A month ago we started a petition drive requesting President Barack Obama to resign as being unfit for the office of President of the United States. At that time we promised to provide the results of our efforts.
In a nutshell it was an abject failure. As of January 29, 2015, we had gathered only 73 signatures.
Let me explain. We* chose to utilize a website created by Mr. Obama’s White House on the pretext of providing an open and transparent administration. When the website was initiated in September of 2011, the threshold number of signatures required was 5,000 in thirty days. Because small groups were having success in mobilizing the requisite number of signatures, Mr. Obama immediately raised the threshold to 25,000 in October of 2011. In January of 2013 Mr. Obama raised the threshold to 100,000 signatures virtually ensuring that only nationwide organizations with substantial email lists, professional staff and access to the new digital worlds would be able to utilize the website.
Think about that. In order to use the We the People White House website, you must generate 100,000 supporting signatures – that is about 3400 signatures per day for thirty days. Do you know 3400 people? Of course not. Do you know 3400 people today and another new 3400 people tomorrow and then another new 3400 each day for the next four weeks? Don’t be ridiculous.
We were fully cognizant of the massive and practically unattainable requirement when we began. However, there is always a chance when using the internet that a matter goes viral and publicity and support become spontaneous. However, the odds of that happening are much like winning the lottery. And so, like the consistent lottery losers, the knowledge that winning was highly unlikely did not deter us.
We knew that there were people we have never met and did not know that read my column on OregonCatalyst. We know that there are any number of those readers who forward particular columns from OregonCatalyst on to others. (We have no way to know in advance which columns they might forward or to how many people.) We do know that there are other political websites that review articles from OregonCatalyst and reprint them with appropriate attribution. We also know that we have private email lists of people who may or may not read OregonCatalyst daily but who have requested copies of our writings. We have been told by many of those private readers that they routinely forward those writings to others – sometimes many others. It is those secondary and tertiary distributions that gave rise to our hope that our petition might go viral.
But it didn’t go viral. In fact we did not even come close to capturing a majority of those who are recipients from our private email lists. And that did surprise us.
In quite a few instances we received responses that people, including those who received the column directly and those who were secondary recipients, were afraid to sign the petition for fear of reprisals from Mr. Obama’s administration. That fear was compounded by the fact that we were using a White House website and that they had to provide their email addresses as a means of verifying their signatures. One of my favorite people acknowledged that she had already been audited twice by the Internal Revenue Service since Mr. Obama became president and that her signature was likely to result in a third audit but she signed it anyway – along with a note back saying that many of those she forwarded it to would not sign for fear of reprisals.
I’m not going to kid you or myself that, absent this fear of reprisals by Mr. Obama’s administration, it would have resulted in an overwhelming success. Because it did not go viral, there was no chance it would succeed. However, the fact that people were afraid to sign a petition critical of Mr. Obama means that his administration succeeded in creating the very “chilling” of free speech that they intended to do when they sent the Internal Revenue Service after conservative groups during Mr. Obama’s first term. That is a sad commentary on the state of politics in America today and an even sadder commentary on the supposed stalwarts of “free speech” – the mainstream media – who have ignored Mr. Obama’s manipulation of government as a minor annoyance rather than a purposeful intent to limit legitimate opposition.
In the end we failed. But in the meantime – in a single month – the activities of Mr. Obama have caused more and more people – Republicans and Democrats alike – to speak of the troubling aspect of Mr. Obama’s insistence on portraying a world that exists only in his own mind and ignoring the reality that confronts him and the nation. The painful parsing of words by administration spokesmen recently is reminiscent of the Groucho Marx quote: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” And while Mr. Marx is hilarious, Mr. Obama is troubling.
*That is not the royal “we” but simply reflects that this was a joint effort with another blogger.