The open petition tool We the People is the single most effective attempt to engage the public by the White House under President Obama. It’s dead simple: create a petition on any topic you like: (“Legally Recognize Westboro Baptist Church as a Hate Group” has 356,860 signatures, while getting the president to do a coin toss at an Ultimate Frisbee game has 204). Collect enough signatures and the White House pledges an official response—even if your petition asks them to build a Star Wars-style Death Star.
Since We the People’s launch in 2009, 8.2 million users have contributed 13 million signatures on over 200,000 petitions. It’s a testament to the tool’s popularity that the threshold for triggering an official reply has been raised twice, from 5,000 to 25,000 to 100,000.
“It started because a lot of us had worked in online advocacy groups and saw a problem,” says Macon Phillips, the White House Director of Digital Strategy. “There were many petitions out there, but the connection with the target wasn’t that strong.”
“We see some great things here at the White House every day, and sharing that stuff with you is one of the best parts of our jobs. That’s why we’re launching a Tumblr. We’ll post things like the best quotes from President Obama, or video of young scientists visiting the White House for the science fair, or photos of adorable moments with Bo. We’ve got some wonky charts, too. Because to us, those are actually kind of exciting.”
When President Barack Obama takes the stage on Tuesday night to deliver his State of the Union address, he’ll attempt to take the pulse of the nation and prescribe a cure. His message is going to focus on the economy and helping the middle class. But his prescriptions, as leaked to the media, appear to be standard political fare—boost R&D, build infrastructure, more clean energy, and better schools.
That’s all good, standard stuff but familiar stuff. The problem is that Obama isn’t a very creative president. He’s progressive (which is great by me) but not creative in the sense of sharply reframing our national narrative and offering dramatically different solutions to our challenges.
Creativity is the source of economic value. Creativity takes what money can’t buy and transforms it into what money can buy. We have spent decades focusing on efficiency, and it has brought us stagnating incomes and falling mobility for the middle class. It’s time to focus on creativity.
How could the president amplify the nation’s creativity? Here are four major reframes of our national economic narrative, Mr. President.
1. MAKE ENTREPRENEURSHIP, NOT BIG BUSINESS, THE CENTERPIECE OF ECONOMIC POLICY.
2. MAKE MANUFACTURING, NOT BIOSCIENCE, THE MAJOR RECIPIENT OF FEDERAL R&D SPENDING.
3. PROMOTE CROWDSOURCING. RELEASE THE JOBS ACT FROM THE SEC.
4. MAKE ART AND SHOP COURSES CENTRAL TO EDUCATION.
Reporting the first official election results from Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, is an Election Day tradition. The tiny town is a novel bellwether for the rest of the country, and this morning, the town reported a perfect tie, with five votes for Obama and five for Romney. If a ten-person town can be any indication, we’re in for a long day.
Thanks to the Internet, we’ve got dozens of ways to watch the results roll in. Parsing the hundreds of scenarios that could unfold today is a more complicated proposition. But The New York Times does a beautiful job with this bracket interactive, leading us through the 431 discrete paths to the White House open to Obama, and the 76 paths open to Romney. Designed by Mike Bostock and Shan Carter, it’s the most illuminating election graphic we’ve seen around the web.
A political campaign website has a singular purpose: vacuum up personal information and donations. How they do it is a matter of priorities. Content-heavy sites are slow to load and expensive to operate; running one in a cost-conscious manner means eliminating unnecessary server requests, tracking user behavior, optimizing every interaction, and shaving kilobytes off pages. So who does it better, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney? The answer could provide yet another clue into how effective each man would be leading the country’s economic recovery. A side-by-side comparison reveals that neither site is perfect—and that they are not very similar
Election rhetoric focused on struggling small businesses completely ignores the tidal wave of creative, innovative startups sweeping the country. Fast Company’s editor-in-chief bears witness to the groundswell:
“Are the presidential candidates living in the same America that I am? Apparently not.
I don’t know what statistics Obama and Romney look at when they are assessing the state of small business in America—and I really don’t care—because they are missing something. And it is big.
For all the concerns they cite about the plight of small business, from tax burdens to health care costs and so on, what pols of all stripes are missing is that America is experiencing a wave of entrepreneurialism unlike anything we’ve ever had before…”
This Wednesday evening marks the first presidential debate for the 2012 American elections. Elevating the discourse as only Tumblr can, we’ll have a crack team of GIF artists cranking out instant animations of the best debate moments, from zingers to gaffes to awkward silences. Flooding the GIF zone will be our own Topherchris, as well as Bobby Finger, Lacey Micallef, and Mr. GIF. And joining us to further enhance our coverage will be Election blog guest editor Adam Gabbatt, whose liveblog at the Guardian will bring you the full stories behind the GIFs
The place to take it all in will be the purpose-built Gifwich live-GIFfing blog. Fair warning: Follow Gifwich at your own risk! After all, once each debate begins, your Dashboard could be flooded with animations on a minute-to-minute basis. Your mileage may vary, but if you prefer to just sample the flow, perhaps check out Gifwich directly during the debate and reblog your favorites piecemeal. You can even sample curated real-time selections from the Guardian’sliveblog or Tumblr’s official Election blog.
All debates (and our Gifwich GIF coverage) begin at 9pm Eastern Time:
Wednesday, October 3 - Presidential debate on domestic policy
Thursday, October 11 - Vice-presidential debate on foreign and domestic policy
Tuesday, October 16 - Presidential town meeting on foreign and domestic policy
Monday, October 22 - Presidential debate on foreign policy
If you haven’t seen this presidential parody of epic proportions yet, doit! Then take a look at this:
What most folks don’t realize—and the Atlantic deftly discovered today—is that Newt Gingrich, whose campaign only launched this week, actually registered “American Solutions for Winning the Future” with the IRS under section 527 of the tax code on October 6, 2006. The group has handled his political ops ever since.
A section of the new Energy Agenda Infographic from the White House blog. Click through to see the graphic in full and read the President’s remarks from Friday’s trip to a factory in Indiana highlighted as an example of economic recovery.
Bonus! Some sage advice offered from Jesse Lee, “check it out below, or download it, print it, send it to your family, or hang it on your wall to add a splash of color.” Economic recovery news AND decorating tips all in one spot! Who could ask for anything more?