Lawrence Lessig Ends Presidential Campaign Most People Never Knew Existed

Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is ending his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination, and you wouldn’t be alone in being surprised to learn he was running to begin with:

Lawrence Lessing, the Harvard professor who began a late campaign for president, announced that he was ending his bid for the Democratic nomination, citing his exclusion from the debate stage.

“No doubt a better candidate could have gone further, though I doubt anyone could have worked harder, but regardless, I must today end my campaign for the Democratic nomination and turn to the question of how to best to continue to press for this reform now,” Mr. Lessig explained in a video posted to his YouTube page.

He entered the race in August, much later than other candidates, on a mission to change the country’s campaign finance system.

Mr. Lessig wasn’t included in the first Democratic debate, and he acknowledged in the beginning of the video that “unless we can time travel,” he wouldn’t make the next stage, either.

“From the start it was clear that getting into the Democratic debates was the essential step in this campaign,” Mr. Lessig said in the video. “I may be known in tiny corners of the tubes of the Internets, but I am not well-known to the American public generally.”

Last month, he said in an interview that if he didn’t make it into either of the first two debates, he would most likely end his campaign.


As I noted when he entered the race less than two months ago, Lessig’s bid was quixotic at best and laughable at worst. The fact that he was even less well-know that Lincoln Chafee, for example, was a pretty good example of just how unserious his campaign was. Over the past two months, I’ve seen him show up for brief interviews on some of the cable networks, but he certainly didn’t get as much attention as candidates who were, well, relevant to the outcome of the race. Of course, Lessig wasn’t running to win but to gain attention for his pet issue of campaign finance reform, but he seems to failed even at that effort.

The Washington Post’s David Weigel notes that Lessig complained that the debate rules were not fair, and left open the possibility of running as an Independent:


“The party won’t let me be a candidate,” Lessig said in his final campaign video. “I can’t ask people to support a campaign that I know can’t get before the members of the Democratic Party.”

Lessig, who initially promised to be a “referendum president” — resigning after he signed a package of reforms to take money out of politics — said that the party’s debate decisions silenced him.


Last month, Lessig told the Washington Post that the Democrats had been so unfair to him that he might have to run as an independent. “If the party won’t allow me to run as a Democrat,” he said, “that creates a lot of pressure to think about a different way of running that would allow me to make this case to the American people.” Asked today via email if he would mount an independent bid, he wrote that “nothing (legal) is ruled out.”

Given the fact that the Democratic debate rules were generous enough the Chafee and Jim Webb, who barely registered in the polls themselves, both qualified, makes Lessig’s complaints here ring hollow. It was a long shot bid, and it got no attention because it didn’t really deserve any because he wasn’t ever anything but a gadfly candidate.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. al-Ameda says:

    by the way Doug, it’s ‘knew’ not ‘new’ – don’t ever try to emulate my typing.

    I saw Lessig on Bill Maher 2 weeks ago – not good at all.

  2. Sigh, fixed.

  3. ernieyeball says:

    “unless we can time travel,…I must today end my campaign for the Democratic nomination and turn to the question of how to best to continue to press for this reform now,”

    Time travel???…or a gyrocopter.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    If Lessig had the same chutzpah as me, his resume will now read “Beat out Gov. Lincoln Chaffee and Sen. Jim Webb for the Democratic Presidential nomination.”

  5. CSK says:

    So what was the point of this? You have to stay in the race a bit longer than he did–and get a lot more publicity than he did–in order to land a good book deal or a commentating gig.

  6. MBunge says:

    Does this go right to the top of examples on how being really well educated and really smart have little to do with each other?


  7. Tyrell says:

    Look at this: some guy named Lloyd Kelso is running for president. I looked at his proposals. A lot of them make sense.

  8. Ron Chusid says:

    Not that it matters, but he did have a legitimate complaint. His complaint is that the DNC never released a “welcome to the race” statement which pollsters often use to determine who to include in the polls. Many polls excluded him, keeping him out of the debates. When he was included, he did in the same (very low) range as O’Malley, Webb, and Chafee.

    While his campaign never had a chance, if the other three candidates barely polling at 1% were included in the debates, he should also have been included.

  9. Tyrell says:

    @Ron Chusid: That is interesting. That shows that these things are being controlled.