Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you running for President?
We need a government that works — one not corrupted by the influence of money, one capable of representing us. We don’t have that government now, because as Elizabeth Warren puts it, “the system is rigged.” Congress represents its funders first; average Americans are not represented. I’m running for president to fix our broken democracy — and to do so starting on day one.
What is the Citizen Equality Act?
Just the most comprehensive reform to assure equal political power in our representative democracy in the history of our representative democracy.
It would ensure a meaningfully equal right to vote — no more voting roadblocks that keep certain kinds of voters from the polls, as well as an affirmative commitment to make voting easy.
It would ensure equal representation. Gone will be the game of political gerrymandering where politicians pick their voters by drawing partisan district lines. In its place will be a commitment to draw districts that give fair and proportional representational power to all.
And most importantly to me, it would establish a system for funding campaigns that would remove the power of the cronies and special interests, and shift that power to all of us. We must be funding the politicians’ campaigns if we want the politicians to answer to us.
Has anyone in Congress introduced the Citizen Equality Act?
Most parts of the proposed Act, in its initial form, have already been introduced in Congress. See the page here describing the act for the sources. Many of these reforms have waited for decades without so much as a committee hearing, let alone a vote in the House of Representatives or the Senate. The problem is not a poverty of good ideas; it’s a poverty of political will to good things done in the nation’s capitol. Washington, D.C. has become the place where good ideas go to die. When we restore citizen equality, this will reinvigorate our electoral process with a fresh crop of candidates with new ideas.
Why are you running as a Democrat?
I am a Democrat, and I believe in the values of the (modern) Democratic Party. But the reform I am pushing is not more Democratic than Republican.
Why not endorse one of the other major candidates?
My aim is get the fundamental reform of the Citizen Equality Act of 2017 enacted as the first act of the next administration. This campaign is about a principle, not a person.
If the major candidates in the Democratic Primary all credibly commit to making this same type of reform the first priority of the next administration, I have promised to step aside.
Why are the other candidates’ reform proposals not sufficient to solve this?
The question isn’t just what proposals a candidate supports. The question is their commitment and plan for enacting them. We have got to push for reform first, so that all the other changes that the candidates are promising us have a shot. A candidate telling you that they’ll fix this “over the long term” is kicking the can down the road and promoting the persistence of this problem.
Do you think you can defeat Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and the other Democratic candidates?
I’m not in the business of defeating Democrats. However extraordinary Hillary or Bernie or any other candidate is, they can only create effective public policy if we have a Congress that’s free to lead. I am running to make that possible.
Why should people elect someone who has never run for office to the presidency?
I have never run for office, true. I am not a politician. If the politicians were dealing with these problems well on their own, I wouldn’t be running.
They are not.
What is your position on other political issues?
I am for any sound, constitutional, financially-responsible policy that is crafted by fairly elected legislators not beholden to private money, private interests or personal gain. I am for policies that put people first, real democracy first, and for a legal system untarnished by the corrupting influence of money.
Why do you care so much about equality?
I believe deeply in the ideals of our tradition. But I’m risking everything because I believe unless we make those ideals real, we will not have government that can address the critical issues that we need a government to address. We won’t have climate change legislation until we fix this rigged system. We won’t address the debt sensibly until we fix this rigged system. We won’t reform Wall Street until we fix this rigged system. We won’t get real health care reform until we fix this rigged system. You get the pattern.
If I’m running for political office in 2016, how can we work together on our campaigns?
If you’re running for Congress or the Senate, you can press the urgent need for America to commit finally to citizen equality and pledge to support the Citizen Equality Act. If you’re running for any other office, then it is enormously important for you to talk about fixing democracy first and make this the defining issue in the 2016 election. At a recent candidate training, state legislators talked about introducing state-level Citizen Equality Acts. That is an excellent idea.
Where does the money go?
At this stage, to the incredibly important work of building the organization and movement to support citizen equality. That means everything from keeping the website running and paying election lawyers as well as guys like TheKitchen.co who’ve made outstanding videos for our campaign.
Did you ever think, in your wildest dreams, that you’d ever run for president?
Once, in second grade.
What is your day job?
I teach law. My focus throughout my teaching career has been constitutional law. I have also written extensively about the law of the Internet and, more recently, political corruption.
Being a teacher means teaching, reading, and writing. In addition to those responsibilities, I have given hundreds of speeches across the world to every kind of audience about these subjects. That experience has taught me the most, as it has forced my thinking to evolve, and forced me to learn to speak publicly in a way that translates difficult ideas into understandable terms.
What is your background politically and professionally?
I’ve worked primarily with progressives over the past 8 years in my work for political reform, though we’ve found some amazing allies across the political spectrum who believe in self-government as a principle. I’ve founded (or co-founded) the political organizations Rootstrikers, New Hampshire Rebellion, and Mayday.US. I also serve on the board of the Free Software Foundation, EFF, the Software Freedom Law Center, and Public Knowledge.
Are you crazy?
What risk would you take to save your child? What risk should all of us take to save a future for our children?
If you were not running for president, what else would you be doing?
When you started Mayday.US, was it your plan all along to run for president?
No. Mayday’s aim is to create the conditions in Congress for a regular president to champion fundamental reform.
Will Mayday be supporting your run for the presidency?
It cannot, at least initially. Mayday’s support was raised to fund congressional reform. It cannot use those funds to support a presidential race.
Where were you born and where did you grow up? What’s your story?
I was born in South Dakota and grew up in Pennsylvania. I went to the University of Pennsylvania to study business. I left to go to England to study philosophy. When I became convinced by one of the greatest philosophers, Wittgenstein, that there was no reason to be a philosopher, I returned to the states to study law. I graduated from Yale in 1989, and clerked for Judge Richard Posner and Justice Antonin Scalia (as his resident contrarian). I then began teaching at the University of Chicago Law School.
My work initially focused on constitutional law. In the mid-1990s, I shifted to the study of how the law interacts with the Internet. That was the focus of my first published book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999), and the next four (The Future of Ideas (2001), Free Culture (2004), Code v2 (2006), Remix (2008)).
In 2007, Aaron Swartz convinced me to shift my work from the Internet and copyright, to the corruption of our government that made progress on those issues, and every other important issue, so difficult. I did what he said. With Joe Trippi, we started Change Congress, which became Rootstrikers. I then helped found the New Hampshire Rebellion and Mayday.US. In 2011, I published Republic, Lost. I will publish a revised version of that book in the next few months.
Would your wife work on any issues as first lady or would she focus on equality too?
Bettina is a human rights lawyer, currently focused on the problem of access to healthy food by all children. She would likely remain focused on her work on these issues.
What kind of pets would you have in the White House?
Only three young children.
Have you ever run for political office or served in a public position before?
No. I am not a politician.
Why did you add voting rights and gerrymandering to your reform proposal?
My work on this issue began with a focus on the way money corrupts the system. But pressed by many brilliant souls — Guy Charles, Rick Hasen, and others — I have come to see that the reason the system is “corrupt” is because it denies a fundamental equality of citizens. And once you recognize that, then all the other ways the system denies equality are also important. Though differently important. In my view, the motivation for denying equal voting rights is partisan — it benefits one party over the other. The motivation for denying equal representation is political — gerrymandering is a game both parties play, even if it benefits one party more than another. And the motivation for the corrupted system of funding campaigns is simply to gain power — concentrating the funding in a few gives those few enormous power in the political system.
Why not just focus on campaign finance reform?
The way we fund campaigns is a corruption of our constitutional design. We were promised a Congress “dependent on the people alone,” where “the People” meant, “not the rich more than the poor.” The politicians have given us a Congress dependent on the funders of campaigns — the rich more than all of us.
I have spent the last 8 years fighting to end this corruption.
But the reason this system is a corruption is because it denies citizens a basic commitment of a representative democracy — that it represent its citizens equally.
If we’re going to fight to correct that fundamental inequality of a representative system, we should fight to correct the other inequalities as well. We should fight to enact reform that gives all of us equal political power. We should end the general sense that too many Americans have: that Congress doesn’t represent them.