In praise of John McAfee and Lawrence Lessig's long-shot presidential campaigns

They may not have very high hopes of winning, but at least they're forcing an important conversation about technology.

Lawrence Lessig John McAfee running for president campaign policies

Here in the United States we are up to our eye balls in presidential campaign politics. You can't toss a kitten without hitting another Republican Presidential Debate or a Democratic stump speech.

And, as a nerd, there is typically very little for me to really get interested in. Sure, I care about who runs the country I live in. And, sure, I care about a bunch of the topics being debated. But it's rare that any candidate for president actually stand up and talks about the issues that I think about – and talk about – on a daily basis.

Patent and copyright reform. Software freedom. Privacy. Cybersecurity.

What is Hillary Clinton's position on Free Software? Patent reform? Who knows! How about Donald Trump? I have absolutely no clue if he's ever even thought about those topics. Before sitting down to write this article, I did a, rather boring and unsuccessful, search for any sign that either candidate has ever taken a stance on any of these topics. Nothing. I found nothing.

That's not to say either candidate is bad or good. Just that they seem either unaware of these, in my opinion, highly critical issues… or afraid to touch on them.

Well, the high-profile candidates may not be talking about these issues, but two candidates have emerged who have.

The first is Lawrence Lessig. Lessig is no stranger to those of us in the Free Software world – he's a founding member of Creative Commons and was a board member of the Free Software Foundation, the Software Freedom Law Center, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In other words, he has about as much Free Software (and Free Culture) street cred as is humanly possible to accumulate.

All that street cred allowed him to raised over $1 million via crowdfunding. He's running as a Democrat, having already spoken at the New Hampshire State Convention for the Democratic Party.

Now, before you get too excited, Lessig isn't running on a platform of patent reform. Or software freedom. He is focused, exclusively, on reforming the system of campaign funding. Calling that his "One Mission."

Just the same, having a presidential candidate – even an under-dog like Lessig – with such strong Free Software/Free Culture ties can only help to highlight those issues. As they will, undoubtedly, come up during interviews and debates. At least from time to time.

Lessig isn't the only candidate with nerd-cred running for President. John McAfee has entered the race under the banner of the "Cyber Party." 

That's right. THAT Jon McAfee. Founder of McAfee Anti-Virus (whose current versions he's called "too annoying" to use), yoga teacher, and all-around entertaining guy to read about. (If you find yourself bored, grab a cup of hot chocolate and do a quick search for "mcafee belize" and settle in for a night of crazy reading.)

His platform, unlike Lessig's, covers a pretty wide range of topics, trending a bit Libertarian. Simplifying tax code, reducing criminalization of various drugs, and abolishment of the TSA. But, more to the point, cybersecurity and reduction/abolishment of the U.S. government spying on citizens make up a big part of his talking points.

To drive that point home, the McAfee campaign slogan is "Privacy, Freedom and Technology."

On the one hand, we have Lessig – a luminary of the Free Software world – who's not talking about Free Software. And, on the other hand, we have McAfee – the man who created (what is now) one of the most hated pieces of closed source software mankind has ever known (he doesn't even like it) – who is talking about the privacy and security issues that so many of us in the Free Software world are concerned with.

Of course, neither of these candidates is getting enough attention to even register on the polls at this point. But, if nothing else, it gives us additional chances to talk about some of these, highly important, topics. So, regardless of outcome, a big high-five to both Lessig and McAfee for giving us that chance.

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