We’re gonna win! We’re gonna lose! It’s amazing! It’s horrible! The Koch brothers are coming to coming to murder your cat!
If you donated to a political campaign in recent years, you know what it’s like to be punished for good deeds. You can’t check your email without a fresh deluge of optimism, desperation, congratulations, and warnings of the end of our democracy.
Does this email avalanche do any good for the pleading politicians? Hard to say. But judging from my own reaction, the answer is no.
I’m a life-long Democrat, leaning to the left edge of the party. I have, from time to time, sent donations to politicians I liked. If I received two or three emails a week asking for campaign contributions, I would probably consider them and occasionally click the Donate button.
But with the flood I get now, all I want to do is delete, delete, delete. Sending money would only encourage them.
And yet, it’s pretty clear that not sending money does nothing to discourage them. For the last ten days of August, I didn’t delete. But I didn’t donate, either. I set aside every email requesting money for a political campaign. I now have a collection of 318 such pleas. More 30 a day.
It felt like much more.
Your first impression of any email is, of course, the subject line. With those few words, a politician (or, more likely, his or her aid) tries to make you open that one particular piece of mail. Looking over 318 of these subjects, I got a ringside view of a party with multiple personality disorder. The messages were ecstatic, hopeless, pleading, scolding, and just plain meaningless.
On the upbeat note, politicians and their employees joyfully declared that something or other was "BEST…EVER…," that "McConnell DONE FOR," and "Republicans OBLITERATED" (I am not correcting for grammar, punctuation, or overused capital letters). Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire representative for whom I have never given a penny, sent me an "AMAZING (THANK YOU Lincoln)" message.
But few of these politicians were as upbeat as Annie (all of these politicians called me by my given name, so I assume I can do the same)." Most preferred to open their emails with such warnings as "TRAGIC loss," "EXCRUCIATING defeat," " end of our rope," and "We’ve got nothing left."
Many focused on famously evil Republicans. Emails warned me of "Mitch McConnell’s devious plan" and that "Rove just announced" (I had to open that one to find out what he’d announced; it wasn’t worth repeating). The Koch brothers played an important role here, as we were commanded to "SAVE THE SENATE: The Koch Brothers’ worst nightmare" and reminded that "They’ve got the Kochs, I’ve got you."
Some subjects were so meaningless in their hyperbole that they really didn’t tell you anything. "Wow!" " S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G!!!" "ＳＥＮＳＡＴＩＯＮＡＬ！！！," and "ＡＳＴＲＯＮＯＭＩＣＡＬ" were difficult to parse. But when an email subject proclaims "I’m not exaggerating," you can bet your last dollar that that just ain’t true.
Sometimes the professionals stooped to pleading, begging, and scolding. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) accurately pointed out that "we BEGGED you LINCOLN;" it didn’t move me. James Carville announced that "Listen, I’m begging." Nancy Pelosi was "disappointed lincoln."
I got a lot of email from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC). The organization’s email addresses included email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org. I also got mail from Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid, and Michelle Obama, all of which, on examination, came from email@example.com
Many admit that they’re spamming their supporters, but if that’s a problem, it’s our fault. Messages start with "We keep emailing" and "please read before deleting," which produces an effect similar to a telephone recording that reassures you that "your message is important to us." Someone named Anne at the DSCC tried honesty, titling an email "Flooding your inbox." She started her message with "Lincoln — I know we’ve been absolutely flooding your inbox. But I really need you for a quick second." And a quick second was all it took to close the email.
Even President Obama–excuse me, Barak–sent me four messages on one day titled "important (don’t delete)." Each started with "I’ve already emailed you this month." Four days earlier, he started a message with "Lincoln — I’ve been emailing you a lot."
Aside from President Obama and other political stars, I get email from politicians I barely know. In fact, I got so many of these that I confused Gary Peters (running for Senate in Michigan) with Scott Peters, a Congressman running for re-election in San Diego, California.
But my favorite emails were all about deadlines. When you’re overwhelmed by emails begging for money, there’s something heartening about messages screaming "Deadline in 72 hours," "32 HOUR ALERT," and "Only 6 hours to go." Wow! Does that really mean they won’t be able to accept my money after tomorrow?
Of course not. There’s no real deadline. But today is the last day in which you can send us money before you send us money tomorrow!
Assuming that most rank-and-file Democrats react to these emails the way I do, we’re in big trouble. The leaders of the party need to get together, ban the sharing of mailing lists, and agree to rules for keeping the spam count down.
Otherwise, we can all be sure of one thing: Whatever party wins, we’re going to hate.