July 21, 2003 · Lessig
I’m almost back after a week away (we’re moving this week so I’m not really back till the 28th), but I wanted to thank the Governor for visiting. I have read his posts, and the couple by his campaign, and have just begun to go through the comments.
The appearance by Governor Dean here has created lots of excitement, some stir, and a bit of anger. I’ve been requested by the University to move my blog to a personal server, which is fine and right given FEC regulations. I’ve been asked by many (and especially supporters of Senator Edwards) whether Dean’s appearance means an endorsement.
But that’s just what was perfect about how this week happened. The Dean campaign asked for no endorsement. Indeed, they asked for nothing save the right to substitute if the Governor didn’t have a chance to post. Rather than the drama of an irrelevant endorsement, this week instead was a chance to expand the places a candidate visits in a campaign for public office. It is better than a house, better than a town hall, better than anything on TV. And imho, more candidates should do it regularly.
I invited Dean in particular because so much of the success of his campaign has come from those who spend time on the Internet, and I suggested that the mix who spent time at my blog had a valuable set of insights that might be useful to understanding the issues that rage on these pages.
But as I’ve said before, these issues are not the central issues of a presidential campaign (yet, anyway). And necessarily, any attention a presidential campaign gives to these issues will be for the purpose of learning. No one launches a campaign for President in 2004 with the aim to “free culture” or limit the excesses of creative regulation. These issues are important. Every administration will have to address them. But they do not yet define a campaign or its message. (We’ll see about 2008.)
So obviously, I would be honored to have other candidates take a week here if they want. But whether it is here or elsewhere, every serious candidate should spend time in just such an open, egalitarian place. Everyone now recognizes that the leading Democratic candidate is the leading candidate in part because of how his message spreads in places like this. They should all find places where they can do the same — unprotected by handlers, exposed to many with strong and deep knowledge of a subject, and open to fair criticism. Let there be one week on a blog for every five choreographed “town halls”, and we’ll begin to see something interesting.
Neutrality aside, though, Governor Dean has earned a special respect. Of course there are issues on which I would disagree with anyone. But I have been struck in reading these posts, and the passion they inspired. They revive a feeling I had as a kid — that ideas could matter, and that there could be people who would make them matter.
They matter here not so much because of the detail of any response, but because of the willingness to carry a message to places like this, and because of the effect these places have on those who spend time in them. If I’ve learned anything as I’ve watched places like this, it is that the best strategy is always simply to say what is right and true, trolls notwithstanding.
Our democracy needs more of this. It needs more candidates spending time in places like this. I am therefore grateful to the Governor for taking the lead. We should all be grateful, our personal politics notwithstanding, if more follow.