WASHINGTON -- Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard professor who is exploring a long shot presidential run, said on Tuesday that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is "running a campaign to win, not to govern." He made the remarks during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales.
Lessig vows that if he is elected president, he will resign as soon as he enacts the Citizens Equality Act of 2017, an election reform package. Lessig's proposal would end partisan gerrymandering, establish automatic voter registration, declare Election Day a national holiday, and give all voters a voucher they can use for campaign contributions in an effort to decrease the influence of special interests.
A Reddit user expressed concern on Tuesday that Lessig's campaign might take votes away from Sanders. In response, Lessig questioned whether the candidate can accomplish the reforms he has proposed.
"Sanders is great, but he is running a campaign to win, not to govern. Like Obama 8 years ago, he is talking about the problem, but not giving us a plan for how it will be fixed," Lessig wrote in the Q&A. "First. Because if he doesn't address it first, then — seriously, this is obvious, right? — none of the things he's talking about will be possible."
"So why isn't he talking about it first?" Lessig added. "Because the consultants are telling him: 'here's how you win a campaign.' They don't care if winning the campaign that way means you can't actually govern. I do care about whether we have a government that can govern. I'm offering a plan that might actually get us that."
Lessig is the co-founder of Creative Commons, which works alongside copyright law to promote content sharing. The New Yorker reported last year that he became interested in addressing corruption in politics as a result of his friendship with Internet hacktivist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life in 2013 after he faced federal charges for illegally downloading academic articles.
In 2014, Lessig launched a super PAC that spent more than $10 million on candidates who were pro-campaign finance reform. The stunt was not considered a success. Most of the candidates backed by this Mayday PAC lost.
"We learned an incredible amount, even if we didn't win 8 seats," Lessig wrote of the PAC. "Someone's got to explain to the nay sayers that when nothing is working, you've got to try stuff that radically new."
Lessig doesn't plan to officially launch his candidacy unless he can raise $1 million by Labor Day. (He's up to almost $600,000.) If he's successful, he intends to crowdsource a process to complete his reform package and run as a referendum candidate. He has promised to leave his vice president pick in the hands of the Democratic National Convention, although he has said he would be interested in seeing Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) take the reins.
Lessig said during the AMA that would "absolutely" join Sanders in pledging not to run as a third-party candidate if he loses the Democratic nomination.