By Lawrence Lessig
This was a big month.
As you know, since the beginning of time (or so it feels like to me!), I’ve been trying everything I can to get the issue of reform at the center of a presidential campaign. In 2015, I tried to become a candidate in the Democratic Primary, to — at the very least — put the issue on stage in the Democratic debates. Let’s say the party wasn’t over-eager at the idea of inviting me to the debates.
This year, we’re trying something different. On April 7, we had our first Democracy Forum in New Hampshire with Andrew Yang. (You can watch it here). From my perspective, the event was perfect. As you might know, Yang is a brilliant policy driven candidate for President. He’s not a politician, but he’s thought through the issues of our democracy extensively. When I asked him to participate, he was keen to be among the first of our fora. In a packed auditorium in Concord, NH, he described his ideas for ending the corrupting influence of money in politics (vouchers), his support for ranked-choice-voting, his support for reform of the electoral college (not abolishing, but proportional allocation of electors), and he expressed his strong support to assure everyone has an equal freedom to vote.
But the money-quote for me (so to speak) was a moment of recognition that Yang revealed towards the end of the event. I had never met Yang before, but it was clear he was thinking as he was engaging. And after pressing him about the need to make reform primary, he told the 400 hundred in the audience, “I’ve been saying around the country the first thing I’m going to do is get people 1,000 bucks a month…But I will actually amend it all to say the first thing I will do is put democracy back in the hands of the American people. Then the second thing I am going to do is get you that money.”
This is the most important framing that we could bring to this election. Nancy Pelosi did our democracy a real service, by giving us the idea of day-one reform: By making HR1 the first priority of this Congress, she gave us a way to talk about a President making reform the first priority of any Congress.
But that is precisely what we need the presidential candidates to do. We need them to commit not just to reform, but to making reform a primary commitment of their campaign. Not just because it is right, but also because it could give millions of Americans a reason to hope again. Not just HR1, but POTUS 1.
Too often, as we see the thousands rallying to one candidate or another, we forget the tens of thousands who have given up. We ignore the millions who believe it just doesn’t matter who’s elected, because in the end, government doesn’t serve us.
Yet if we can get a critical mass of the candidates in this election to commit to making reform primary, that resignation might be thawed. And that would be the first critical step to getting the reform this democracy needs.
We need your help to make that happen. Click here to go to a web page that will make it possible for you to ask the candidates to join one of our fora. We’ve been speaking to every campaign; we need more to decide that they should engage us as Andrew Yang did. It will take just a second; it costs no more than a second; and it could be your one chore today to help to get us a Republic where citizens are equal.