Administration Proudly Announces That If Your 'We The People' Petition Aligns With Its Priorities, Something Might Actually Happen
from the go-team-Government! dept
Let's get this right out in the open. I don't have any particular animosity towards this administration. I just don't find it to be an improvement over the last one (which I found to be pretty much terrible from all angles). This wouldn't be notable except for the fact that this administration definitely considers itself to be a vast improvement over the last one and has made several proclamations advancing that theory. ("Most transparent administration," anyone?)
We fully expect politicians to be self-serving and those sitting atop the heap to be the most self-serving of all. The White House blog has taken the passage of the cell phone-unlocking bill as an opportunity to
toot lean on its own horn.
On Friday, August 1, President Obama signed a bill into law that again made it legal for consumers to unlock their cell phones in order to take them to a carrier that best suits their needs. It marked the very first time a We the People petition led to a legislative fix.This last fact -- the first time a petition resulted in a legislative fix -- should be an admission of failure. Instead, it's used to depict the administration as a champion of the people.
The petition, which arose in the aftermath of the Library of Congress' horrible decision to not renew this DMCA exemption, attained the number of signatures needed to obtain a White House response. While many others with the minimum number of signatures have been steadily ignored, the White House responded to this one. Beyond the response posted at the We the People site, more was apparently going on behind the scenes.
Folks here at the White House leapt into action. The White House policy team convened more than a half-dozen agencies and offices' senior officials to ask a simple question: How can we move this issue forward? After careful deliberation, it was clear to us: The Administration couldn’t agree more with petitioners, and we came out in strong support of again making it legal for consumers to unlock their devices.According to the narrative at the White House blog, the administration did all the heavy lifting and motivated Congress to pass a bill -- though it still took a year and a half for a very narrowly tailored solution that only temporarily addresses the immediate problem, but totally ignores the underlying problem (the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA). But whatever the details behind the scenes, what's out front is more of the same.
The message here is that if your petition happens to align with the administration's priorities/viewpoints, you'll receive a swift response and maybe even some legislative activity. If your petition happens to run contrary to the administration, the best you can expect is some long-delayed talking points in response… if you receive anything at all.
The We the People site is a good idea -- an easy way for citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to petition their government. But that idea has been largely destroyed by the administration's refusal to treat it as anything more than a place to cherry pick requests for PR purposes. If this site's ever going to serve the higher purpose it's supposed to, it needs to be given more than rote recitals of position papers. The administration needs to start responding seriously to petitions that challenge its positions or run contrary to its aims. And it needs to stop ignoring anything that's passed the signature threshold. The way it handles this has little if anything to do with respecting the public's First Amendment rights.