White House quadruples number of signatures needed to respond to a petition

posted at 12:31 pm on January 16, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

Sure, they want to listen to “We the People,” but maybe not so often. The site doesn’t amount to much more than an occasional earned-media tool that occasionally earns a non-answer from the White House, but earned media and public shaming can occasionally be helpful, as in the case of this petition which asks the Senate to pass a budget.

But don’t worry. The fact that the most “engaged” White House in history doesn’t want to be overburdened with engaging with you is a measure of great success for— who else?— the White House!

When we launched We the People, none of us knew how popular it would be, but it’s exceeded our wildest expectations. Through the past year, interest in We the People exploded and we’re closing in on 10 million signatures.

When we first raised the threshold — from 5,000 to 25,000 — we called it “a good problem to have.” Turns out that “good problem” is only getting better, so we’re making another adjustment to ensure we’re able to continue to give the most popular ideas the time they deserve.

Starting today, as we move into a second term, petitions must receive 100,000 signatures in 30 days in order to receive an official response from the Obama Administration. This new threshold applies only to petitions created from this point forward and is not retroactively applied to ones that already exist.

In the last two months of 2012, use of We the People more than doubled. In just that time roughly 2.4 million new users joined the system, 73,000 petitions were created and 4.9 million signatures were registered.

The White House says the new rule only applies to petitions created from here on out. Ones already in existence will only need 25,000 signatures.

But it’s not like those with 25K signatures got a response, anyway. There are some 40+ petitions that, according to the administration’s own rule, require response but have not gotten them. Presumably the president’s staff was focused on prioritizing the Death Star issue.

In the end, We the People petitions are an apt metaphor for Obama’s campaigns and presidency— flashy presentation and the illusion of unprecedented engagement that ends up revealing itself to be an utter farce governed by the Harvard boys’ club. But thanks, little people!

Speaking of metaphors, “Purple Tunnel of Doom survivors try their inaugural luck a second time” Some of the thousands of Obama supporters, workers, and volunteers who missed all of Inauguration in 2008 because their candidate’s executive skill didn’t extend to preventing them from being trapped in a sub-freezing tunnel with no water or bathrooms for 15 hours are coming back to try it again!

Back in the tunnel, when it became clear that those who had remained inside would miss Obama’s speech, the mood deteriorated from celebratory to despondent–and tense.

“Lord of the Flies really is the best way to describe it,” said Matt Ortega, a Democratic National Committee staffer with a purple ticket who arrived at 5:30 AM. “It’s still frustrating because two years of my life had culminated at that moment and for me. I love history, and to feel like a missed out on that part of history.”

Ortega eventually drew the same conclusion: Hopeless. He ended up watching Obama’s speech in the basement of Kelly’s Irish Times, a pub near Union Station.

Slone also left the tunnel at about the same time and listened from the radio of a military Humvee out of sight of the Mall.
Williams retreated to his apartment and watched it on television.

Evans and his niece climbed up a concrete wall and were able to spot Obama–barely–with binoculars while listening to the sound of his voice bounce off the city buildings. The president’s words were inaudible from that distance, so they listened the rest of the address in their car, which was parked nearby.

“It took me quite some time to get over this,” Evans recalled. “The disappointment was just crushing.”

Thousands of others, still down in the tunnel, missed the ceremony completely.

In the aftermath, the “survivors,” as they called themselves, banded together in search for answers. Many had traveled from across the country, spent thousands of dollars and took time off work to be there. And for what? Incensed purple ticket holders wrote their members of Congress and directed their ire at California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who led the committee that planned the inauguration. Membership of the Facebook group “Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom” grew into the thousands. All told, an estimated 4,000 people with tickets had been shut out of the Inaugural ceremonies that day.

An official review of security measures on the day of the Inauguration blamed the problems on “flaws and shortcomings in the planning process.”

Hey, they signed up for four more years. Why not 10 more hours in a freezing Interstate tunnel? He’s worth it.

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