A Great Idea: We The People
Just recently the White House has announced a new tool to allow people to easily petition the Government for answers to their "grievances". It's called We the People, and will allow everyone and anyone to create and sign a petition that goes straight to the White House.Currently the only way that I have known to petition government officials has been to write to my local Congressman or State Senators, and place my concerns before them. I have done this in the past with great responses and response time coming from both Representative Chaffetz and Senator Hatch. They understand my particular concerns and have told me they keep them in mind. But do they know how important the issue is? Only if several people contact them about that same issue. Then it takes a lot of staffer work to keep track of these issues, requiring some sort of database to log requests, frequency, urgency, etc. All of which could be easily replaced with this same petition system (hint, hint, Congress, this could be a great way to increase your approval ratings!!).When Pete Ashdown, challenger to Senator Hatch in the last election, was running, he proposed a Wiki system to give his constituents a voice on policies that he would attack in Washington. I thought it was a nice idea, but how do you reflect urgency? How do you keep control over the articles to keep them from becoming partisan-laden flame wars. But the idea of just posting petitions and letting them stand based on the numbers that support it and not giving anyone a chance to attack it, that is a good idea. After all, if you have an opposing view, you can always post an opposing petition.Quite frankly I think it is a great idea, and one that is sorely needed for all our representative officials. In order for we as a people to be more engaged in our government, we need to understand what they have in mind regarding our issues. And government officials, in order to better represent the people who have voted them into office, need to know what we as their constituents understand and want from them.Now, there are some ground rules that have been set, and are likely to change based on the participation of those out there and the demand that gets placed on the White House staff (I am not deluded enough to believe that the President himself will have time to review every single petition). As of this article, the White House is planning on reviewing and responding to any petition that receives 5,000 signatures within the space of 30 days. For the Federal Government, at the Executive Branch level, I expect this number will go up as major issues will rise quickly and take a lot of attention from the staff. But it is a great starting point.I like this idea so much that I actually think it would b a good idea for all executive branch officials, starting at the municipal levels (mayors of cities/towns) to State Governor's offices to enact this same procedure to gain a feeling of where their constituents, not just the parties that got them into the office, are feeling about their terms in office, issues that are close to their hearts, and needs that reach the people directly.The really great thing about this program is that all petitions are going to be public record and publicly available, so anyone can read and participate in giving their voice to an issue near and dear to their hearts. Everyone can be "heard", even if their petition is does not gain enough signatures to grant attention of the White House. It also helps the Government gauge the most important issues to the people without the lobbyist and media "filter".Of course, all this assumes special interest groups do not take advantage of the process by trying to fill petition slots through various means other than natural voter interest. It also assumes that the administration in office (whichever party at any given time in the future) does not manipulate signature data in order to push agendas they want while ignoring the grievances of their constituents. Perhaps there will need to be an independent oversight committee of some sort to audit the system. We shall have to see how successful this project is. For my part I sincerely hope this can be counted as a success, not for any particular party or Administration per se, but for the People they are supposed to be representing.