Larry Lessig for Congress?

The Larry Lessig for Congress movement is gathering steam, and the Professor himself is showing all the signs of running:

Former colleague John Palfrey, of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, launched a “Draft Lessig for Congress” Facebook group, attracting more than 2,000 social networking Larry lovers, and others soon sprung for their own” domain.

When we contacted Lessig yesterday morning to ask what he thought of all this, we didn’t get answer. But today, he told the world he is “seriously” considering a Congressional campaign. Lessig says he won’t make his final decision until “about” March 1. That would give him a month to prepare for the fight. But he’s launched a new website and a very Lessig online video to show just how serious he is.

The video confirms (yet again) that he’s determined to change the political landscape. “In my view the most exciting part of the debate around change is the idea of changing how Washington works, changing the influence of money in Washington,” Lessig says. “Not an influence that comes through bribes, but an influence that is produced by the economy of influence that money now has in Washington.”

Sounds like a born politician to us.

I think this is a bad idea, and I’d like to tell you why.

Lessig isn’t a politician, so he wouldn’t be effective at moving bills, the primary purpose of legislators. He would be another Ron Paul, the focal point of a distinctly out-of-the-mainstream ideology instead of a lawmaker. Novelty legislators are fun for the media, but they don’t serve their voters well.

And I doubt he’d be effective at constituent services, the second most effective task, because he doesn’t have the web of influence that career politicians have. Ideologues like Jesse Helms and Maxine Waters are re-elected term after term because they’re adept at constituent services.

And finally, I predict that Lessig would lose interest and resign within a few months once he’d found out that lawmaking isn’t as glamorous as leading a high-profile academic program and essentially being a rock star for free downloads.

And there’s a real danger that a guy like Lessig would be harmful to the process as well. He would be taken as a tech expert in Washington, because he’s considered one in his present niche. But Lessig doesn’t understand technology per se, he’s more an expert on certain cultural implications of technology. So I wouldn’t want someone with such a thin grasp of tech issues to become “Mr. High Tech” on the Hill.

I happen to know Jackie Speier, the real politician who was endorsed by Tom Lantos to take this place in the House. I certainly don’t agree with her on every issue, but I’ve worked with her and found her to be a competent, intelligent person. So based on my experience with Sen. Speier and her demonstrated commitment to the people and the process of government, I’d bet that a Congresswoman Speier wouldn’t drop out at the end of the first term and go on the road with a rock band.

Lessig’s an interesting character with a lot of challenging ideas, but Congress is not the place for him.

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