Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Creative Commons Founder to Congress?

April 8, there will be a special primary election for California's 12th Congressional District, which has become vacant after Tom Lantos passed away last week.

Within days, a draft Lawrence Lessig campaign was set up by Harvard professor John Palfrey.

Ars Technica reported;

Legal theorist Lawrence Lessig, who has become an academic celebrity for his innovative work on cyberlaw and intellectual property in the digital age, made headlines late last year when he announced that he would be shifting his scholarly focus to the study of political corruption. But now a burgeoning online movement is urging the Stanford professor to tackle the problem head-on: they are seeking to draft Lessig to run for Congress, in a special election, scheduled for April 8, to replace the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), who succumbed to cancer last week.

Now Lessig has launched his exploratory committee and two web sites,, and Change-Congress.

Here's his announcement video. Anyone familiar with Lessig is familiar with his "powerpoint" and speaking style. This is definitely not the typical political campaign message, but it will no doubt appeal to a sizable portion of Democratic primary voters in his district.

At this point it's not certaint that he will enter the race. Furthermore, his chances against a popular and well-known politician like Jackie Speier would seem fairly insurmountable.

But this district, spanning parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties represents one of the most IT tech savvy districts in the nation. Lessig is also a staunch supporter of Barack Obama's campaign and there has been much speculation that Lessig would play a role in an Obama administration. It will be interesting to see if and how these two races intersect. IT and communications policy, while mundane to the average voter, will be a major issue in the years to come. Obama, for example, has placed IT policy as a top priority for his administration. He's outlined a very progressive policy (progressive being quite subjective) which can be read here.

Whether or not Lessig enters the race or wins the seat, this demonstrates the increasingly dominant role of not only internet technologies in US politics but of the very active online culture behind those technologies. Lessig, with his dedicated support of open copyright and "free culture" represents the technocratic neo-progressivism which has become a powerful constituency within the emerging new Democratic coalition. Like Carl Pedersen suggests, 2008 may ultimately turn out to be a total referendum on the last 30 years of Conservative free market ideology. Communications and copyright are just a few of the many fronts in what could turn out to become a generational political realignment.