Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig Launches Quixotic Presidential Bid

Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig is officially a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President:

After exceeding his $1 million crowd-funding goal, Harvard Law School professor Larry Lessigannounced today on “This Week” that he is running for president.

“I think I’m running to get people to acknowledge the elephant in the room,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “We have to recognize — we have a government that does not work. The stalemate, partisan platform of American politics in Washington right now doesn’t work.”

If elected, he says he will be the first “referendum president,” promising to serve only as long as it takes to pass his Citizens Equality Act of 2017 — a bill aimed at reforming campaign finance,voting rights, and Congressional refpresentation. Once the bill is passed, Lessig said he would then step down, handing over the reins to his vice president.

Lessig announced his interest in possibly running for President about a month ago, and he apparently convinced enough people to donate to his campaign to meet his goal. Even with that, though, it’s likely that he won’t make much of an impact on the Democratic race. For one thing, the issues he’s talking about are ones that are pretty universally held by all the Democratic candidates, so there’s really nothing that distinguishes him from the other candidates other than his complete lack of political experience. Additionally, it’s entirely unclear if he will even qualify for the upcoming Democratic debates. The criteria for the Democratic debates have not been set as of yet, although Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has said that there will be some kind of “threshold” that candidates will have to meet to receive an invitation. Since Lessig is essentially a non-entity in the polls in which he has been included, it’s probable that he may not even meet that threshold. However, the fact that there are only six Democratic candidates at the moment, and that there have already been complaints about a debate schedule that many see as designed to protect Hillary Clinton may mean that it will be difficult for the DNC to exclude him or other low-polling candidates such as former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Tipping your hat at windmills can be personally satisfying even if it doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

  2. Ron Chusid says:

    The threshold for the Democratic debate is that candidates must get at least 1 percent in three credible national polls within the six weeks before the debate. I imagine there is nothing keeping the DNC from revising this.

    Based on this, O’Malley and Webb should make it in. Chaffee is averaging under 1 percent, but has hit 1 percent in some polls so with all the polls out should make it with 1 percent in three of them. Lessig did have one percent in a recent PPP survey so he might be able to get in.

  3. @Ron Chusid:

    Thanks for the clarification. I thought the 1% threshold was the criteria but I couldn’t find anything official confirming that at the time I wrote the post.

  4. Tillman says:

    So this dude has tenure, right?

    I wish I had tenure. I’d probably read books or something, not run for president.

  5. Franklin says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Presidential election cycle with so many bids declared “quixotic”. But I do know what to get Doug for Christmas: a thesaurus. I should think at least some of these campaigns are actually idealistic, romantic, utopian, or starry-eyed.

  6. Tyrell says:

    Maybe him and Warren could team up. They could play the Harvard fight song at their rallies.