You have to sort of read down to get through the fluff to get to the interesting stuff:
- Consider: Once upon a time, Presidents could talk to the whole nation at will. Thirty years ago, 50 million people watched the nightly news on TV. Now not even half that many do. And whole segments of the public have walled themselves off. How can Obama reach Rush Limbaugh’s audience, except through Rush Limbaugh? How does he talk to his friends and opponents who care passionately about public policy but would never tune in to the State of the Union or even his Inaugural Address?
This was the thought that helped launch the petition system, We the People, back in September of 2011. It started as little more than a whiteboard jot in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, a simple idea to get millions of Americans to contribute to the White House website. Imagine a scenario in which a gun-rights group starts a petition to tell Obama not to confiscate guns. “Wouldn’t it be great if we had the opportunity to respond to all these people directly and say we are not interested in doing that at all?” the White House staff mused. It would be a new digital main line to opponents, a way around organizations like the National Rifle Association. Here’s the key. There are two sides to every petition: one seen—the public petition—and one unseen—the list of e-mail addresses it generates. When you sign a petition, you implicitly agree that the White House has a right to communicate with you about that matter by e-mail. That’s why this works at 1600 Penn.