The We the People White House petition site opened up in the fall of 2011, as a place for Americans to rally other Americans behind causes that the U.S. Government could then respond to. It's been in the news lately for some interesting petitions, including secession petitions from all 50 states, and one successful plea to build a functioning Death Star.
Unfortunately, the site is a joke. And not even because of the aforementioned petitions. It's actually because the White House has let four dozen petitions, that by its own rules deserve responses, languish in obscurity. Yes. 48 petitions with over 25,000 signatures, and zero responses.
Below are all 48 petitions that have already crossed The White House-set threshold of 25,000 signatures. That means that in theory all these petitions, on topics ranging from secession to South Korea and from pot to premium cigars, are slated for an official response from the White House. (I listed them all to hammer home a point, you don't really have to read all of them)
- We ask President Obama to support law abiding gun owners in this time of tragedy
- Investigate the IRS Tax-Exempt Status of the Westboro Baptist Church
- Remove the Westboro Baptist Church's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and make it retroactive
- Revoke the tax exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church & re-classify Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group
- Urge Congress to advance federal legislation banning the sale of assault rifles & high capacity magazines
- Today IS the day: Sponsor strict gun control laws in the wake of the CT school massacre
- Set a date and time to have a conversation about gun policy in the United States
- Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress
- Legally recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group
- Define the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group due to promoting animosity against differing cultural demographics
- Grant Temporary Protected Status to Guatemalans
- Give federal employees a day off on Monday, December 24, 2012 (Christmas Eve)
- Support the People of Catalonia in their effort to decide their own future
- RECOGNIZE "SIKH GENOCIDE" - 30,000+ KILLED IN INDIA DURING NOVEMBER 1984 - "YES, IT IS GENOCIDE"
- We request that Obama be impeached for the following reasons
- Allow Any American To Voluntarily Opt Out Of "ObamaCare" [The So Called Affordable Care Act]
- Federally Legalize Marijuana
- Repeal Obamacare. It is killing jobs in this country. Thousands have already lost their jobs because of it
- Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
- Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America
- Grant a full pardon to Chris Williams, a man facing 80 years in prison for legally growing Medical Marijuana
- Officially recognize American Sign Language as a community language and a language of instruction in schools
- Support a law protecting states' rights to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol
- Peacefully grant the State of S.C. to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government
- End to the War On Coal, end the job killing policies of the EPA and require an economic impact analysis of new policies
- Peacefully grant the State of Georgia to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government
- Peacefully grant the State of Tennessee to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government
- Peacefully grant the State of Florida to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government
- Peacefully grant the State of North Carolina to withdraw from the United States and create its own NEW government
- Peacefully grant the State of Alabama to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government
- Recount the election!
- Peacefully grant the State of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government
- Remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substance Act and allow the states to decide how they want to regulate it
- Peacefully grant the State of Louisiana to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government
- Include Licensed Naturopathic Physicians as primary care providers in the Federal Healthcare Law (Obamacare)
- Enforce the tax code, and strip violating Religious institutions of their tax exempt 501(c) status
- Light the White House Purple to Celebrate 75th Anniversary of March of Dimes and as Symbol of Hope to Preemie Families
- Finalize Standards for GLUTEN-FREE Labeling
- outlaw offending prophets of major religions
- Persuade South Korea (the ROK) to accept Japan's proposal on territorial dispute over islets
- vigorously enforce US laws to seek the return of US citizens' properties expropriated by the Vietnamese government
- Repeal the House of Representatives Resolution 121 to stop aggravating int'l harassment by Korean propaganda & lies!
- Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research
- Remove the monument and not to support any international harassment related to this issue against the people of Japan
- Support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs)
- Not Allow The FDA To Regulate Premium Cigars
- The U.S. Government Must Redress Wrongs Against the Chagossians
- Require all Genetically Modified Foods to be labeled as such
The last response from the U.S. government came in October from the Office of Management and Budget and was called "A Balanced Approach to Reforming the Postal Service." It was a response to two separate petitions, one called "Save the Postal Service" and the other called "Preserve 6 Day Mail Delivery." Neither of those petitions even crossed the 10,000 signature mark.
Ok, we know that the White House or anyone inside the U.S. government is never going to respond to a petition to impeach the President, or to secede from the union. But it's clear that they are cherry-picking the safest petitions to respond to - even if they haven't even crossed the 25,000 signature threshold. In fact, you'd have to go back eight responses to find the last time one was given to a petition with more than 25,000 signatures.
Nobody really expected an online petition site to affect real change at the national level. Everyone should have prepared for bullshit responses to the petitions that triggered responses. But I at least thought we'd get responses to the most popular petitions (most of them) - even if those responses were vapid and insulting to our intelligence.
I mean, they say that they will:
"The White House plans to respond to each petition that crosses the signature threshold, which you can view on the Terms of Participation page. In a few rare cases (such as specific procurement, law enforcement, or adjudicatory matters), the White House response might not address the facts of a particular matter to avoid exercising improper influence."
The White House gives itself the right to change the signature threshold if they think it's necessary. Please, for the love of god, change it. Both the threshold for appearing on the site (it's only at 150 signatures currently) and the threshold for warranting a response. If they changed this, and then responded only to petitions that could generate real buzz - 50,000, 100,000, even 200,000 signatures - it could give the site some legitimacy (even if the responses failed to please).
But until then, just know that the White House has a backlog of 48 petitions that deserve responses, based on their own guidelines. And until the site drastically changes how it operates, it's just a joke. It may always be a joke, but at least it wouldn't be as obvious.