democrats won’t take seriously a candidate with a viable, credible, and professionally managed campaign just because it includes a promise to step aside once the work is done, then fine. You win. I drop that promise.

I am running for president. I am running with the purpose of restoring this democracy. I will make that objective primary. I will do everything possible to make it happen first, by working with Congress to pass fundamental reform first.

After we pass that reform, I will remain as president to make sure the reforms stick. I will work with Congress to assure they are implemented. I will defend them against legislative or legal attack.
In the announcement, Lessig claims that the Democratic National Committee was using the promised resignation as a reason not to "welcome" him to the campaign. He also notes that basically everyone hated the idea:
In a 1,008-person survey about the idea of a referendum presidency, Drew Westen, perhaps the Democrats’ most influential messaging guru, tested both the idea of a campaign focused on fixing our democracy first, and the idea of a president resigning once that work was done.

The resignation idea was a total bust. No one liked it. At all.

But the idea of an outsider making fundamental reform the central issue of the campaign blew the race apart.
I still think the campaign feels a bit gimmicky, but the direct gimmick of the resignation is now gone. Honestly, Lessig's chances remain slim to none, but at the very least I'd love to see him included in the debates, as he'd be a lot more interesting than most of the other candidates. I just wish they'd let him do one of his fancy slide shows.

Filed Under: campaign finance, larry lessig, presidential campaign, referendum campaign

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2015 @ 3:28pm

    Re: Money Doesn't Always Win

    If you dig into the proposed reforms in the Citizen's Equality Act that's being finished, in addition to provisions to deal with campaign finance issues, one of the planks of the legislation is Fairvote's "Ranked Choice Voting Act." This allows for redistricting and the construction of multi-party districts to reduce the number of safe seats.

    Nothing is expected to solve all problems, but this seems to tackle some of your gripes with just addressing campaign finance reform.

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