By Ben Tanosborn
When the jar holding sustenance civic-water is broken, fragmented in countless small pieces, it seems foolish to waste time seeking superglue to put it back together. We would be wiser instead to acknowledge and accept the loss and, without delay or commiserating on all possible reasons for our misfortune, revisit our pottery skills and create a vessel to keep us from political dehydration… before it’s too late.
And that’s precisely what has happened to our political jar held by politicians of the two parties ruling the land; politicians mimicking ideals of conservatism and liberalism, but jointly exploding democracy to smithereens for their selfish, personal benefit… which entails selling their services, openly and unashamedly, to a small ruling elite of both domestic and extra-national special interests.
Enter Lawrence Lessig, professor of Law at Harvard; a multi-talented, multi-honored true visionary who acknowledges we don’t have a representative democracy in America today… and that our system has been corrupted and it is now the problem. A week ago, he brought up the possibility… no, the probability, of entering the presidential race with a unique and simple platform of fundamental change that would take money out of American politics, fixing – one would hope constitutionally, by amendment – a rigged system. This rigged system is not just poisonous for the citizenry of America but, given this nation’s multi-faceted influence in the world, also destructive to the economic, civic and peaceful wellbeing of the entire planet.
We wholeheartedly agree with Lessig that we do not have a representative democracy in America today, no matter the romantic and patriotic notions that many of us might have. The system, our system, has become the problem and we are in need of drastic, fundamental change. Congress is definitely an integral part of the problem, and the professor’s idea of building a mandate to force change peacefully via a “referendum president” not only makes sense but clears a path for democracy to take an evolutionary course in effecting consensus achieving all types of change: civic (racial), economic, and most definitely political; change obtained in democratic agreement without the uncertainty of what a second American revolution might bring the nation: perhaps social justice, but also the possibility of a dictatorship.
The simplicity, yet potential efficacy, of this referendum presidency offers promise to the concept that reform must be at the head of any presidential candidate’s list of needs/changes, not at the end. And that, in fact, that list at this moment of democratic struggle might be best if just carrying a single issue, not a dozen of them… an issue that at this critical stage would unify us all: Reform – divorcing money from politicians and politics. Lessig is providing at this time a macro approach to running for the presidency, and much operational work needs to be done to make things clear. For starters, credibility for such lofty undertaking should not be under the auspices of either the Tweedledee (Democratic) or the Tweedledum (Republican) parties, or credibility would not be there. An independent, reform party would be force majeure to show fairness and have a chance to succeed, even if drafted for a specific purpose and duration – in this case probably best if projected for dissolution within the elective 4-year term.
As for the candidacy to the presidency: Lawrence Lessig, unquestionably. Logically, for a single term of non-partisan politics in order to cement “an equality of citizens,” as Lessig states, and what some might interpret as the return of the US prodigal democracy to Washington. Politics of the Right, or the Left, or the Center would then resume… but cleansed from inequality in voting, the tainting by special interests’ money, and the undemocratic perversion created by gerrymandering.
Obviously the task at hand, to be realistic and honest, will require a financial effort that will need far more a million dollars in seed money. My humble suggestion to Lessig is that if he’s serious in his personal quest, which I am convinced he is, he extends the period in which to declare his candidacy from Labor Day to Thanksgiving, forgetting about this first phase of the primaries’ cycle and, most definitely, not under the tent of either the GOP or the Democratic Party. And to retain credibility, perhaps refrain from splurging any admiration for candidates… more specifically, Bernie Sanders.
We don’t know whether there is a donor, patron, benefactor, or protector of American democratic politics out there in billionaire-land, but the country, not just the professor, could sure use the financial help to foot the enormous bill. Someone who in humble silence now, although honored by history later, would become a sponsor of democracy, a Mecenas of Greco-Roman extraction, financially helping Lessig with a dream, a dream that it’s also ours: we who believe in a government of the people, by the people and for the people.