We The People, the petition section of the White House’s website, is shutting down for a promised January relaunch. Summarily ignored since Donald Trump took office, its a wonder anyone in the current administration is expending the effort to turn off the lights.
First launched in 2011 under then-President Obama, We The People pledged to provide a White House response to any petition which garnered 100,000 or more signatures within 30 days. The 200+ petitions that have received an official response have largely been unremarkable, leading to revelations like the White House’s official beer recipe or condemnations (in word only) of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.
In short, the site has functioned as a PR tool for fostering good will—one that the Trump administration has reportedly considered killing since April and now appears to be sluggishly getting around to putting in the ground.
According to The New York Times, 17 petitions have reached the 100,000-signature mark since Trump took office, including a request for the president to release his tax returns and two petitions to maintain funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. None have received a response from the White House.
“To improve this site’s performance, the platform is currently down for maintenance and will return in late January,” the site now reads. “All existing petitions and associated signatures have been preserved and will be available when the site is relaunched. Following the site’s relaunch, petitions that have reached the required number of signatures will begin receiving responses.” Sure.
An unnamed White House official told the Times that setting up We The People on a new domain is projected to save taxpayers $1.3 million a year, a figure he or she arrived at through unclear means, and which, if true, amounts to a savings less than half a cent per person. (Is this guy great at making deals or what?)
The site is scheduled for complete removal at midnight tonight.