Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another Lessig Bit

A great overview of Lawrence Lessig can be found here. The page setup is a bit irritating (hint to The Nation - use margins!), but the article is great. Here's my favorite bits:

"There have been all sorts of DC-based organizations that have tried to crack this nut, and I think they've hit the limit of what the 'Let's send out an e-mail to our 100,000 members and tell them to write their Congressmen' model can do," he says. "We have an opportunity--and it won't last long--to take advantage of the uncertainty that Congress has about how the Net actually works. They don't get it right now. And while they've learned how to ignore 1,000 e-mails, they haven't quite figured out what to do about fifty blogs talking about various legislation or meet-up events. So there's an opportunity to leverage the technology and the irrational insecurity of members of Congress, who look at any objectively insignificant resistance as something to be dealt with immediately."

This information will be displayed in a map, which Lessig believes will show in stark terms just how "broad and deep" the consensus for reform is. Take, for instance, the ultimate prize for Lessig and reform allies: public financing of Congressional campaigns. A 2006 poll showed overwhelming support among voters (75 percent) for such a system. The Fair Elections Now Act, introduced by Senators Dick Durbin and Arlen Specter, has attracted eight co-sponsors (including Barack Obama), and Hillary Clinton is on record as supporting public financing in principle if not the Durbin bill specifically. While McCain supported full public financing as recently as 2002, he retracted that position last year. This is not to say we're anywhere close to having public financing enacted--the interests opposed to it are substantial--but it is by no means a fringe idea.

"When I was thinking of running," Lessig says, "the biggest pushback I got was from all these senior politico types who are like, Look, you can never sell process reform; nobody will ever buy it; if that's your message, you cannot win. And my response is, Well, we've got to figure out how to sell it, for Chrissake! It's not like we have a choice."

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