Harvard professor and Democratic presidential candidate Larry Lessig had what sounded like a crazy plan: run for president, pass a single bill, then leave the White House. He got enough attention for that plan to raise more than $1 million, but Lessig has since faced a Sisyphean climb toward recognition; he was excluded from the first Democratic debate, and polls very low when his name is actually given to people for consideration. Now, Lessig's campaign just looks like the average sort of crazy. He's running to serve a full term as president, because people just didn't understand the complexity of his original plan.
In an essay published at The Atlantic, Lessig announced the change and explained why he was making it. "People understood the corruption bit; they were willing to assume the reform would fix it. But they didn't get the resigning bit," Lessig wrote. "It caught people's attention, and the attention of hundreds of media outlets. But it weakened the credibility of the campaign." Maybe American voters just don't trust someone who would voluntarily give up power!
Even though he's changing his tactics, Lessig's motivation and objective remains the same. For years, Lessig has claimed that US elections have been rigged by an oligarchy that works out in the open. In 2012, the professor wrote a book about it, but he didn't stop with a lesson — he's been working in the years since to do something about it. In 2014, Lessig launched "MayOne" (which later became Mayday.us), a crowdfunded super PAC that was designed to fight big money in elections by, of course, raising big money for elections. The super PAC was intended to use small-dollar contributions to elect candidates who would work to reform the nation's campaign finance system. Politico reported that Mayday spent more than $10 million in 2014 elections, but failed to elect any of the candidates it supported except a lone North Carolina representative with a safe seat.
Mayday was a failure that somehow led to a presidential campaign
Mayday's strategic failure did not end Lessig's quest, and in August of this year he announced his complicated bid for the White House. The original plan was to run for president to pass a single bill, the Citizen Equality Act, which would establish federal matching funds for small-dollar contributions to congressional and presidential campaigns. Then, once passed, Lessig would resign, leaving the vice president in charge of the country for the remainder of his term. Today, Lessig justified his decision to abandon that plan by blaming the DNC.
"If the Democrats won't take seriously a candidate with a viable, credible, and professionally managed campaign just because it includes a promise to step aside once the work is done, then fine," Lessig wrote. "You win. I drop that promise."