On November 2, 2015, Larry Lessig withdrew his bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. He claims that recent changes in the Democratic Party debate rules would keep him off the stage at upcoming Democratic debates.
In a video announcing his decision, Mr. Lessig said, “It is now clear that the party won’t let me be a candidate and I can’t ask people to support a campaign that I know can’t even get before the members of the Democratic Party — or to ask my team or my family to make a sacrifice even greater than what I’ve already made.”
Lawrence “Larry” Lessig was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, but grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He began his higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Management. He then studied for and received an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge, in England. Finally, he attended Yale Law School and graduated with his Juris Doctor in 1989. Following law school, he entered the legal profession, serving as a clerk for various judges – including Justice Antonin Scalia, at the Supreme Court. Today, Lessig works as a law professor, and is vocal as a political activist. He is also a published author.
Highly unique among political candidates, Lessig has but a single issue: The passing of legislation he calls “The Citizen Equality Act”. This proposal contains three fundamental reforms that Lessig maintains are necessary to achieve the goal of equality among the American people, specifically relating to voting, congressional representation, and campaign funding. To this end, Lessig favors automatic voter registration and the declaration of election day as a national holiday, the abolition of the “gerry-mandering” districting process to be replaced by districts mandated to contain equal proportions of partisan voters, and the overturning of the highly controversial “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision that removed all limits on campaign spending by wealthy organizations.
Frustrated that the US Constitution does not allow for a federal referendum to pass law as is practiced in many states, Lessig declares that his would be a run to become a “referendum President”, who would campaign on and be elected to pass one piece of legislation. Beyond the advancement of the Citizen Equality Act, he has no interest in the Oval Office, and pledges to resign once he is successful in his solitary goal. He calls his campaign a “hack” of the Constitution's omission of a national referendum; if he were elected after campaigning on only one issue, he says, congress would be all but forced to accept his victory as a mandate by the people to support his reforms. He runs on no other platform; beyond the Act, he says, his personal political leanings are irrelevant.
A Referendum President
The Citizen Equality Act of 2017
Because of his intentions, his choice of Vice President becomes extremely important, and he has expressed an interest in considering existing Democratic frontrunners for the position. Whomever he chose, he says, would serve as a close advisor, spending their time observing him and preparing for his fully intended resignation, when they would become President to finish his term.
Lessig's support is easy to gauge. Those who agree with the intentions of the Citizen Equality Act are likely to back him, while those opposed (or who simply take issue with his plan to win the presidency for but a lone piece of legislation) will move on from his candidacy. In any event, he has officially declared himself a contender, although an active campaign depends on two pending factors: whether the likely Democratic nominee intends to support his bill or similar legislation, and whether he is able to raise $1 million in financial support by Labor Day from a crowdfunding project he has started. Lessig raised $150,000 on the first day of this initiative, and is already more than one-third of the way to accomplishing his monetary goal.