October 17th, 2017

Waiting for Hillary-Godot

Laurence Lessig is a law professor at Harvard, with credentials of the impeccable sort (or what used to be called “impeccable”): the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and before that a law professor at Stanford.

He also ran for president in 2016 as a Democrat, but if you blinked you missed it.

Anyway, he seems to be the champion of “when trout swim down Great Ormond Street” speculation. I wrote about an op-ed he’d written for the WaPo (certainly not an obscure newspaper) shortly after the 2016 election, which I characterized this way:

“The obligatory ‘the electors should vote for Hillary’ articles”—What are these articles about? After all, it’s pretty much a certainty that there won’t be a revolt by an enormous group of rogue electors…

Electors ordinarily comply with the wishes of their states, and certainly not enough of them have ever defied those wishes to make a particle of difference…

Not gonna happen, and I submit that the authors of both articles [there were two articles to that effect, one by Lessig] know it’s not gonna happen. So what’s the point of writing them? To stir up anger, hope, and turmoil among Democrats who are eager to delegitimize Trump as president, and also to discredit the institution of the Electoral College, which liberals and leftists tend to believe works against them and the pure democracy they believe would favor them.

Lessig has not given up, nor have some others. Nearly a year later he’s been featured in a Newsweek article by perhaps-aptly-named Julia Glum, who outlines his five-step program by which Hillary Clinton could yet become president:

If number 1: If Trump is definitively found to have colluded directly with Russia, he would be forced to resign or be impeached.

If number 2: If Trump is removed, Vice President Mike Pence would become president.

If number 3: If Pence becomes president, he should resign too, given that he benefited from the same help from Mother Russia.

If number 4: If Pence resigns before appointing a vice president, Ryan would become president.

If number 5: If Ryan becomes president, he should do the right thing and choose Clinton for vice president. Then he should resign.

“The answer seems unavoidable: He should nominate the person defeated by the treason of his own party, and then step aside and let her become the president,” Lessig writes. “Without doubt, if Ryan did the right thing, that would be the most extraordinary event in the history of America since the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter. But unlike that, this event would build the union, not divide it.”

Lessig, who briefly ran for the Democratic nomination in 2015, adds that Clinton would then appoint Ryan to be veep out of political goodwill.

Remember, this man is a professor of law at Harvard.

I also discovered he is a political changer with a right-to-left trajectory. That sort of change is very rare if it takes place after the formative (that is, student) years, but Lessig’s change seems to have occurred while he was in college, which makes him fairly typical of right-to-left changers. Here’s the story:

Lessig earned a B.A. degree in Economics and a B.S. degree in Management (Wharton School) from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. degree in Philosophy from the University of Cambridge (Trinity) in England, and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School in 1989. After graduating from law school, he clerked for a year for Judge Richard Posner, at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois, and another year for Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court…

Lessig has been politically liberal since studying philosophy at Cambridge in the mid-1980s. By the late 1980s when he was selected to serve as a law clerk for two influential conservative judges, Judge Richard Posner and Justice Antonin Scalia, he was effectively the token liberal on their staffs, chosen for his brilliance rather than for his ideology. Posner would later call him “the most distinguished law professor of his generation.”

Lessig has emphasized in interviews that his philosophy experience at Cambridge radically changed his values and career path. Previously, he had held strong conservative or libertarian political views, desired a career in business, was a highly active member of Teenage Republicans, served as the Youth Governor for Pennsylvania through the YMCA Youth and Government program in 1978, and almost pursued a Republican political career.

What was intended to be a year abroad at Cambridge convinced him instead to stay another two years to complete an undergraduate degree in philosophy and develop his changed political values. During this time, he also traveled in the Eastern Bloc, where he acquired a lifelong interest in Eastern European law and politics.

Lessig remains skeptical of government intervention but favors some regulation, calling himself “a constitutionalist.”

Maybe some day I’ll do a bit more research on this guy to try to discover what happened to swing him to the left. Right now, it seems to me from a quick perusal that he’s not a very typical leftist (or a very typical anything). He seems to be primarily a libertarian of the left and a deeply quirky character who lives, as far as I can see, in a dreamworld. But that dreamworld certainly seems to get quite a bit of traction in the press and academia, and no doubt influences some unknown number of people.

What I wrote a year ago about Lessig’s op-ed is something that could be repeated about this latest effort by Lessig channeled though Ms. Glum: “To stir up anger, hope, and turmoil among Democrats who are eager to delegitimize Trump as president.”

19 Responses to “Waiting for Hillary-Godot”

  1. arfldgrs Says:

    most swing to the left for avarice.. rewards… perks… bribes… or in difficult cases, blackmail…

    Russian bribery plot uncovered before Obama approved uranium deal with Moscow…

    Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

    Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

    and what makes you think he was actually on the right?

    there are LOTS of leftists trying to reform the thought on the right from inside… its a entryist, trotskyist, fabian, kind of thing

    Lessig announced the launch of his presidential campaign on September 6, 2015. On August 11, 2015, Lessig announced that he had launched an exploratory campaign for the purpose of exploring his prospects of winning the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election

    no way to do that unless your a full commnist with creds from activities and things done

    Lessig is married to Bettina Neuefeind, a German-born Harvard University colleague. The two married in 1999.

    above is all you have ot know on his conversion..
    his wife is a social justice lawyer, and given left right politics, he could stay on the right and be with her, but she cant be with him if he doesnt join her… it would ruin her career, and so on..

    she is prettya nd younger than him and would make a power couple.. he is older and more famous… quite convenient for both

    Bettina is a social justice lawyer focused on food justice, food access, and food literacy education. She is currently a Research Fellow at Harvard Law School and an affiliate of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, a division of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

    Previously, Bettina clerked in the courts, documented war crimes, and provided free legal aid in areas such as eviction defense, subsidized housing preservation, fair housing and disability rights.

    Bettina is also a mother of three, lover of food, freelance photographer and citizen of the world. In her home community of Brookline, Massachusetts, she serves as a Town Meeting Member for Precinct One and targets equality, education, and environmental issues. Bettina is an avid bicycle commuter.

    pretty easy to know why given child support, alimony, court bias, and more… and if you dont think he thinks of that, then either he is a moron, or someone is in fantasy land..

  2. steve walsh Says:

    “To stir up anger, hope, and turmoil among Democrats who are eager to delegitimize Trump as president.”

    This is the simplest, most likely explanation for his delusional proposal. Much of his target audience is so very easily stirred.

  3. j e Says:

    Meanwhile, how many are paying attention to the real scandals, Wasserman and Awan, Robert Menendez on trial, and the latest revelations about Crooked Hillary and the uranium?

  4. Tatterdemalian Says:

    It’s not hard to understand right-to-left changers. The left promises to enhance reality to make it so anything you demand is given to you immediately, whether flocks of sexy giggling college girls eager to perform sexual favors for attention (for Bill Clinton), or armies of expendable cannon fodder beta males to build palaces fit for their Great Leader, then dig their own graves and kill themselves somewhere out of the way (for Hillary, Obama, etc. back to Lenin).

    So wonderful the minion-generated world seems to such people, they often don’t stop to wonder what might happen when one liberal’s enhanced reality collides with another’s. Or if they do, they assume their own enhanced reality will triumph, just because they’re so much greater a Great Leader than anybody else possibly could be.

  5. neo-neocon Says:


    That may be true for a lot of people, but that’s not what I think was going on with Lessig.

  6. Paul in Boston Says:

    Harvard Law lost all credibilty when Tribe was not fired for having one of his books ghostwritten and the contents plagiarized. Plus Elana Kagen, she of the Supremes, as Chairman of the department fiddled around for six months and mumbled the issue away rather than giving him the boot. Her reward was the Supreme Court where she is now a member of the female borg.

  7. vanderleun Says:

    I knew Lessign briefly when I worked at th e Electronic Frontier Foundation at the beginning of the 1990s. He was a bit quirky then but in general a thoughtful man. Too bad he’s succumb to the drool of Cambridge. Or perhaps he was always an example of early onset dementia as show here.

  8. Griffin Says:

    The pattern is well established by now whenever things start going well for Trump (having success, getting things done) it’s time to whip up the hysteria machine again. I have truly stopped even reading these things at this point and that is true of the NeverTrumper brigade on the right especially. Waste of time.

  9. DNW Says:

    If he has a background in philosophy, and if it really was philosophy – of some school or another – which convinced him that he is entitled to lay substantive life affecting claims against, say, me, on a non-distributive and reciprocal basis (your need somehow equals my duty to perform, even if we don’t share the need nor the benefit) then, the son of a bitch ought to be able to lay it out in nice and clear and valid, and for all intents and purposes indubitable, syllogistic form; great mind that he has.

    I look forward to seeing him do so someday.

    Unless of course all that that philosophy imbibed in Cambridge convinced him of, was little more than that a progressive will-to-power mindset looked more socially palatable with some utilitarian or Ironist sparkle-dust thrown over it.

    If that is the case, I invite him to imagine Richard Rorty thrown face down in the mud and the knee of a young man settled firmly on his neck as he flailed and choked … and then recall that, speaking in the progressive moralist’s own terms, ‘the teleology (and and any moral inferences drawn therefrom) is really, just, all in your head ….”

  10. huxley Says:

    “National Lampoon” magazine once published an article on writing in which the main advice for the novice writer stuck with plot trouble was the ending:

    And then they all got run over by a truck.

    Lessig seems to have taken that advice to heart, then added “…so Hillary Clinton would be President.”

  11. AMartel Says:

    Right to left changers have a difficult time adjusting to the lefty fantasy utopia world. Everyone else on the left has grown up with certain assumptions and presumptions and they know their limits, even if the limits are never never never expressed. They understand-deep in their subconscious-that it’s all a big fiction and the idea is not to let other people see that.
    Newly minted lefties are like kids in a candy store, they can’t seem to rein themselves in.

  12. AMartel Says:

    This guy’s all: I’m a Harvard Law Professor. I can do anything. I’ll just write some lawyer-ish stuff and presto, crown Hillary! Queen of America!

  13. parker Says:

    Lessig and the Glum gal are in deep in the weeds, in fact most of left are also deep in the weeds. The very idea of floating this ‘if’ list is mind boggling. If pigs can fly why can’t I? But wait… pigs can’t fly even if they are wearing lipstick. Looks like I can’t flap my arms and buzz dive cornhead in NB. Darn!

    The best thing about djt is the unmasking of the institutions of the left.

  14. John Guilfoyle Says:

    “The best thing about djt is the unmasking of the institutions of the left.”

    Parker…I love ya man! But the BEST thing about DJT day in and day out is (everyone say it with me) HE AIN’T HILLARY! and because of DJT Hillary will NEVER be POTUS.

    Everything else is gravy.

  15. Richard Saunders Says:

    Sure. And if my bubbee had bazim, she would have been my zayde!*

    *Trans: If my grandmother had testicles, she would have been my grandfather!

  16. AesopFan Says:

    John Guilfoyle Says:
    October 17th, 2017 at 8:12 pm
    “The best thing about djt is the unmasking of the institutions of the left.”

    Parker…I love ya man! But the BEST thing about DJT day in and day out is (everyone say it with me) HE AIN’T HILLARY! and because of DJT Hillary will NEVER be POTUS.

    Everything else is gravy.
    * *
    It’s okay to have two best things.
    And the unmasking of the Left is one reason we don’t have President Hillary; it started during the campaign, as soon as the Dems realized they wouldn’t have Jeb or Ted to kick around.

  17. John Guilfoyle Says:

    Aesop…I can certainly embrace the power of “and”
    Pax Vobiscum.

  18. Delilah Says:

    The delusion is strong with this one, Obi Wan.
    He needs to be committed to a mental institution. And he is supposed to be “the most distinguished law professor of his generation”? Wow. Just Wow.

  19. LB100 Says:

    I wonder if Posner and Lessig moved left-to-right at same time. Posner, a Reagan appointee, good writer, very influential judge and leader in the law-and-economics movement of the 1980s, became an FDR-style liberal somewhere between about 1990 and 2000. (See, e.g., his book on financial crisis.) Posner still has balance, but Lessig is very much a man of the Left.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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