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United States Politics

Larry Lessig Ends Presidential Campaign, Citing Unfair Debate Rules (washingtonpost.com) 309

An anonymous reader writes: Harvard law professor Larry Lessig is ending his run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Lessig blames the demise of his campaign on party rules that have left him "shut out" of the Democratic debates. "The party won't let me be a candidate," Lessig said in his final campaign video. "I can't ask people to support a campaign that I know can't get before the members of the Democratic Party."
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Larry Lessig Ends Presidential Campaign, Citing Unfair Debate Rules

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is the Democrat Party we are talking about. The coronation of Hillary for 2016 was decided years ago.

  • by piojo ( 995934 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @01:59AM (#50853271)

    Lessig has great ideas, and we need someone really serious to fix the corruption in our system. However, I can't imagine anybody taking his platform seriously. He wants to resign after a partial term! I think people won't want to elect someone that's only serious about doing part of the job. A specialist. Unfortunately, the US has been sick for a long time and needs a specialist.

    • by dmomo ( 256005 )

      He decided to remove the resignation component from his plans weeks ago. He was prepared to go whole hog. The Democratic Party still didn't want him in.

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        He decided to remove the resignation component from his plans weeks ago. He was prepared to go whole hog. The Democratic Party still didn't want him in.

        Maybe if he hadn't started off with such a silly plan in the first place, people might have taken him a little more seriously.

        • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @09:57AM (#50854877)

          He decided to remove the resignation component from his plans weeks ago. He was prepared to go whole hog. The Democratic Party still didn't want him in.

          Maybe if he hadn't started off with such a silly plan in the first place, people might have taken him a little more seriously.

          There are many labels you could give his plan, but "silly" seems inappropriate, at least if you know any history. The Founding Fathers would probably have strongly approved of such an initiative, since they knew their history too and modeled our country after principles of ancient Greece and Rome.

          The ancient Romans had a specific way of dealing with a major crisis -- they'd elect a dictator [wikipedia.org] as an "extraordinary magistrate" whose sole purpose was to deal with the crisis and then resign. The classic example invoked by the Founding Fathers was Cincinnatus [wikipedia.org] who twice was given absolute power by the Romans and then gave it up to return to his farm. For the Romans, there was nothing worse than a politician who sought to keep power for a long time -- a trend that held for centuries until Julius Caesar finally broke that system and turned the Republic into an Empire.

          George Washington has been compared to Cincinnatus a number of times, in that Washington could likely have been declared king after the Revolutionary War, but refused -- and then also made the example of resigning from the Presidency after two terms to avoid setting a precedent for a kind of king-like life-long reign.

          I agree that Lessig's idea was idealistic and weird from a modern political perspective, but our country was founded on the ideal of a man who would take power to usher in ultimate reform (particularly in a crisis) and then give it up and return to his normal life. The Romans -- and the Founding Fathers -- thought there was no greater patriotic or noble duty than to be able give up great power once you have served your purpose.

          The thing that's sad about Lessig's run is not only that he failed to get attention to his actual platform, but also that his revival of this old idea of giving up power failed to galvanize the American people, at a time when our system is moving increasingly toward concentrated power in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Such a return to the ideals of the Founders may be one of the few things that could prevent an ultimate devolution into a Caesar-like autocratic regime at some point in the future. (And if that sounds overly alarmist, consider that the decline of the Roman Republic happened gradually introduced by reformers who pledged to help "the people" more and more, and with each stage of "populist" reform -- and periodic scare tactics and wars -- the "people" voted to give up more and more rights to their ruler.)

          • There are many labels you could give his plan, but "silly" seems inappropriate, at least if you know any history. The Founding Fathers would probably have strongly approved of such an initiative, since they knew their history too and modeled our country after principles of ancient Greece and Rome.

            The ancient Romans had a specific way of dealing with a major crisis -- they'd elect a dictator as an "extraordinary magistrate" whose sole purpose was to deal with the crisis and then resign. The classic example i

  • yeah right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @01:59AM (#50853273)

    Perhaps a single issue "I'm going to pass one law and then resign" candidate just isn't well aligned with the Democratic party platform? Just a thought.

    • As opposed to "I'm going to dodge 1, maybe 2 more scandals then be coronated"?
  • I wonder if the Democratic Party is the wrong platform for the kind of reform Lessig is gunning for. It's a shame that Third Party candidates hardly have a chance, because this really is where his candidacy belongs.

  • More Details (Score:5, Informative)

    by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @02:25AM (#50853339)

    HuffPo actually explains how the rules changed: [huffingtonpost.com]
    The DNC's rules for candidate participation in their debates were pretty straightforward--or so we thought. In August, before the Lessig campaign began, DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, announced the standards for being included in the debates. As she described the rule, a candidate had to have 1 percent in three DNC sanctioned national polls, "in the six weeks prior to the debate."
    [...]
    And indeed, that is precisely the rule that was applied in the first debate. As CNN specified in a late September memo, to qualify a candidate had to poll at 1 percent in the "polls released between August 1, 2015 and October 10, 2015." The first debate was October 12.
    [...]
    During that call, I was told that the DNC participation standard for the debates was for a candidate to be at one percent in three polls conducted, "six weeks prior to the debate"--not the clarified rule cited earlier by Wasserman-Shultz and the DNC political director that a candidate had to be at one percent in three polls conducted "in the six weeks prior to the debate."

    So the DNC had said 1% in the six weeks before the debate and used that standard in the first debate, but in the second debate where Lessig qualified by that standard they switched to 6 weeks before the debate.

    It seems odd even if you don't take the wording at face value and wonder about the missing upper bound in the range given by "six weeks before the debate".

    I can see why the DNC doesn't want a candidate who is there almost explicitly as a one issue protest candidate but that's a fairly dirty way to go about it.

    • But this basically shows why Lessig will never be able to win, and even if he did win, would never be able to accomplish anything. Politics is about working the system, having one-to-one conversations to influence people. Obviously he doesn't have buy-in at the DNC level. If the party he wants to run with are changing the rules at the very beginning of his campaign to thwart his plans, what would the party who opposes him do all the way through his tenure?
      • Well put. Frankly, I don't know why he even wanted to campaign in the first place, since he made it clear he didn't want to be the prez. Wasting people's time much? He thought he was going to game the system in a trivial way to get his message heard, and now he's upset that his intention was transparently thwarted.
        • Well put. Frankly, I don't know why he even wanted to campaign in the first place, since he made it clear he didn't want to be the prez. Wasting people's time much?

          I think you completely missed the point of his campaign. He DID want to be President, to accomplish a particular task in a moment of crisis, a move that would have undoubtedly been approved of by the U.S. Founders. It seems modeled after the principle of the Roman dictator [wikipedia.org] (who was elected to serve in a moment of crisis and then expected to resign immediately afterward) and particularly Cincinnatus. (I've written more about this in another post above.)

          He wanted to be President to accomplish a particula

    • "but that's a fairly dirty way to go about it."

      Are you really surprised?

  • by Coeurderoy ( 717228 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @02:31AM (#50853351)

    It was quite obvious from day one that the people who organize the party have absolutely zero interest in Larry's platform, and that they will make sure that anything like his project gets hidden from the general public.

    As soon as he had any chance to be something more than a "decorative" candidate the party would make sure that he is blocked, because the system suits them just fine.

    The core issue is that the sheep vote for who ever has the more shiny adverts, so there is no "short term fix", maybe something like a 10 year project starting with a general campaign telling the public to under no circumstance vote for an incumbent candidate, no matter how bad the other guys are the only way you as a citizen can be listened is by showing that you have the power to punish a politician, and you need to punish all of them just for being unable to fix the system.

    Then campaign on : look at the tools that enable you to asses you representatives past performance, and future projects, ignore their adverts they are of no value what so ever...

    Then maybe, just maybe for the third round people will vote for their candidates because they believe in what they are achieving, or really planning to achieve and not because they have more shiny ads and are not quite as bad as the other guy(gal).

  • I can't believe there's still a year to go in this process. We had our entire Canadian election in the span of a few of these debates...this seems just a wee bit out of hand.
    • by bankman ( 136859 )

      I can't believe there's still a year to go in this process. We had our entire Canadian election in the span of a few of these debates...this seems just a wee bit out of hand.

      Canadians haven't figured out that an election can be a real money maker for some influential people and a $Country's Next Supermodel for the plebs....err rest it seems.

      • It's the same in Oz and the UK, election campaigns run for ~6 weeks and voting is compulsory. The people don't pick the prime minister, the party with the numbers to form government does that but the PM must be an elected MP. The ruling party can also sack the PM as happened here in Oz recently but he will remain an elected MP. Basically there is no single person in the westminster system that has the "CEO" powers of a US president (including the queen / governor general).
    • It is a little ridiculous, but as I was telling my kids a few hours ago, parliamentary elections are inherently easier and quicker than a Presidential election would ever be. Party slates and party voting is just a lot easier than publicly selecting your party's standard bearer. In most parliamentary elections, the party has already decided its leadership internally (via party conferences) and generally puts forth it's slate fairly easily. The actual election season is thus just the race between the various

  • by Qwertie ( 797303 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @03:24AM (#50853477) Homepage
    Lessig didn't drop out because the debate rules were "unfair". He dropped out because the DNC changed the debate rules midstream in a way that would exclude Lessig from the debates. His campaign worked hard to meet the requirement to participate in the second debate, at which point they changed the rules to exclude again [huffingtonpost.com].

    Note that he raised more money than Webb and Chafee, who were allowed in the first debate; and if his name hadn't been excluded from polls, it's even conceivable he would have been allowed into the first debate.
  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @04:15AM (#50853563)

    Lessig's campaign asked the DNC for clarity on the rule, and they kept waffling back and forth on whether it requires 1% in the polls >6 weeks before the debate, or 6 weeks before the debate. I have a feeling that noone at the DNC actually knows which it is, explaining the conflicting answers; the 'rule' is probably only there for show, and never actually critically applied; it is simply 'known' which candidates have enough buzz, and those are the ones that make it to the debate.

  • Reading his statements, it's clear he was absolutely DELUSIONAL about the effort and skills required to do what he claimed he would do... even worse than Donald Trump.

    Go through the comments that followed his recent article in The Atlantic (don't bother reading his statement). Everybody but him (and I maybe TWO random commentators) could see how glaringly irrational and fraught with obvious flaws his whole idea was:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/pol... [theatlantic.com]

  • the Republican Clown Cars or recent elections and are working hard to eliminate non-serious candidates who have zero chance.

    I wonder how President Lessig would react to a terrorist attack in the US? How would he cope with Russia, China, and the Middle East in general? What were his plans for spending and funding? Did he even give any thought to that?

    Did he ever consider that he might be faced with responding to a nuclear attack, and the standard US response to such a thing?

  • Lessig didn't even make the top 7 of the list of potential Democratic candidates. If anyone has a claim that they've been unfairly removed from the candidacy, it's the candidate at #4 or 5 who didn't get included in the debate -- yet no such claim has been made by any of those others.

    *Some* method has to be used to gradually reduce the list of people to debate. What does Lessig propose? He could not even gather the support for that. Is that the fault of the process, or him?
  • It's worth mentioning that Lessig's goals are NOT the goals of the Democratic Party. Democrats claim to be in favor of "More 'good speech' is the counter to 'bad speech.' The government shouldn't be stopping people from speaking 'bad speech.'" This is a pretty popular position; it's also the stated position of the Republican party.

    Lessg's key issue is imposing stricter government restrictions on speech. The party elites don't support his plan, the rank and file don't support his plan, and the broad electo

  • He had the bully pulpit to be a centrist, and a single issue that's of importance to thinking individuals on BOTH sides of the political fence who are getting tired of the Hobson's Choice of the two-ever-more radicalized party establishments. There is a mass of people on the right who are conservative, and who want nothing to do with the right-wing activists that have taken over the GOP. There is (I'd guess) a similar mass on the left, probably quieter as they've held the presidency for 2 terms. But thes

  • He should have declared a hunger strike; a fitting contrast to the rapacious greed he is fighting against.

    Westerners don't use this tool nearly enough which is ironic, given that most Americans could last quite awhile before succumbing to starvation.
  • Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Professor. The last thing we need in a president is an anti-First Amendment fanatic.

  • I bring this up occasionally -- get on the Michael Medved Radio Show. Medved is a nationally-syndicated, conservative, radio talk show host who invites debate and frequently has guests with opposing viewpoints. He is very polite to his guests and callers, so Lessig would definitely be allowed to make his points. This is an area of frequent discussion on the Medved show, so I'm sure that he'd be interested in having Lessig as a guest.
  • The system is broken (Score:4, Informative)

    by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Tuesday November 03, 2015 @10:08AM (#50854961)

    This is what happens to all candidates that don't have strong poling numbers. They get shut out of the debates. They get hardly any questions at all. I thought this was supposed to be a democracy? I think that all candidates should get equal time in the debates. Give them all x number of minutes to make their case to the American voters. Without moderators jumping in or getting cut off by other candidates. Every time a candidate jumps in take a minute of time away from their talking time.

    The current format is a circus. Nothing more than name calling and gotcha questions. Let's find out what they really have to say and let them stand or fall on their own merits.

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