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Obama White House Has Listening Lessons for the GOP

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, September 22 2010

Over on the White House blog, communications director Dan Pfeiffer is going all juijitsu on congressional Republicans' experiment in open-source platform crafting, turning what might look like a strength into a weakness by preemptively chiding the Hill GOP on whether their new election season platform, due for release tomorrow, will dutifully reflect the wisdom of the crowd reflected on the America Speaking Out platform they released to much attention back in May. At launch, Chief Deputy Republican Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA) framed the Microsoft TownHall-powered site as a challenge to "an arrogant Congress" that "refuses to listen to the people."

But what it turns out the people are saying, argued Pfeiffer on the White House blog this morning, is that Republicans' track record is out of sync with the issue that gained the most interest in the site's economic section.

With more than 4,000 votes, that issue is this: "Stop the outsourcing of jobs from America to other countries that do not pay taxes into the U.S. and stop the tax breaks that are given to these companies outsourcing." Pivoting off promises made by big-name Republicans like John Boehner that tomorrow's platform will reflect input gathered through America Speaking Out's crowdsourcing tools, Pfieffer pokes a stick in the eye. "We hope so too," he blogs, "particularly since the idea that has drawn the most interest in their job creation section with overwhelming support is one that President Obama has been pushing – and Congressional Republicans have been opposing – for years." Pfieffer goes on to recount his take of the relevant GOP legislative record.

(For whatever reason, Pfeiffer analysis didn't include the second most active topic in the GOP site's economics vertical: support for the notion, made popular in chain emails, that Presidents Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower ordered the force deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. "Let us take a lesson from our past," urges NCGal. That idea attracted only a handful fewer votes than the outsourcing proposal did.)

There's a somewhat cheap joke to be made about the fact that the Obama White House is making fun of someone else for mismanaging what bubbles up to the top in online voting forums. During his own Open for Questions sessions, the President, of course, has made sport of the apparent fascination with marijuana legalization amongst the "online community." But that's a sticky problem confronting both the Obama White House and the GOP. Legalizing marijuana occupies the first slot on America Speaking Out's "Open Mic" section. And the second slot, too.