The White House Needs to Reopen the Public Comments Phone Line
Want to give President Donald Trump a piece of your mind? Good luck getting the administration to listen to your comments. Throughout Trump’s first few weeks in office, the White House public comment phone line has been disconnected.
That’s why the Care2 community has created a petition asking Anthony Scaramucci, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs to ensure that the phone lines are reinstated as soon as possible.
The phone line is a longstanding tradition that allows average American citizens to get in touch with the Executive Branch and share their opinions on political matters.
The White House website does offer alternatives for submitting comments. One is to type a comment directly in a section on the White House website. Another instructs users to use Facebook messenger to send feedback. The latter is also a dud, though: The White House’s Facebook messenger account is not currently activated.
So while there is currently one way for Americans to send their opinions to the Trump administration, it limits the type of people who are able to comment. We may live in a digital age, but there are still over 30 million citizens of America who do not use the internet. Eliminating one of the easiest ways for wireless-less to get in touch is a slap in the face.
The comment line went down at the tail end of the Obama presidency, so it’s not fair to say that Trump’s team unplugged the system itself. However, it is fair to criticize an administration that has not taken the time to reinstall it. While a little downtime during the transition seems acceptable, public comments should be a priority.
That’s especially true for a president that has made a lot of divisive decisions to kick off his term. If Trump’s team has the time to put together 18 executive orders in the first 12 days, he should have a better system in place where Americans can weigh in on these policies.
The lack of a comment phone line seems to correspond with Trump’s utter unwillingness to listen to criticism. The other day, Trump actually declared that “any negative polls are fake news.” The idea that people could dislike him or his ideas is so mind-boggling to him that he isn’t willing to accept it. Maybe if he heard these opinions from the people directly, he’d get the message more clearly.
At least some members of Congress want to do something about the situation. Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat representing San Francisco, wrote the “Phone the White House Act” to try to force the phone line to reopen.
“The American people deserve to be able to communicate freely with their president,” she said. “Unfortunately, while this president is certainly committed to his Twitter account, he must also be willing to hear from his constituents the old fashioned way.”
The text of the legislation stipulates that the president would lose his executive funding for as long as the phone system is not working. It’s a harsh punishment, but would probably yield results, as Trump is not likely to forego his budget just to keep the phones off.
Already Speier has won over the support of 15 of her colleagues as cosponsors of this bill, but with a Republican majority in both legislative bodies that has so far declined to challenge the president, it seems to stand little chance of passing and going into law.
The most realistic best-case scenario is that the GOP leadership will tell the White House to reinstate the phone line to eliminate the need for this bill before it causes a stink.
Hopefully we can achieve that same pressure with this Care2 petition. Tell the White House that it is obligated to take feedback from the American people and that it needs to reopen the comment phone line promptly.
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