By Ryan Powers
Today the House Republican caucus is launching a new website — which seems to live in a legal murky area between legislative and political activities — AmericaSpeakingOut.com. The website allows users submit and vote on policy priorities to help House Republicans “craft a new agenda.” Think of it as Digg or Reddit for policy priorities.
The website declares, “America deserves a Congress that respects the priorities of the people.” As the head of the project, Rep. McCarthy told the Washington Post, “One of the biggest problems is no one believes anybody in Washington is listening.” As McCarthy put it in this cheerful introductory video, “Any real American agenda should not start with what Washington wants and instead starts with you”:
Great! Well, not really. As the Post explains, this is all kind of a farce and House Republicans won’t incorporate anything they don’t already agree with: “‘This isn’t American Idol,’ said McCarthy, adding that the top vote-getting idea on the site might not be adopted by the GOP. Referring to the party’s broader platform, he said, ‘we are in the process of creating ours, so it’s based upon our principles.’”
Similarly, McCarthy’s press secretary told Ryan Grim yesterday, “It’s not ‘American Idol’, where whatever gets the most votes automatically wins.” To put it another way, it’ll be a little bit like the Senate.
I can understand why the House Republicans don’t want to allow their agenda to be determined by what amounts to a glorified online poll. But why then even go through the motions? It seems like there are plenty of ways to solicite policy ideas without constructing the illusion of a democratic process.