Donald Trump vs. Lawrence Lessig: Cynicism vs. Citizenship

They are two opposing forces in the campaign for the U.S. primaries. Two outsiders launched into the race to the White House, far from Washington and from its political elite — two incarnations of the American dream that oppose each other. The first craves a Republican inauguration, the second the Democratic candidacy. On one side, we have business, reality TV and skyscrapers; on the other, law, social networks and prestigious universities. Cynicism versus citizenship, demagoguery versus pedagogy, financial deregulation versus mobilized citizens.

Bring Back the Greatness to the Stars and Stripes

The first [candidate], Donald Trump, has continued to throw opinion polls and commentators into disarray. The property magnate is promising Republicans that he will return the greatness to the American flag. Racist, populist, chauvinist, he is the candidate of the frustration of a conservative and anti-establishment white America.

He is rallying all those who want to rid the capital of a political class that they perceive to be living in a cocoon. Trump ceaselessly rants and raves. His program can be summarized in three words: immigration, immigration, immigration. He proposes the construction of a barrier between the United States and Mexico at their expense, and if it’s not too much trouble, to return 11 million illegal immigrants to their countries of origin while abolishing the right of nationality to anyone born on American soil.

His provocativeness has propelled him to the top of opinion polls. And even if all the analysts insist that he has no chance of being elected, he strikes fear even as far as his own camp is concerned.

Repair the Democracy

The second [force] is named Lawrence Lessig. This professor of constitutional law, pioneer of the web and specialist on the issue of intellectual property went to Stanford, and has just received a $1 million donation for his campaign from Harvard. Unknown among the masses, he also wants to end the current system, although not on the same battlefield nor with the same arms.

His offensive focuses on the nonsensical financing of American politics, which requires those elected to Congress to spend the majority of their time raising funds — this makes them slaves to lobby groups rather than legislators for public interests. Lessig promises to repair the democracy. If elected, he commits to reforming finances, making them more transparent and equal, and retiring from the limelight after completing his work.

He also has no chance of winning. His name does not even appear in the opinion polls. But his approach reveals a new type of activism, a new way of doing politics outside of traditional channels.

Is France sheltered from a Trump equivalent? Is there a place for Lessig in 2017? We would be wrong to think that these two are just the product of a specifically American phenomenon. The democratic crisis, the loss of trust, the absence of a renewed political class are the powerful instigators seen here. Unfortunately, for the worst more often than for the best, this is true in Paris just as much as in Washington.

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