2010, pundits have decreed, is the year of the Republican Resurgence, with the party poised for its greatest gains in Congress since 1994.
A lot has changed in 2008, when GOP standard-bearer John McCain was stumped by a reporter's "Mac or PC" question. Now, the senior senator from Arizona has his own Twitter account. And face it, if you're not using social media nowadays, someone in your organization needs to be fired.
Enter the latest effort, the AmericaSpeakingOut website, where Congressional Republicans invite the public to share and discuss ideas and the nation's agenda.
Of course, there are other places to discuss policy. You may have noticed that Twitter, Facebook, and a gaggle of other sites provide forums for political speech of all stripes. And every member of Congress has a website with direct links to submit emails.
But AmericaSpeakingOut.com arranges topics into four broad categories: American Prosperity, Fiscal Accountability, National Security and American Values, plus an "Open Mic" slot. It allows anyone to enter comments, and to vote thumbs-up/thumbs-down on other comments. And the site, while reserving the right to remove content it doesn't like, seems to be also sticking to its promise of letting people talk even if they disagree with the Republican agenda.
And that's where the site runs into some tricky territory. What sorts of comments are actually on the site?
Well, right up top in the "Prosperity" section, there are some comments that seem to agree with what a lot of GOP politicians say: Require a two-thirds vote in Congress for all earmarks; make all legislation identify the part of the Constitution that permits it; repeal the recent health care reform bill and instead eliminate state regulations.
But other views are not so orthodox: Tax the church; arrest businesses owners who hire illegal aliens; end farm subsidies; legalize marijuana; reduce the military budget by half.
Go to other sections and the mix is even more contrary to the GOP agenda. Under values, for example, there are calls to repeal "Don't ask, don't tell"; to tax religious organizations; to make abortions legal, safe and rare; and, here again, to legalize marijuana.
But wait, it gets weirder, with some obvious mischief-makers getting a cheap laugh: "if english is good enough for baby jesus, its good enough for americans," [sic] says one. Another urges America to get away from the teachings that socialist, Jesus Christ.
"Stop 'teaching' our children the atheist doctrine of heliocentrism. It contradicts the Bible," says another comedian.
OK, so maybe the site moderator needs to get on the ball. But there's redemption: Deeper into the comments, there's some semblance of respectful give-and-take. It's certainly no worse than the comments on a typical YouTube video, or the name-calling that the comments section of any major or minor newspaper degenerates into.
And who knows, maybe Congress will actually read the comments on the site and take them seriously.
It's a rugged world out there on the Web, but the GOP is to be congratulated for the effort and for not (yet) striking down unorthodox views on its own site.
And since talking again about the oil spill is just too depressing, AmericaSpeakingOut is the the Government Video Website of the Week!
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