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Democrats Government United States Politics Technology

Electoral System That Lessig Hopes To Reform Is Keeping Him Out of the Debate (usatoday.com) 239

schwit1 writes: Lessig has raised a million dollars, which is nothing to sneeze at, but he's being given the cold shoulder by the Democrats when it comes to participating in the debates. I think he's got a good argument for being included — he's certainly as serious a candidate as some of the others, and I'm hearing a lot about his campaign.

Why are they keeping Lessig out? According to Lessig, it's for the same reason he wants in: "My view is that if we can get this message [of reform] into the debate it would change the dynamics of this Democratic primary entirely. This issue framed in this way totally blows up the Democratic primary."

Hillary and Bernie, he says, are promising the moon to voters, but can't deliver. Lessig told me, "If I can get on that stage and say the rocket can't get off the ground, and we have to change this dynamic first," the narrative shifts in a way that the leading candidates can't address.

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Electoral System That Lessig Hopes To Reform Is Keeping Him Out of the Debate

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  • Whoops! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @11:58AM (#50710189)

    Oh my, someone told this gent there was going to be a primary race. Sorry, we've only got a coronation scheduled here.

    • Re:Whoops! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:23PM (#50710465)

      Yep. Anyone that doesn't support the narrative will never get within a mile of the debate stage, let alone the election.

      • Isn't that what a party does? They set the narrative (platform), you're on it or you're on your own?

        • Isn't that what a party does? They set the narrative (platform), you're on it or you're on your own?

          Absolutely, but don't you think it crosses a line when a party (either party) actively tries to suppress opposing points of view in ways that are blatantly unfair?

          I don't mean by countering the opposing point of view with better ideas or debate, but by stuff like gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement and suppression, dirty tricks and under-the-table deals?

          In the marketplace of ideas, if your ideas are really superior to the other proposals (or you believe them to be), shouldn't you be happy to have them

        • This is a pretty unique situation, where you can't even SAY there should be more debates without being un-invited.

    • In case anyone still thinks that debates are all about choice and fairness instead of being manufactured by the 2-party system, Lessig is an actual candidate that is not allowed to debate while there is an extra lectern [go.com] in case Biden (who is not a candidate) decides to stop by.

      And, in case anyone is willing to blame CNN for that instead of the 2 parties, if the networks do not follow the rules set out by the 2 parties then they don't get to host the debate at all. The rules are not written by the debate ho

      • There is an easy fix the to Two Party system. Parties are only allowed one nomination for Primary, and primaries are completely (non-partisan) open.

        This means that the party must present its best candidate (and only one) at the primary. Why should the American voter be forced to pay for a partisan election? Shouldn't the party pay for electing its own candidate?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Obfuscant ( 592200 )

          Parties are only allowed one nomination for Primary, and primaries are completely (non-partisan) open.

          The PURPOSE and REASON for a primary is for the parties to select the candidate they put forward for the general election. Limit the primaries to one candidate for each party, and allow everyone to vote for anyone, and you need to explain how this differs from the general election. If you want to eliminate primaries altogether, just say so.

          And that doesn't answer the question "why should Democrats be allowed to select the Republican candidate and vice versa?" Why should people who deliberately choose no p

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:02PM (#50710241)

    It's the Democrat Party and the media that is keeping him out of the debates. The Electoral System has nothing to do with it.

    • by aaron4801 ( 3007881 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:11PM (#50710351)
      Yes, this is important. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are not public entities, they are private groups formed and populated by people with agendas. If I'm a registered Socialist, the Democratic party has no obligation to let me run on their ticket or participate in their debates. The interests don't necessarily align.
      Lessig isn't a Socialist, but is running on a platform of blowing up the system. Why on Earth would an establishment player want to support that platform?
      He'd get farther by using the cash to start blowing holes in the notion that the US must only have two parties. Granted, he wouldn't get very far that way, either, but until voters give up the idea that we always have to choose between the lesser of two evils, that's all we'll ever end up with.
      • Yes, this is important. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are not public entities, they are private groups formed and populated by people with agendas. If I'm a registered Socialist, the Democratic party has no obligation to let me run on their ticket or participate in their debates. The interests don't necessarily align.

        Lessig isn't a Socialist, but is running on a platform of blowing up the system. Why on Earth would an establishment player want to support that platform?

        He'd get farther by using the cash to start blowing holes in the notion that the US must only have two parties. Granted, he wouldn't get very far that way, either, but until voters give up the idea that we always have to choose between the lesser of two evils, that's all we'll ever end up with.

        Except there aren't two parties; there are two factions of what is essentially one party. The USA is effectively a single-party state.

        Like you said, the two 'parties' are not public entities, they are private groups. Those private groups play out a charade of opposition but they are run by the same forces behind the scene. If they were public entities there might be some transparency in this and it'd be really obvious that its a single party. But there isn't and there won't be.

        • by sconeu ( 64226 )

          Like you said, the two 'parties' are not public entities, they are private groups

          If they are private groups, then why do my tax dollars fund their internal popularity contests (aka primary elections)?

          If they ae private groups, then let them pay for their own elections.

        • But that has nothing to do with America, but how every two party system ends up, when all is said and done. It's the natural result of how representatives are selected.

          This is even easier to see in some European systems that allow for more than 2 parties, but are heavily biased towards having two parties and a bunch of also rans. We get to see how the major parties, who pretend to be in opposition with each other, find themselves in agreement when it comes to electoral reform.

          Major changes occur only when t

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          xcept there aren't two parties; there are two factions of what is essentially one party. The USA is effectively a single-party state.

          This party even has a name: the Donor Party. The big money-donors give to both "sides", to insure lack of disruption to the current pay-for-play rules, and that's the only politics that matter.

          The race to replace Boehner as Speaker has made this quite open, with the call for Dems to join in to support the establishment, and openly have a Donor Party speaker instead of a disruptive, conservative speaker. The GOP primary is sharply divided between the Donor Party candidates and the "never held office" candi

      • He'd get farther by using the cash to start blowing holes in the notion that the US must only have two parties.

        Unfortunately, the notion that the US must only have two parties is built into the system. When all elections are single-position first-past-the-post affairs, having only two parties becomes the only viable configuration. The US has had changes in what two parties were viable, but since George Washington, it's always had two parties. There's a reason for that.

        • The UK has a first-past-the-post system had had a coalition government between 2010-2015. It has also seen the complete wipeout of the two main parties in Scotland in favour of a third nationalist party.

          The idea that a two-party system under FPTP is inevitable, is not backed by the facts.

          • The UK has a first-past-the-post system had had a coalition government between 2010-2015.

            The current situation is not stable, and will not last. The UK has had a two-party system for some two hundred years now, going from Tory/Whig, to Conservative/Whig, to Conservative/Liberal, to Conservative/Labour. In all that time, the late coalition government was only the second coalition government ever formed (there were also two National Unity governments in the 1930s).

          • This is not refuting his claim at all. He is saying that a 3rd party can develop, but only at the expense of one of the existing parties. Eventually, FPTP always re-establishes an equilibrium of 2 parties. 5 years of transition is not evidence of being able to support a 3rd party. If you have long term (multiple election cycles) showing sustained greater than 2 party FPTP elections, please provide that evidence.

        • Unfortunately, the notion that the US must only have two parties is built into the system.

          Actually, it isn't. It is the result of tradition and party politics. If the Primary Election was non-partisan, and parties could only present one candidate, this whole fake debate thing we have going on right now wouldn't even exist. The (R) party could put up a traditional party loyalist, the (D) party could put up Hillary and the Tea Party, Socialists, Libertarians, Green .... could all put forth their candidates and we could have a REAL debate about what direction our country is going in.

          Instead, we hav

      • He'd get farther by using the cash to start blowing holes in the notion that the US must only have two parties.

        Sadly he would probably get farther using the cash to get people in a position to change things blown

    • The democrat and republican parties are the gatekeepers to the electoral system. The debates used to be run by the league of women voters, now they are run by the 2 dominant parties themselves.

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:50PM (#50710783) Homepage Journal

      It's largely the media, who themselves are following the lead of the public, and it's because he's just not that interesting. The public isn't showing any massive interest, and he's not an established politician who's due coverage simply by virtue of being a congressman, therefore he doesn't get covered.

      The Democratic party doesn't really care who runs as long as (1) they don't topple an establishment candidate and (2) they don't make the Dems look like loonies.

      Is Lessig charismatic and well known enough to get any interest beyond coverage in some nerd sites? No. Really, no. I'm sure his heart is in the right place, but issues like "Will I still have a job in four years", "How am I going to afford my cancer treatment?" and "Am I safe when I leave my house" trumps many, many, issues people here care about that Lessig is promising to address, from the outrageous evil that is not being able to copy a Nicki Minaj single onto an a DRM-free MP3 until 2127, to electoral reform.

    • No, it's the system [wikipedia.org] that is the problem. The Democrat and Republican parties created the system, and they extort networks by threatening to not allow them to host or air the debate unless the networks follow the rules of the system, as set forth by the 2 parties through the commission.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:08PM (#50710327)

    The Republicans are currently blowing up their establishment. It takes some balls to do that, especially if you're a politician. They're trying to shake things up and get the Old Guard to move on. This has come from the ground up over the past few election cycles and it appears to be working.

    Why can't the Democrats do that same?

    • by e r ( 2847683 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:14PM (#50710387)

      Why can't the Democrats do the same?

      Because building up a huge all-encompassing governmental establishment is what the statist Democrats are all about. Good luck getting the parasites to bite the hand that feeds.

      • by halivar ( 535827 )

        Republicans have been doing a pretty bang-up job of it, themselves, for the last 4 election cycles. Before the current shakeup, as far as how leadership affects governance, there is no discernible difference between a Republican and a Democrat.

        • Before the current shakeup, as far as how leadership affects governance, there is no discernible difference between a Republican and a Democrat.

          They do a pretty good job of the charade, most Americans don't believe that they live in a single-party state.

          • I would dare say, that there are plenty of people who realize that it is a one party system. The problem is, not enough of us do. Too many idiots out there who only vote for the person with the correct letter behind their name (D) or (R) and wouldn't know an email scandal from a racist douchebag.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Uberbah ( 647458 )

        Because building up a huge all-encompassing governmental establishment is what the statist Democrats are all about.

        Then they would have been pushing universal health care, universal higher ed, a national pension system, four weeks paid vacation for even part time employees, a massive investment in high speed rail, etc etc. But of course, Democrats have the same range of antipathy to outright hostility to all those items as any Republican.

        But, don't let facts get in the way of a little mindless partisan tr

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      That's not courage, that's insanity. The fringe Republican base have given up on the idea of governance. The old guard had already done that to some respects which is why they were pandering to the fringe to begin with. Now they have a perfect storm of idiocy where no one is interested in being a statesman anymore and anyone that tries gets shouted down by the fringe.

      This problem of the fringe driving the selection of candidates is a problem with both parties.

      This is also a problem with the 2 party system w

      • by halivar ( 535827 )

        I disagree; the selection of candidates has had nothing to do with any "fringe" (who are universally shunned and disaffected in both parties until it's time to whip votes). For both parties, it has historically been determined by whose "turn" it is among lobbyist-friendly establishment politicians. Both sides always nominate the "inevitable" candidate that was pre-selected from the get-go. This has been the case since 1988 (where democrats had the the last seriously contentious primary ["contentious" not in

      • You are very confused. "fringe" and "base" are antonyms, so the "fringe Republican base" is a contradiction, and also a clue. For a quick refresher, base is the main body, and fringe is the edge.

        The Republican base fell asleep and allowed the fringe (left) of the party to run things as Democrat-lite. If you are a Democrat, than Democrat-lite looks like "governance" and "statesmanship". After all, reasonable people can disagree about the speed, maybe even the course, but only "arsonists" and "terrorists"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You are all Cows. Cows say MOOOOOOOOO. MOOOOOOOOOOOO! MOOOOOOOOOOOO! Mooooooooooo cows moooooooooo. mooo say the cows. YOU VOTER COWS!!!

    • ... wow... the cow guys's cowing actually fits into this damn thread...

      just two sides mooing...

  • by gQuigs ( 913879 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:16PM (#50710405) Homepage

    by showing up as competitive without having a SuperPAC at all.

    I don't see Lessig's referendum only strategy to be any more likely to come to pass than his previous let's build our own SuperPAC attempt. He could have actually ran for senator and had some impact from within the system. It would have also gotten him more of a podium for advocating for these changes.

    • Oh please.... Like not having a "super PAC" means anything at this point in the process, or to Sanders.

      I'm not a Democrat, but I can assure you that Hillary is going to win the nomination, pretty much hands down, unless she ends up in handcuffs for the E-mail server thing before the Democrat convention. I don't believe that there is much of a chance she gets charged with any crime and arrested (or it would have happened already) so Sanders has a snowballs chance. Hillary hasn't yet started her campaign,

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:17PM (#50710413)

    Lessig has raised a million dollars, which is nothing to sneeze at

    A million dollars is nothing. Sorry to break this to you but that's not even enough to be a serious contender in a lot of state level elections. A million dollars is a rounding error in current day presidential elections. Someone like Hillary Clinton can raise multiples of that in a single evening. $1 million might seem like a lot to some people but it really isn't.

    but he's being given the cold shoulder by the Democrats when it comes to participating in the debates. I think he's got a good argument for being included — he's certainly as serious a candidate as some of the others, and I'm hearing a lot about his campaign.

    No he really isn't a serious candidate at this point. Almost nobody knows who the guy is and he has (near as makes no difference) no money to buy recognition with. He's a political lightweight with essentially zero name recognition. I have nothing against the guy and I think he's got some interesting ideas but right now he is definitely not a serious candidate. He's basically a one issue guy who has offered to resign after fixing those issues (campaign finance, gerrymandering, voter access) which basically makes him a non-starter. Basically that means that even if he were successful (which he almost certainly wouldn't be) you'd be voting for his VP to be president and a new VP to be named later.

    • Lessig has raised a million dollars, which is nothing to sneeze at

      A million dollars is nothing. Sorry to break this to you but that's not even enough to be a serious contender in a lot of state level elections. A million dollars is a rounding error in current day presidential elections.

      This is sad, but completely true. A million dollars is nothing in modern day politics. I've heard estimates that close to a billion will be spent in the next election cycle, and I suspect that's not far off the mark. A lot of this is due to Super Pacs who have virtually unlimited amounts of money to spend to get their pet politician elected.

      Super Pacs should be illegal (and were up until recently). There was a reason for that, and we're seeing it play out now. It's all just a matter of cold cash now, even

      • There was always money in politics. I don't even think it's that much worse now. It's just visible rather than hidden.

        The real problem is that we clamor for getting money out of politics, despite the real problem being the fact that our electorate is gullible enough to actually fall for the ridiculous 30 second evil music black and white opponent style ads.

        Maybe we should be clamoring for an electorate that isn't dumb. Unfortunately this is something that dumb people rarely clamor for.

        If we take money ou

        • There was always money in politics. I don't even think it's that much worse now. It's just visible rather than hidden.

          Maybe, but I don't think anyone spent $500 million to win an election in the 60's or 70's or 80's.

          Yes, I agree, there has always been money in politics, but it seems have reached epic (and unhealthy) proportions.

          • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @01:37PM (#50711257)

            Maybe, but I don't think anyone spent $500 million to win an election in the 60's or 70's or 80's.

            They didn't need to spend that much back then to win an election.

            Yes, I agree, there has always been money in politics, but it seems have reached epic (and unhealthy) proportions.

            What I am saying is that it has always been the case that money buys elections. Given that, how much should an election cost? Is it better if the election is cheap or expensive? "Taking the money of of politics" doesn't change the fact that the election is for sale, it just makes the election cheaper and more random.

            • "Taking the money of of politics" doesn't change the fact that the election is for sale, it just makes the election cheaper and more random.

              I agree, but at the same time it does open it up to wider participation (not always a good thing, but still...).

              Sometimes there are no good solutions, only solutions that aren't as bad as the alternatives. Perhaps this problem falls into that category.

              • I agree, but at the same time it does open it up to wider participation (not always a good thing, but still...).

                I am not sure this is actually better.

                Sometimes there are no good solutions, only solutions that aren't as bad as the alternatives. Perhaps this problem falls into that category.

                I think everything else being equal, I'd prefer that the people buying our elections be forced to waste more money to do so.

  • For years I have believed even the local dog catcher must signal they are corruptible or they will not advance to the next step up the ladder let alone President. Corruption is endemic to politics.

    You will not be heard in American Politics if you plan on rocking the boat.

  • ... keeping him out. It's the media business. They are the ones that make the money for airing endless political debates and advertisements. An advocate of campaign finance reform is inevitably going to harm their income stream and is not welcome.

  • Because Hillary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:25PM (#50710487)

    Lessig is being kept out for the same reason the DNC is vehemently resisting having more debates: nothing shall put Hillary's candidacy at risk.

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:33PM (#50710579) Homepage Journal

    Lessig seems to think that people who have power will give it up willingly. Why, because "it's the right thing to do"? Ha, Lessig, tell us another funny one.

    We're not going to get approval voting [youtube.com] or any other method that satisifies the Condorcet criteria, because Duverger's Law [wikipedia.org], simply restated, ensures the power of the current political elite.

    Lessig did some reasonable work with Creative Commons (even if CC0 is the only free license, CC is still successful). He should use those talents to try to educate people that the "Two Party" system is a cabal of political oligarchs who fleece the people by convincing them they have a choice when in reality there is only "fork over your money or something bad might happen".

    • He should use those talents to try to educate people that the "Two Party" system is a cabal of political oligarchs who fleece the people by convincing them they have a choice when in reality there is only "fork over your money or something bad might happen".

      That is exactly what he is trying to do, but he needs to get in front of the cameras on the debate stage to do it.

      • He should use those talents to try to educate people that the "Two Party" system is a cabal of political oligarchs who fleece the people by convincing them they have a choice when in reality there is only "fork over your money or something bad might happen".

        That is exactly what he is trying to do, but he needs to get in front of the cameras on the debate stage to do it.

        Even if he does he'll be discredited that same evening. The NSA et.al, whose job it is to ensure the status quo and maintain the political stasis in the USA in favor of the single-party state, WILL have dirt on him that will hang him when the moment comes.

  • by smithmc ( 451373 ) * on Monday October 12, 2015 @12:51PM (#50710797) Journal
    ...that's the party primary system. Political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution, and are not an official part of the electoral process.
    • i think it's called freedom of association and freedom of speech.

      • Actually many of the founders were against the whole idea of parties, sadly the first past the post voting system ensures that they will arise and be dominant.
      • by smithmc ( 451373 ) *
        Relax. I wasn't suggesting that political parties shouldn't be allowed, but just that they are not officially a part of American government or its processes. Technically, you do not have to be in any political party in order to hold any public office in America. If Lessig is having trouble running as a Democrat, maybe he should go independent. Which, IMO, would make an even stronger statement on his part about the two-party problem in America.
    • ....and incorrect pedantry at that. If he had said something about the Constitutional electoral process, you'd have a point, but that's not the case. Would you happen to also be one of those who jumps in with the correction 'the U.S. is a republic, not a democracy' except the fact that its representatives are democratically elected?

      • by smithmc ( 451373 ) *

        ....and incorrect pedantry at that. If he had said something about the Constitutional electoral process, you'd have a point, but that's not the case

        Lessig didn't say it, but the OP did, in the title of his post, and that's what I was responding to.

  • Anyone else read it as "Hillary and Bernie, he says, are promising *to* moon..."?

  • He is not in the debate because he has no support

    http://www.realclearpolitics.c... [realclearpolitics.com]

    http://www.realclearpolitics.c... [realclearpolitics.com]

  • by Corporate T00l ( 244210 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @01:27PM (#50711147) Journal

    Much as I like his platform, it's hard to treat him as a serious presidential candidate in the context of what a debate is likely to cover when his stated position is that he cares only about passing campaign finance reform and then will resign.

    From Lessig's own campaign page (https://lessig2016.us/ [lessig2016.us])
    "He will serve only as long as it takes to pass the reforms necessary to fix our corrupt political system. Once passed, he will resign, and the vice president becomes president of a government that works."

    That means if you want to have a debate about foreign policy, talk to the VP. Tax policy? Talk to the VP. There may be some people who like the single-minded focus this implies, but since we're talking about a 4-year term, that leaves a huge swath of debate issues left in an unanswerable state, especially since he hasn't named his VP yet.

  • This is a stupid story. First, the Electoral college doesn't decided who is nominated by either major party. Second, the Electoral college has even less to do with who CNN chooses to let into their debate. Third, who has heard of this person to start with? Doesn't that have more to do with why CNN didn't/won't put them on the stage with the other "serious" contenders?

    Not to mention....Why would this story make it to Slashdot? How's this "news for nerds" anyway?

  • I love some of Lessig's ideas, but he doesn't have a prayer of getting into any position to implement them. The current electoral system is rigged so that only the two major parties have any hope of getting a candidate elected to national office. You have to get inside the system in order to have the power to change it -- But why in the world would either party allow in someone whose stated goal is to upset the apple cart and make it harder for the party to win in the future?

    The only people in favor of e

  • If you want to change the system, why the hell would you run for president? Any true change is going to happen in the legislature.
  • Irony (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @02:06PM (#50711553)

    It is ironic that a candidate whose campaign is based on denying others the ability to speak is complaining that he is being denied the ability to speak.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @02:37PM (#50711917) Journal

    You sound like Dr Evil, thinking $1 million is real money.

    Overall spending, 2012 Presidential Election:
    Dems: $964 million
    Repubs $1.12 billion
    (https://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/)

    Yes, when the amount you've raised is 1/1000 what EITHER candidate in 2012 spent, that is precisely a "sneezing at" amount. It's nothing.

Of course there's no reason for it, it's just our policy.

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