The Winter 2011 issue of the Harvard Political Review took on a topic often overlooked by the mainstream media: the Constitution. Despite forming the framework for what goes on in Washington, the Constitution incites little discussion as a gateway to some of the solutions. This past Thursday, the HPR invited Professor Lawrence Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics and Professor at Harvard Law, to discuss a proposal that could reduce the sway of money in elections, diminish the need for the endless fundraising cycle, and remedy the gridlock on the Hill.

Taking Back Elections

From Obama’s State of the Union to the stump speeches by Republican nominees, the discussion has focused on reforming from within the Beltway. But Prof. Lessig suggests that we look beyond Washington to fix the problems that are plaguing it. Article V permits:

[t]he application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution…

Using this method, citizens could institute changes to the way elections are funded, such that members of Congress no longer have to seek donations from wealthy individuals and corporations. Instead, using Democracy Vouchers, citizens will be reengaged with the process, and their voice will matter. This idea detailed in the Grant-Franklin Plan places no extra burden on low-income individuals with an extra tax, as he explains in a November 2011 New York Times op-ed. “So long as elections cost money, we won’t end Congress’ dependence on its funders. But we can change it. We can make ‘the funders’ ‘the people.'”

We shouldn’t be afraid to consider, vet, and even embrace reforms that supersede the way politics have traditionally been conducted. The problems we face will continue to grow at astronomical rates. The more time our politicians spend arguing and running for office for the sake of being elected and earning a title, the less time we have to address these pressing issues.

Professor Larry Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics and Professor at Harvard Law, gives his keynote address on America’s Constitutional Crisis at the HPR Winter Launch Party in Fong Auditorium on Thursday, February 2, 2012. Photo credit: Gina Kim

Harvard Political Review staff writers, editorial board members, compers, and Harvard students listen intently as Professor Lessig discusses corruption and America's evolving political process. Photo credit: Gina Kim

Professor Lessig describes the distinct characteristics of an Article V constitutional convention during the Q&A portion of his presentation. Photo credit: Gina Kim

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