“On ‘dumbing down’ the Democratic debate”

Larry Lessig responds to Tom Mann’s post of yesterday:

I get the appeal in blaming Republicans. I understand the attraction in good vs evil stories. I see the strength in the partisan rally. I get it’s a great strategy for winning elections.

But it is not a strategy for governing. We won’t have a functioning government until we create a functioning democracy. And it is precisely because of the rhetoric of Republicans such as Trump, that we have a chance now to build a campaign that rallies America to this obvious truth. There will be citizens of good conscience who argue against the idea of wealth equality. There will be liberals as well as conservatives who argue against the notion of speech equality. But who is going to explain to America that citizens do not deserve equal representation as citizens? Who’s going to defend the grotesque system that gives 400 families so much political power? If there is one truth for us that is self-evident, it is that a representative democracy should represent us equally. And if there is one truth that cannot be denied, it is that America’s democracy doesn’t.

Focusing America on that core principle may well be “dumbing down” the debate. I don’t think so. I think its a way to elevate the debate above the stupid partisanship that has disillusioned so many. I think it’s time to fight for a big idea that Americans actually believe and that was the core idea of our Republic: that representative democracy represent its citizens equally. I think we could win that fight. And if we do, we would win something much bigger than yet another partisan election.

I’m happy to be called “absurd” and “foolish” for standing up for that ideal, and proposing an idea to get it. But when I am, I’m not sure it is I who am “dumbing down” the democratic debate. I’m not sure that’s debate at all.


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