ST. GEORGE – Democracy in action has a new dimension: White House petitions.
Most probably learned about White House petitions when it was reported that on Nov. 9, just after President Obama’s re-election, a petition was created to allow Texas to peacefully secede from the United States and create a new government.
The Obama administration has promised that any petition that receives 25,000 or more signatures, within 30 days, will be reviewed by the appropriate officials and a formal response will be posted. Thanks largely to media attention, the Texas secession petition reached that goal in four days; over 120,000 people have signed it so far. More than twice as many people have signed a petition asking the government to legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group. The signers of both are still waiting for a response.
Accessing these petitions is easy: Registering for an online account allows you to view, sign and create.
Some petitions, like one involving the design and construction of a Star Wars-inspired “Death Star,” which actually received enough signers to pass the threshold for a response, are a joke. But others are serious and provide another effective way for Americans to communicate with their government. Bruce Reed, Vice President Biden’s chief of staff, has posted a detailed response to a petition to “Start the process to enact Federal gun control reforms.” The response shows how the White House plans to deal with a growing flood of communication; it covers 31 other similar petitions.
The White House isn’t immune to having fun with the site. One petition, asking the President to release the recipe for the honey ale brewed at the White House to the public, received a response from White House assistant chef, Sam Kass, even though it didn’t garner enough support. Kass wrote, “With public excitement about White House beer fermenting such a buzz, we decided we’d better hop right to it.” Inquiring minds want to know.
Though they are not always an accurate poll of public support, petitions are a good way to see what topics are hot at the moment in the country.
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