Sunday, May 30, 2010

America Speaking Out: An Early Review

Around a week ago the GOP unveiled America Speaking Out, a website based around the idea of allowing Republicans to speak directly to the party by typing up ideas and voting on which ideas they like or don't like.  Of course there's a good chance this was nothing more than something to appease grassoorts, but disingenuous or not the website was interesting in that it presents us the opportunity to see a conservative community come together.

First impressions are good.  The website design and layout is simple, but in a good way.  Everything is laid out before you and looks attractive enough.  It's even already allows you to connect your Facebook profile to the site, which streamlines the registering process just slightly and makes signing in a one button affair later on.  Once you've signed up you can view, vote on, or create ideas by clicking on any of the five groups at the bottom of the page, American Prosperity, Fiscal Accountability, American Values, National Security, and Open Mic.  Each group, with the exception of open mic, has sub-groups allowing you to refine your viewing or idea submitting to whatever catches your fancy.

This is where America Speaking Out collapses.  It doesn't take long before you realize that the entire website is overrun with trolls and...well libertarians.  The former get too many votes, and the latter are represented in too great a number, all of which ruins the initial intent of the site.

It's possibly I'm just disconnected, and the Republican base is in fact now libertarian.  That would also mean that the people I interact with on a daily basis are out of the loop as well, but there is some slim possibility the party is transforming, and God help us all if this is our future.

The first place I clicked when I visited the site was American Values, and the very first thing that you notice is the sheer amount of anti-religious, anti-social conservative sentiment, which is odd given that it's...er, American Values on a supposedly Republican site.  Take this idea that got 1,240 votes, the vast majority of which were positive:

Government funds should not go towards religious organizations. I don't want big government getting involved in my religion, and I don't want money being wasted on something I don't believe in. End the "christian nation" bull, taxpayer money shouldn't be wasted on religion (it falls into the category of "wasteful government spending"). So repeal the law about faith based initiatives.

The idea starts out as something I'm not particularly friendly toward, but about halfway through I immediately become hostile toward it.  For me it crosses that line when you notice just how hostile the writer is to religion (Christianity) in general.  I can't quite figure out if this a troll or a genuine libertarian sentiment, but I'm leaning hard toward the latter. 

Continuing on offers much of the same note:

The United States is not a christian nation and never has been. The idea that it is should be eradicated and we should continue to re-enforce the separation of church and state
Decriminalize/legalize marijuana and tax it like alcohol and cigarettes. We waste way too much law enforcement resources in arresting and prosecuting individuals for simple possession. Taxing legal marijuana sales could add millions of dollars in revenue.

Remove religious entities from tax-exempt status. The churches are using their amassed wealth to influence voters and campaign politically which is unacceptable for a tax exempt church to do. A great example of this is just how involved Utah's mormon churches were in California's Prop 8 vote. If they want to use the money they get for charity instead of taxes, it should go to charity -- not politics.

the sanctity of life should support whatever of woman wishes to do with her body. Without this right freedom is meaningless

All of these are among the top vote receivers, and all have vastly positive scores.  They all sound like they should be straight from the mouth of either a Libertarian (notice the big L) or a Ron Paul follower as well.

My initial reaction after seeing posts like these was too support the handful of social conservatives I saw on this site.  I figured that a minority of people actually post ideas, and most just read or vote, so I though I'd contribute toward making the conversation actually conservative:

Once we've dismantled the socialist agenda and can return to social issues, the Republican party should continue to take a strong stance on abortion. Much like the Latin American nations did we should declare rights for the unborn, and among those include the right to life. Gallup polling is showing that Pro-Lifers currently have the majority and momentum, so if you can make a strong argument we can win this debate.

It's not particularly well put together or interesting in conservative circles.  I was curious to see how libertarians would react to me trying to tap into the "rights of the Unborn" argument, or to see if libertarians would even recognize that argument.  They didn't, and most of the majority of the votes on it were negative.

Elsewhere we find the story is much of the same.  American Prosperity:

Reduce the size of our military spending drastically. It's currently over 50% of our national budget and doesn't need to be so gargantuan. Our carrier fleet alone is several times larger than the entire world's fleets put together. If you cut that by itself you'd save the American taxpayer quite a bit of money and even have some left over for infrastructure improvements, better schools and social programs that will make this nation stronger over all. 
Tax Churches. Most are just a money making scheme for those in control of them. Use said money to decrease the weight of taxes on average every day Americans. Also prevent institutions from mixing god with education if they do it on the public dole.

Its time for Republicans to stop being so obstinate and help America spearhead the global Green revolution.

Fiscal Accountability is filled with lefty trolls:

Make G. W. Bush payback the $ 1.2 trillion dollars wasted on the war and viola, no deficit. Or we could just consider continuing to blame that on Obama. 
Raise taxes. That way, we get to keep the social programs we love, but also pay off the debt. Put a freeze on tax cuts unless a new tax is added to replace the lost revenue.

Pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan- nothing could be more wasteful than spending trillions of dollars and thousands of servicemen's lives on lost causes.

Quit wasting time voting no on every bill submitted. You are getting paid to do a job and voting no is hardly working.  

National Security mixes what we've seen above with some trolling:

Help secure our Boarder by ending Marijuana Prohibition. Cartels make 60% of there profit from Pot and are the single biggest threat to our Boarder. The only thing the Prohibition of Marijuana has done is made our enemies stronger from the BILLIONS in Pot profit that they use to fund even more harmful activities and crimes. Government has NO RIGHT to tell someone what they can and cant put into there bodies as long as it does not harm anyone else. Anyone with common sense knows Pot fits right into that category. 
Build a wall along our borders. Not a wimpy fence. China did it and the toursim dollars the wall brings in will more than pay for the cost. I'm thinking a 1000 feet high and a 100 feet or more thick. A man made mountain range. That'll keep people out! P.S. Canadians are a bigger threat to our security than we realize. Did you realize the late Peter Jennings' Canadian, yet hosted an American news program? They can blend in unnoticed into our society and our border with them is totally demilitarized!!! They can just sneak across and pretend to be Americans, with their stinkin' European-wannabe socialism. P.P.S. Maybe anchor some mines along our coastal waterways so no one sneaks in on boats.

Annex Canada and Mexico. Building wall across Guatemala will be easier and melting ice cap means Russians will have harder time with invasion. 

And finally we get to the highest voted idea on Open Mic, an idea which accurately portrays most of the posts on here:

What happened to my Republican Party, the one I remember from my youth? Fiscal discipline, wariness about foreign entanglements and taxes but a sober commitment to the public good. I just don't see it in today's Republican Party with its courting of gun owners, anti-environmentalism, and the religious right. Forget the social issues, forget the divisiveness, put some intellectual heft behind the party in place of Beck, Palin, and Limbaugh. What you are gaining in frenzy you are losing in wisdom and leadership.

The website fails because it fails to capture actual Republicans.  Instead the site was probably linked on libertarian and liberal blogs, and the result was a whole lot of people posting ideas that either mocked conservatives and the right, or tried to seriously promote ideas which have no business being associated with conservatives.  When you have a website like this you expect this sort of behavior to a certain degree, but the amount of positives votes these ideas get tells you just how overrun this place is.

As much as I want to love the idea of this site, I can't ignore what a huge failure it is at the moment.  Even without the huge numbers of libertarians and trolls the website is lacking in some areas.  There is no way to know when people have commented on things you've already commented on, the badge system is underdeveloped, and there needs to be more community options.  For some reason I don't think the GOP was ever going to develop this site to the extent that it deserved.  Even so, it could of been something interesting just in the short term.

It's worth noting that in a few weeks the website could be entirely different.  Eventually trolls get bored and leave, and perhaps one day a group of conservatives could find the site and change everything.  I'll be watching it every now and then for awhile, but for now this site is a huge disappointment. 

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