Dear Professor Lessig,
It is reported in the news media that you’re forming an exploratory committee to consider seeking the presidency of the United States as a Democrat. While a noble undertaking, you risk undermining the very goal you aim to achieve, the restoration of American democracy.
I have been a critical supporter of yours for years:
- I am a member of your rootstrikers although active in another organization working to amend the Constitution which would then enable Congress and state legislatures to get big money out of politics,
- I cite your essential book, Republic, Lost which I’ve read twice,
- I donated money to your Mayday PAC,
- I established a Facebook page to invite others to donate to your Mayday PAC.
I have also been critical of one of your ideas. When you testified before a Senate subcommittee hearing and advocated for “a series of citizen conventions,” I dismissed the idea as a distraction and extra-constitutional.
As you presented the idea in your book, if elected, you would serve as a ““referendum president,” then resign the office and hand power over to your vice president once you achieve the legalization of democracy via “equal citizenship” in the United States. To force Congress to act on your agenda, i.e., getting big money out of our legally corrupted political system, you would veto all other legislation. While that kind of leverage would make tremendous sense in other periods of history, the urgent need to address climate change makes your strategy irresponsible at best and exceptionally dumb in fact.
In order to establish political equality, where all citizens can contribute equal amounts of money to candidates, parties and PACs, a constitutional amendment must first be passed to abolish the court-created doctrine that money donated to or spent on political campaigns is protected by the First Amendment. While a “referendum president” would, in theory, accelerate the project of amending the Constitution, it would nonetheless take years to pass and ratify. Meanwhile, the climate would continue to warm and threaten major coastal cities if not civilization itself.
You don’t believe that Senator Sanders, who supports a constitutional amendment like this and publicly-financed campaigns, would have a mandate to abolish oligarchy in America, but you’re wrong about that. Senator Sanders is not just running for the White House; he’s waging an unprecedented “political revolution.” His ascendancy to the Presidency would be a mandate to get big money out of politics by that very radical approach he’s using to attain the highest office in the land. Perhaps you should listen to one of his many speeches on the topic. Yes, Professor, leaders can chew gum and walk at the same time. President Sanders would address climate change while working to pass campaign finance legislation.
If you decide to move forward with a candidacy, you would at best divide the progressive left, not much, but possibly just enough to ensure that the nomination for the Democratic Party would be secured by neo-liberal candidates Secretary Clinton or Vice-President Biden should he throw his hat into the ring. If the contest for the Democratic Party nomination plays out that way, if you functionally undermine the political revolution this great nation desperately needs, you would become the subject of widespread and fierce contempt and scorn; and rightly so.
Think about this: do you really want to go down in history as the person responsible for the failure of Senators Sanders’ political revolution?