More change we can believe in: Lawrence Lessig

draft lessigGuest Scrogue Josh Nelson is a blogger, activist, and avid news junkie. He is currently the Online Grassroots Coordinator for a large environmental non-profit. He blogs primarily at The Seminal, where he is an editor. In his spare time he enjoys arguing on the Internet, spending time with good people and talking politics. He can be reached at

For my first (and hopefully not last) post at Scholars & Rogues, I want to highlight an individual who is both a scholar and a rogue who could use some help.

Last week, esteemed professor and free culture scholar Lawrence Lessig announced two new projects. Watch this video, in which Lessig introduces the two projects.

The Change Congress project was precipitated by the keynote Lessig gave at Icommons I summit 07 in June, in which he announced:

I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of issues.

That new set of issues is focused on corruption in government, namely, the influence of money in politics.

The second project is a potential run for Congress to fill the CA-12 seat left behind by the late Tom Lantos. Both of these two projects, are fascinating, and in my opinion, worth supporting. For the time being though, I think it is important for bloggers and their readers to focus their attention on supporting Lessig’s potential run for congress.

A groundswell of support is already coming together around the idea of having someone like Lawrence Lessig in Congress. Given Lessig’s status in academia, online, and in the broader free culture movement, his is exactly the type of candidacy that could put together a daunting coalition of donors nationwide. In fact, his supporters have raised nearly $40,000 in just a few weeks.

Matt Stoller notes:

It would be fascinating were Lessig to jump into the race. There might be no better way to energize and overtly politicize the free culture world and combine their energy with the liberal blogs to create a movement for change.

I’ve been reading Lessig’s books on technology and copyright reform since 2000, and he really is a visionary.

His support is not limited to technology enthusiasts, progressives and bloggers, either. Due in part to his reputation in legal circles, he is attracting positive press from places such as The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog as well. In an interview conducted for the piece, Lessig displayed some of what makes his message so powerful:

“There’s a lot of talk in this election about change, but the reality is that change never comes from a president alone. Even if the most aggressive ‘change president’ is elected, it’ll still take a lot more.” I assume what he is getting at here is the need for a strengthened progressive caucus in Congress, which is a necessary and lacking component for real change in Washington. Even Barack Obama acknowledges that change does not start at the top, it has got to happen on all levels to truly have an impact.

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9 replies »

  1. She looks pretty solid to me, though I don’t know much about her. I know she has the support of several congressman, S.F. mayor Newsom and Lantos’ wanted her to succeed him.

    That district leans so far D that whoever wins the primary will be a sure shot. I seriously doubt that anyone else will jump in, given the ease with which Speier maintained her State Senate seat.

  2. As a former resident of San Francisco, and after spending several years in the portion that was Lantos’ district, I can attest that it leans very far towards the Dems, and that Jackie Speier probably is a lock. I agree with Lessig’s analysis that to run against her was to risk marginalizing the movement for which he stands. It makes the most sense to build the movement first to the level of successful influence that Lessig is used to achieving, and then to figure out where he personally can have the most impact.