How to Organize: The Top Ten Petitions to the Administration at 'We The People'.
The White House has created 'We The People', a site that allows anyone who signs up to create petitions and sign those that others have created. Once a petition receives 150 signatures it becomes visible to the community. Until it receives 150 signatures, there is a special URL provided to the petition owner who is to distribute it as best he or she can to gather the required 150 signatures.
It is instructive to look at the top ten petitions at the site: i.e., those which have gathered the most signatures.
- 35,600: Legalize and Regulate Marijuana
- 21,000: Abolish the TSA
- 17,700: Investigate the Case of Solom Rubashkin
- 13,200: Edit Pledge of Allegiance to remove "Under God"
- 11,100: Allow Hemp to Be Grown in the US
- 10,800: Direct Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents
- 10,700: Legalize, regulate and tax marijuana
- 10,000: Stop Interfering With State Marijana legalization effrots
- 9,300: End the "War on Drugs"
- 8,800: Remove 'In God We Trust' from currency
That's organization for you! The one with by far the most signatures, and four of the top ten, have to do with marijuana or hemp legalization. And then there's a fifth that has to do with illegal drugs in general. Two of them are presumably by an atheist group (Pledge removal, Currency), and one is an effort on behalf of a specific individual.
Do you see anything about jobs? The environment? Energy? Health care? Defense spending? The Afghanistan war or the War on Terror?
The first mention of Defense spending ranks 16th, asking that Defense funds be reallocated to NASA. Not exactly a general directive to cut defense spending. I'm all for it, but we could do better.
The first mention of jobs comes in 23rd: "protect consumers, create jobs and generate revenue by licensing and regulating online poker." I'm for it, I play poker. But again it's not exactly a demand for stimulus to create millions of jobs.
The first environment/energy mention comes 26th, with 3,100 signatures: "Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline". I'm sure there's a lot more things on this front that are just as important, and it hasn't even reached 5000 yet.
There isn't a single mention of health care issues anywhere. Nor anything to do with the wars we are currently involved in.
You can look at this a few ways:
One, that only 'fringe' groups are willing to devote the time and effort necessary to push their agenda like this. Sophisticated lobbying efforts like MoveOn and DFA realize that this is a waste of time and effort.
Or, that this is a waste of an incredible opportunity to get some really good ideas out there for the White House to have to at least think about. When the White House sees that the respondees are mostly similar to Ron Paul devotees -- a big enough group to make a lot of noise, but not one with any serious agenda, they'll just conclude no one cares.
I tend to think the latter -- that this is an opportunity that 'the base' is failing to take advantage of. No matter how cynical we are at this point, the ability to get a serious response to serious policy proposals should not be ignored, even if we're not going to like some of the responses.
What would I like to see instead of four marijuana legalization proposals in the top ten (I'll happily accept one) and the other miscellany that's there now? Some concrete things that I think the administration could do, just off the top of my head:
- Propose to Congress legislation that would create a civilian jobs corp, hiring up to two million workers
- Halt military operations now and withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan within one year.
- Propose to Congress legislation to increase the age limit for young adults to stay on their parents' health care plans to 30, from the current limit of 26. This will allow those who are about to be disenrolled because they have reached age 26 to stay insured, and provide coverage for even more young adults who would otherwise be uninsured.
- A serious effort to address the mortgage crisis, getting homeowners out from being underwater and back on their feet, just like we did with GM and the banksters.
- Ask the Administration, in view of Loving v Virginia, its position that heightened scrutiny applies to gay people, and the 14th amdt. guarantees of equal protection, to recognize the fundamental constitutional right to marry belongs to all and cannot be denied to same-sex couples.
- Propose to Congress legislation for a Medicare buyin for those 55 or older at cost+5%, thereby both strengthing Medicare and providing the equivalent of a 'public option' without any overhead or additional bureaucracy.
- Ask for an Executive order forbidding LGBT discrimination in employment throughout the Federal government and in all those who do business with the Federal government
I'm sure others can come up with serious, concrete, can-do ('shovel ready') proposals in other areas I am not as familar with: education, energy and environment being three.
The point is the netroots community could be making it's voice heard. It could be demanding answers from the White House to issues of critical importance to the nation's well-being. But we're not. We're ceding the ground the Administration has provided to those who, while devoted to their causes, are not necessarily interested in the big picture.
What would it take to get, at the very least, Daily Kos organized enough to make a difference here? Certainly not a few diaries by diarists asking to support various petitions that quickly fall away, as happened yesterday. (After my own diary and subsequent promotion in other diaries on this topic, with offers to swap, I ended up with 18 signatures to my petition to end the war in Afghanistan. Others had, I suspect, equally poor responses. That is not the results of which virality is made!)
No, it would probably take a concerted effort by the front-pagers to push the whole concept, to collect an organized group of, say 300 people together willing to sign a set of serious policy petitions so that the petitions would then become visible to the global community and hopefully go viral to get 5000+ signatures.
Any front-pagers up for some serious progressive agitation?