The White House Is Considering Killing Its Online Petition Site and It Really Doesn't Matter

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Following last week’s decision to end the Obama-era practice of releasing White House visitor logs to the public, the Trump administration is now saying that the petition site “We the People” could be the next thing to go. This is an absolute outra... eh, screw it.

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U.S. News spoke with White House Communications Director Mike Dubke who said that the maintenance costs of the website are currently being evaluated and “this decision is still under review.” Maintenance costs were also one of the reasons the administration gave for ending the release of visitor logs. Ensuring that the public has no idea who is secretly meeting at the White House will save taxpayers a whopping $70,000 between now and 2020. (One trip to the president’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort is estimated to cost the taxpayers of Palm Beach $60,000.)

We the People was launched in September of 2011 as an initiative to give Americans a way to voice their concerns to their elected officials. The Obama administration committed to giving an official response within 30 days to any petition that reached more than 100,000 signatures. That pledge wasn’t always carried out perfectly. But according to the watchdog site whpetitions.info, as of October 16th, 2016, 321 out of 323 petitions that had met the signature goal had received a response. Nate Lubin, former director of the White House Office of Digital Strategy under Obama tells U.S. News:

“As we experienced when I was there, there were certain petitions that we could not give substantive responses to, for legitimate reasons. The main point, though, is that any White House should be following a commitment to giving the people a chance to tell leadership what they think.”

But, Trump doesn’t care what the people think. A reported 100,000 people protested last weekend demanding that the president release his tax returns. He responded by tweeting that the rallies were small and paid for by some shadowy source that’s always lurking around the corner trying to mess with him. On Tuesday, Press Secretary Spicer reiterated that Trump can’t release his tax returns because he’s still under audit. The IRS says this is bullshit. Take a guess what the number one petition is on We the People at the moment? That’s right, with over a million signatures it’s “Immediately release Donald Trump’s full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance.

But why end the petition program when all it requires is a response? It could be any response. Here’s how they could respond to the tax return petition: “President Trump is under a routine audit and can’t release his tax returns at the moment.” How about the second most popular petition, “Divest or put in a blind trust all of the President’s business and financial assets”? They could just say, “President Trump has already put his assets in a blind trust that is run by his sons and you just have to trust that he doesn’t talk about it with them.”

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But if the petition system is ultimately discontinued it most likely won’t be because the administration has a problem with repeating its lies one more time. It’s all part of a broader effort to squash expectations of government transparency in a time when the public demands it more than ever. In fact, experts claim this administration is the least transparent of the modern era.

Trump famously shuts out the press when he visits his properties and in his first 80 days, he averaged 2.8 days a week at those properties. He is systematically making sure that no one knows what the hell he’s doing. And that’s probably a good move because he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. His administration appeared to lose track of an entire U.S. carrier fleet this week and we still don’t have a straight answer about what happened.

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Does it matter if the We the People site gets shut down? Well, in the past few years the only really substantial thing to come from it was legislation that gave consumers the right to have an unlocked phone that they can take to any mobile carrier. That probably matters to a lot of people. But most petitions received boilerplate responses or were just cute jokes like the time the White House had to address a demand to build the Death Star.

What does matter is that this administration wants to reverse any gains that have been made in giving people a voice and making sure they know what the government is doing in their name. We’ll see how many times people can say, “eh, screw it” before they notice how often they’re saying it.

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[U.S. News]

DISCUSSION

I expected this sooner, actually. *sips tea* The man in the Office of the President of the United States is not one known to be transparent when people ask him for something that will not lead to his aggrandizement. As sad as it is to say, his is precisely what he called himself in season 2 of the Apprentice: a dictator. Or as some of his adherents might say: “A dick tater.”

Anyone who did not see this coming when we failed to vote a viable alternative into office has only themselves to blame if they chose to pick the Marmalade Mephisto on their voting machine. Maybe you’re telling yourself that he’s not that bad. That he’s going to help you directly. By taking away your medicare, your clean water, your breathable air. And letting you keep about $2.76 more of the taxes you might actually pay out making minimum wage.

*sips tea* As you might imagine, a Turnip regime is actually not that directly harmful to me at this time. I’m one of those people who, sadly enough, is the kind of person who would probably pop into 45's slimy mind as being “acceptable”. I am capable of interacting with the powerful and wealthy as an equal, more than capable of holding my own in any intellectual realm, and I regularly achieve my goals. I project and inspire confidence. But where my confidence is based on actual capability, Turd Patrol’s confidence is based on narcissism.

However, since I am intelligent and actually have the capacity to leverage that intelligence for practical and long term thinking - I am also quite capable of seeing where 45's long term racism and xenophobia will end. Ultimately I would be one of the many put up to the wall and shot. I might be one of the last to die, but I certainly would be dead if things got to their ultimate conclusion.

It isn’t a far trip from deportation and arrest to slavery, internment and mass murder. It’s happened before, after all. And like the citizens of those nations in the late 1930's that fought on the side of the Axis powers, few are actually speaking up against what DJT is instigating with his casual racism and aggressive bullshit tactics. He is silencing dissent. Destroying the fabric of unity that helps our nation to tie itself together. He is doing it intentionally and with precision.

I will stand up and speak against the deportation of minorities because this kind of nationalism smacks of pure fascism. And fascist states become dictatorships or worse. And by conjuring national fervor for aggressive acts against minorities, he’s using the same focusing tools Hitler used to create his Reich. I will stand up an speak for those minorities because there will come a day that if I do not, I will be in their place. And there won’t be anyone left to speak up for me.

Another frequenter of these comments sections once said that speaking here was the equal of doing nothing. (in a few more words, obviously) Its not though. People think that these comments are ephemeral... that once they leave an article, they are no longer relevant to their daily consumption of media or discourse. However, the internet never forgets. And the things we do here have permanence in so much as the site allows it.

Someone will read my words. Maybe they already agree... maybe they strongly disagree. But my words have meaning and they can change minds. And if this were the only place I acted... then maybe it would be a foolish gesture. But it is not the only place where I participate in the world. And I carry much the same thoughts everywhere I go and interact.

We have to act within the bounds of law and government. But we must resist. These are not mutually exclusive things. I may be called snowflake. I may be called a libtard. But what I am in my core is an American. I do not wish harm to 45 or any of his appointees or followers. I do intend to do everything in my power to have them excised from their offices as quickly as possible within the bounds of the law. To do otherwise would be to invite anarchy or worse. We have to do the right thing the right way. Violence and conflict is not a solution to 45, it empowers him. Unity and cooperation will destroy 45 and his efforts.

Resist. It is not futile.