Earlier this month, the White House launched “We The People“, a website for submitting petitions to the prez (a right guaranteed by the First Amendment). Per Obama’s pledge to make the government more open and accountable, the site will provide “a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country,” according to Whitehouse.gov. “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”
At this point, “enough support” = 5,000 signatures in 30 days. If you have a petition that gets the attention of a community like Reddit, that’s pretty easy to achieve, meaning the White House is going to need to tell people why marijuana hasn’t been legalized and why the TSA hasn’t been abolished.
Three weeks into its launch, there are already eight petitions that will warrant a response from the White House per its own rules. The site appears to have attracted civil libertarians, pro-marijuana advocates, and atheists. The most popular petition with almost 20,000 signatures petitions the gov to “Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol.” The petitioner writes: “Marijuana prohibition has resulted in the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965, countless lives ruined and hundreds of billions of tax dollars squandered and yet this policy has still failed to achieve its stated goals of lowering use rates, limiting the drug’s access, and creating safer communities. Isn’t it time to legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol?”
A petition created yesterday calling for the abolition of the TSA has already garnered over 7,000 signatures:
The Transportation Security Administration has been one of the largest, most expensive and most visible blunders of the post-9-11 homeland security reformation. It has violated countless constitutional rights of average Americans, caused miserable and expensive delays in an already-overburdened air travel system, and allowed multiple known instances of harassment, theft, extortion and sexual abuse by its employees. It has failed approximately 70% of undercover efficacy tests, and for all its excesses, has been unable to catch even a single terrorist since its creation. In our current economic situation, we can no longer afford to continue wasting taxpayer dollars on this kafkaesque embarrassment. Let us instead invest in saner, more effective solutions.
According to the White House, they will respond to petitions in a “timely manner,” which it defines here as a “few weeks.”
Other petitioners would like “Under God” excised from the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” removed from U.S. money, and to have a fraud conviction re-examined. Alex Howard has an excellent backgrounder on the new e-petitions, wondering whether they will lead the feds to take real action in response, or if it’s just “gov 2.0 theater.” It’s nice to see that “Internet people” now have their own way to lobby the government. And the way that it’s been set up means that it will be much harder for the administration to evade questions it’s uncomfortable answering.