The Best (Only?) Way to Defeat Trump

Disclosure: I’m no politician and I’m no political scientist. (What little I know about politics I learned by running the tech stack for the Larry Lessig campaign.)

That being said, it seems like there’s an obvious tactic that could be deployed to stop Trump from turning the Oval Office into a reality TV set and Idiocracy into a documentary. It’s so obvious that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done already.

We simply need a moderate-leaning conservative with good name recognition (e.g. John McCain, Mit Romney, a younger version of Bob Dole — or someone of that ilk) to ditch the ruinous GOP and run on an Independent ticket. This gives die-hard conservatives — at least the sensible ones who can’t see themselves voting for Trump and won’t switch parties to vote for Clinton or Sanders — a viable option that isn’t a Democrat or a Fascist.

This will produce one of two outcomes. In the less likely scenario, we get record moderate-conservative and independent voter turnout (as a reaction to Trump) and the conservative Independent former-(R) candidate wins. In the more likely scenario, this 3rd party candidate splits the conservative vote, securing a win for Clinton or Sanders.

Either outcome is a win — if for nothing else, then at least for common decency.

Either outcome will end the mockery Trump has made of American politics.

Either outcome also spells the end of the Republican party as we know it. Donald Trump, for all his faults, has given the world a great gift. He is the final nail in the coffin for the GOP as we know it today. Finally, the Republican Party — ironically, the party of Lincoln — will reap the seeds of homophobia, racism, xenophobia, religious hatred, bellicosity and belligerence they have sown for the past several decades.

But this only happens if Trump loses. Which is why we need a moderate conservative to step up, “take one for the team” and run as an Independent.

And by “team” I mean the one consisting of every sensible person on this planet.

Trump, Portlandia and Fascism

When The Donald first entered the 2016 presidential race, I have to admit feeling some mild intrigue. I have respect for outsiders, for people who don’t always color in between the lines. Having run the technology stack for another non-traditional candidate — Lawrence Lessig — I can appreciate the frustration many of us feel about incessant partisan bickering, pay-to-play politics and an impotent congress. Lessig, who ran on the issue of campaign finance reform, even gave credit to Trump for elevating the money-in-politics message to the national level.

That being said, I had already formed a negative impression of Trump based on a number of stories I’d read in the media about his bankruptcies, scandals, questionable business decisions, failed marriages, etc. But everyone knows that the media have their own agendas, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Same goes for his reality TV career: I spent five minutes with Gordon Ramsey a couple years ago and he proved to be kindhearted, gentle, humble and gracious in every way imaginable. Here too was I willing to give Trump a pass. Maybe he was just playing a character as so many “reality” TV stars are wont to do.

Perhaps because it seemed like a reasonable move for a reality TV star, Trump announced Senator Lindsay Graham’s (real) mobile phone number at a campaign event last year. While it seemed underhanded and petty, it also could have easily been mistaken for a practical joke — albeit a rather nasty one, but a joke nonetheless.

Like a Portlandia skit, Trump’s antics started out being amusing and engaging. I’ll admit it; I had a few good laughs.

Then I watched The Donald belittle Senator John McCain over his POW experience. These words were spoken not in the context of a reality show, not twisted out of context as part of some media spin job; no, he said them plainly in no uncertain terms. When asked to apologize, he refused and redoubled his attacks on the senator and war hero.

At this point, it became clear to me that Trump could not be taken seriously. No serious candidate would make fun of McCain’s distinguished service to his — and our — country. Ten years ago (or perhaps even ten months ago), a comment like that would have meant political seppuku. Trump had to be kidding. But this was no laughing matter.

At this point the Portlandia skit, while still amusing, begins to make you wonder if you should be chuckling or cringing.

Then the wheels started to come off the train. Trump said young black kids have “no spirit,” called Mexicans criminals and rapists, threatened to build a great wall between our countries (which actually is a little funny given his bizarre China fetish), called Carly Fiorina ugly and Ted Cruz a “pussy.” Note that these are just the things he’s said on record. I don’t want to know what he says when the world isn’t listening. Really, I don’t.

So at this point, we’ve established that either Trump is “just kidding” or he’s a racist, a xenophobe, a megalomaniac, a misogynist/sexist — and a grade-school bully. 

Some have said that he’s rewriting the rulebook for American politics. But breaking all the rules is not the same as rewriting them. Besides, panem et circenses has been a central theme in perhaps every political contest over the past 2000 years, so we’re not dealing with a new strategy, just a bigger one. I’ve heard something similar said about violence: if it’s not working out for you, you just need to use more of it. 

Back to Portlandia. At this point in the skit, you’re feeling downright squeamish. You’re looking around the room to see if anyone else can see that you’re watching it. You wish it would have ended when it was still funny and not so darn . . . creepy.

Then Trump told his little ditty to the world about killing Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. For me, this was the moment where his outlandish Portlandia skit of a campaign really went off the fucking rails. Forget Portlandia! Not even Idiocracy — as prescient as it was — predicted something as ghastly as this.

We’re long past the point of “just kidding” now and moving into the territory of white robes and hoods. On second thought, the KKK isn’t even the right analogy. They’re small potatoes. Trump is huge.

At long last I have come to understand why intellectuals typically avoid Third Reich analogies: because they were all waiting for this very moment and they didn’t want to spoil it on someone unworthy.

I’m not going to mince words: Trump is Hitler. He is amassing a following of neo-Nazis and thereby starting the most dangerous movement in our country since our own Civil War.

He must be stopped and stopped now, before he makes it to the general election.

Nothing — not even the creepiest Portlandia skit — can approximate the scourge that this one man will bring upon our country if we are foolish enough to elect him.

Lessig 2016: The Internet’s President

On the heels of Larry Lessig’s historic announcement of his Referendum Candidacy came another newsworthy item: Jimmy Wales announced that he is chairing LECEC, the Lessig Equal Citizens Exploratory Committee, which consists of me and scores of other volunteers and staffers working at a breakneck pace to make Lessig’s nascent campaign a reality.

At first blush, the Wales announcement might seem like a footnote on an afterthought, but I read something very different into it. Something that reminds me of Paul Revere. But no British are coming this time. Instead, Wales penned these nine simple words and so began the largest, most peaceful, and most desperately-needed democratic revolution in human history:

When you light up the Internet, anything is possible.

–Jimmy Wales, Chairman emeritus, Wikimedia Foundation

That’s right, Internet: He may have understated it a bit, but Jimmy Wales just asked us to mobilize and elect Lessig in 2016.

Let’s face it: No one has been kinder to the Internet than Larry Lessig. In the twenty-plus years I’ve followed his work, he’s rallied against outrageous software patents, fought copyright takedowns, drafted the contracts that legally protect and enable “open source” software (which powers most of the Internet), started the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford, fended off aggressive corporate and government entities in his quest for net neutrality and, naturally, he’s spoken at TED. Four times.

Larry is and has been the Internet’s dedicated steward for the better part of his career. His body of work enabled the Internet to become what it is today: a loosely-coupled network wherein heterogeneous data, applications, and systems play in an ecosystem with minimalist governance atop a tiny handful of protocols and specifications.

No one’s been a bigger advocate for the open internet than Larry Lessig.

–Cenk Uygur, The Young Turks

If Vint Cerf, Donald Davies and Bob Kahn are the “fathers of the internet” and if Aaron Swartz was “the internet’s own boy,” then Lessig is the Internet’s uncle.

What better way for the Internet to say thanks to Uncle Larry than to use its enormous catalytic power to hack him into the White House?

And who better to do the hacking than the hackers of our own generation? We were born into a world with basically no connectivity to information, services or people. Today, we have access to pretty much every other connected person and all of the world’s public digital information (so long as we can keep our phone batteries alive).

As software developers in the mid-90s, we didn’t just witness the explosive, hockey-stick growth of the commercial internet; we actually built huge swaths of that reality ourselves. My peers and their peers built out the data centers and server racks, the gateways and firewalls, the routers and switches, the firmware and software platforms, the web servers and middleware, the web services and mobile applications — that drew billions of people into a web of inter-connectivity, knit together so tightly that a single thread can be spun half way around the world and back again in just seconds.

As my peers and I built PayPal and Yahoo! and Oracle and Amazon and Google — and the millions of companies that weren’t as fortunate — we didn’t realize this tremendous side benefit:

We created the most powerful agent of social change in the history of humankind.

In 2012, when Lessig and Swartz “lit up” the internet to defeat the SOPA and PIPA bills, scores of sites — including Wales’ Wikipedia — “went dark” in protest of these hair-brained bits of legislation.

That was the battle. This is the war.

Today we are at war with a much darker evil, far more insidious than the foiled attempts to reign in and regulate the internet. Our government has become the handmaiden of the “funders” — billionaires, PACs, multinational corporations, labor unions and other special interests — and we are fighting to restore a representative democracy back to the citizens to whom it was promised.

We are fighting “the root of all evil,” the darkest evil with the deepest pockets. And we’re already in way over our heads.

But now, Jimmy, we’re gonna light up the Internet.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

If there exists one light great enough to drive the corrupting influence of money out of DC, it’s not burning torches and gleaming pitchforks. Rather, it’s the glow of a hundred million mobile phones, tablets and laptops, mobilized under a single, peaceful mandate. With every Facebook like, every share, every re-tweet, every blog post, every comment, every volunteer effort and every donation, the light spreads and burns ever more strongly, driving out the darkness.

Wales said:

When you light up the Internet, anything is possible.

I say:

Lessig for President in 2016.

Wales said anything. And it’s our job — as denizens of the Internet — not to prove him wrong.

Lessig 2016: Defining a Generation

In the Federalist Papers, published in 1778, James Madison called for a Congress “dependent on the people alone.” His generation sung a song of revolution whose refrain of Taxation Without Representation came to symbolize egregious overreaches by a corrupt monarch: currency, stamps, quartering soldiers, sugar, and of course: tea. Theirs was a government under siege.

Our Founding Fathers imagined, fought for and won a new legislature, a congress governed by the people, for the people.

Today the representative democracy our forefathers left us also lies under siege.

Not by an offshore monarchy, but by a pathological dependency upon money from special interests, corporations and the mega-mega-wealthy, who — through a system of legalized bribery (which Senator Elizabeth Warren calls “rigged”) — have created a dysfunctional, gridlocked government dependent not on the people alone, as Madison intended, but on the money alone.

So many issues about which we care so deeply — be they climate change, gun control, Wall Street, food safety, racial equality, a living wage, the tax code — end up in stalemates because of the towering influence wielded by massive campaign contributions from magnates and special interest groups. That systematic corruption, combined with the virtually limitless corporate spending enabled by Citizens United, has created a deeply unbalanced and divided country at odds with her own legislature. The 2% popularized by the Occupy Movement is not the problem; it’s the .0001%.

Money, functioning as quite literally the root of all evil, fundamentally stops any populist movement at odds with corporate interests in this country, ultimately benefiting the few hundred billionaires who run our plutocracy and kicking the other three-hundred million of us to the curb.

Ryan Borek, the Executive Director of Take A Stand PAC, estimates that congresspeople spend, on average, 31 hours a week fundraising, during which time “they must raise around $650 an hour to meet their goals for the next election.”

In the underrated and shockingly prescient movie Idiocracy, the Secretary of State says “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.” after nearly every sentence. Why? Because they pay him every time he says it. “It’s a good way to make money,” he claims, derisively, as if to ask, “Doesn’t everyone know that already?”

To address the corrupting influence of money in Washington, we don’t need another Carl’s Jr.-sponsored politician. We need nothing short of a trans-partisan — if not apolitical — revolution. We need the un-president, the Frodo Baggins president: a selfless reformer who takes power from the reigning authorities only to destroy it, for everyone’s benefit.

That is why I can say, with confidence, that:

Today’s Lawrence Lessig announcement is the defining moment of our generation.

I joined this movement’s tech team as a volunteer in January of this year, but I’ve been following Lessig’s work for the better part of twenty. In his latest book, Republic, Lost, he makes a compelling case for the Regent (or Trustee) President, now being called the “Referendum President.” The concept is simple: once significant campaign finance and voter equality reform has passed, the Referendum President promises to resign, leaving the vice president at the helm.

The historical mandate of the nation’s first “Referendum Candidate” has the power to end the endemic corrupting influence of money and return the government to its rightful purpose: to serve the people it governs.

Obviously, this won’t be easy. Many smart people have told me this idea is completely insane. I kindly invite naysayers to show me a better one.

In the meantime, I am humbly asking you to support this movement.

One of the great ironies of fighting against the corrupting influence of money is that it’s going to take money to win.

We’ve built a crowdsourcing platform upon which we intend to raise $1M by Labor Day, or else we will return all the contributions. We’re accepting small donations only (adhering to the federal per-person limits of $5,400). No corporate or PAC donations are allowed.

If you too feel that this idea’s time has come, please consider kickstarting the revolution by making a contribution. If that doesn’t feel possible, try to make it so. Every little bit counts. (Skip Starbucks and give Lessig five bucks?) This morning, after watching her dad work literally around the clock from Friday afternoon until this morning, my nine-year-old donated $5. That’s half her weekly income. While I am touched by her support, this remains our problem to solve. If not for us, then for her generation and the generations to come.

Yes, we need money. But whether you are able to give or not, please help us get the word out by sharing this message.

I hope you’ll join me and the rest of Team Lessig in making ours the generation that fixes our broken government, leaving behind what Madison imagined and implored: a congress dependent not on big money, but on the people and the people alone.