Will Lawrence Lessig Be Locked Out of the Debates?

The Democratic presidential candidate needs at least 1 percent support to get onstage—but most of the polls haven't been including him.


Lewis/Gilbert 2016
Lessig 2016 Store

Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard law professor and Democratic presidential candidate, has published a piece in Politico complaining that he may be unjustly barred from his party's upcoming debates. He has a point: Candidates will be invited to this month's debate if they're getting at least 1 percent support in the polls, but most of the polls have been leaving Lessig out, creating a catch-22. If Lincoln Chafee, who's hardly even campaigning, can appear onstage with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, I don't see why Lessig shouldn't get a shot too. At the very least, more pollsters should include him in their surveys.

Lessig's article also gives readers a glimpse at his broader policy preferences. The gimmick of the Lessig campaign is that he's pledging to push for one major bill if he's elected—a collection of electoral reforms he's calling the Citizen Equality Act—and then resign in favor of his vice president. In theory, therefore, his positions on all the other issues are secondary, at least until it's time to pick a running mate. But his Politico piece marshals up a list of changes that he wants but does not expect to see Congress pass unless something like the Citizen Equality Act is enacted:

Like Clinton and Sanders and O'Malley, I believe America needs urgent and important reform: it needs a minimum wage that is a living wage, it needs climate change legislation, it needs to respect the equality of citizens and end—finally—the second class status that too many Americans know. It needs a health care system that Americans can afford. It needs to stop subsidizing oil companies, and stop tolerating their pollution. It needs the courage to stand up to the banks, it needs to restore safety to the financial system, it needs an immigration policy that promises some of the hardest working Americans that they can become citizens and it needs sane gun laws that keep machine guns away from the sorts who would massacre school children.

In other words, Lessig's a liberal. We already knew that, but now you have a pithy paragraph summing it up. In the unlikely event that the man is elected, that series of sentences should be a pretty good guide to the agenda his former veep would pursue after President Lessig resigns. (Though if he tries to limit anyone's access to machine guns, he'll be surprised to discover that they've already been virtually banned for several decades.)

Bonus links: I interviewed Lessig about his platform here, and I interviewed him about some other stuff here.