Stanford lawprof Larry Lessig is thinking of running for Congress. Should he do it? Is this the most effective way to leverage his anti-corruption message?
I believe that the last time a brilliant young Stanford law faculty member ran for Congress, he ended up serving several (non-sequential) terms. Professor Tom Campbell eventually ran for the U.S. Senate from California and lost. He’s now Dean of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Long before Tom Cambell, there was Professor Byron Sher, who served in the California Assembly from 1980 to 1996 and the State Senate from 1996 to 2004.
I had the great pleasure of being taught by both men.
Additional thoughts (added after the post above): Around the blogosphere, I’ve noticed connections being made between Lessig’s announcement and the recent death of Tom Lantos, Member of Congress for the 12th District. The 12th, of course, would be the seat that Lessig would pursue, and it’s Lantos’s mantle as the righteously independent pol that Lessig would wear. But Lantos was originally elected to represent the old 11th District, and as a Peninsula native I always regarded him as better suited to the moderately liberal and slightly more Democratic San Mateo County, which formed the core of the old 11th, than to the moderately conservative and slightly more Republican northern Santa Clara County, which was the core of the old 12th.
My sensibilities, however, were formed before redistricting. The current 12th has much in common geographically with the old 11th (thus Lantos’s switch). But redistricting or no, the 12th has a history of officeholders known at least as much for their colorful and provocative positions (and sometimes, personalities) as for their effectiveness, and that history that long predates Tom Lantos. Tom Campbell was characterized as smartest member of Congress and too smart, perhaps, for his own (and his constituents’) political good. Pete McCloskey is the best-known holder of the 12th seat — as a Republican opposing the Vietnam War, for his challenge to Richard Nixon in the 1972 Republican primaries, and for his all-around pugnaciousness. There was Ed Zschau, also a brilliant guy, but perhaps the blandest personality ever to represent Palo Alto. And after Zschau and before Campbell there was Ernie Konnyu, whose name alone suggests what a forgettable figure he should be. Whose mantle really comes with this seat? Lantos is/was the only Democrat in this group. If Lessig runs, and if he wins, he inherits quite the diverse tradition!