Just a Quick Note

I get multiple emails a day from Democratic candidates Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes. The great thing about being post-primary is that I no longer get them from Tom Nelson, Sarah Godlewski or Alex Lasry. I also get them from Mark Kelly who’s running for reelection to the Senate from Arizona. Somebody must have traded or sold my contact info to his campaign. And I get some from various groups trying to elect Democrats just generally.

I do this to myself because, while I don’t give them a dime, I want to know what they’re saying, what issues they’re emphasizing, what lines of attack they’re using against their opponents. I suppose I should get on the lists for the Republicans as well, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to make that sacrifice for the cause of world class journalism that you’ve come to expect from the team here at YSDA.

What’s clear though is that these daily, sometimes hourly, messages are written by campaign consultants who have all read the same book. They follow a predictable pattern. With ever so slight modifications, I reproduce them for you below.

Quick Note

Hi, Dave. This is Cassi, Tony’s campaign manager. I just wanted to send you this quick note asking you to chip in just $3 so that we can show Tim Michels what true grass roots support means in Wisconsin. Your $3 and $3 from friends and neighbors all over Wisconsin will be felt like an earthquake all the way to Connecticut, where Michels owns a $17 million mansion. Hope to hear from you soon.

Cassi

Did You See Cassi’s Note, Dave?

Hi, Dave. Tony here. I know you’re busy so you might not have seen Cassi’s message about the $3. You may think it’s only three bucks, but it’s so important to Wisconsin and to me personally that you come through, Dave. Let’s show Tim Michels that thousands of Wisconsinites giving three bucks can defeat a guy with a $17 million mansion in Connecticut.

Tony

Did You See Tony’s Note about Cassi’s Note, Dave?

Hi, Dave. This is Hillary, Tony’s finance director. I’m just about to go into a meeting with Tony to update him on our CRUCIAL mid-August fundraising deadline. Right now I’m going to have to tell him that we’re coming up $3,485.30 short of our goal. But I’d love to be able to tell him that you, Dave, chipped in $3 toward our goal. Tony’s counting on you! Thanks in advance!

Hillary

I Was Disappointed in You, Dave

Dave, I just got my CRUCIAL mid-August fundraising goal briefing from Hillary. I am not happy. We asked you to kick in just $3. Three crummy bucks. But you couldn’t cough up even that. Look, if Tim Michels wins and the state goes to hell it won’t be on my conscience. We tried. But you’re just too selfish to even kick in the cost of a coffee. Enjoy your latte.

Tony

Cynical fundraising messages like this one are helping to undermine our democracy.

We’re Coming For You, Dave

Dave. Cassi here. We’ve tried to be nice. We tried to be reasonable. All we asked for was $3. I asked. Tony asked. Then Hillary asked. Then Tony asked again. But did you come through? No, you did not come through. You sat there on your ass sipping your latte while Tim Michels chuckled in glee in his $17 million Connecticut mansion. Our operatives overheard him say, “Dave didn’t come through for Evers. Now I know we’ll win! When we take over, should we start by throwing homeless people out of shelters into the January night or maybe we’ll arrange for an oil spill into Lake Mendota. It’s so hard to decide!” This is all on you, Dave. Now, we’re done being reasonable. We’re done sending polite emails. I’m sending over a couple of “campaign workers” to reach out to you directly. When they show up at your door I advise you to listen to their message. If they have to come back again it won’t be pleasant for anybody.

Cassi

Well, okay, so the last couple of examples took on a somewhat more aggressive tone than anything I’ve actually seen from the campaigns, but they do make for a sort of logical progression, don’t you think?

My serious point here is that this is really cynical stuff. I’m picking on Democrats only because that’s the stuff I get, but I’m sure Republicans do the same thing. I understand campaigns have to raise money, but couldn’t they treat their marks with a little more dignity, with a little more respect for their intelligence? Does anybody really think that the candidate himself or even the campaign manager is writing these messages? Or that they’re personally delivered just to you?

This kind of thing only deepens people’s cynicism about politics and their contempt for politicians and their consultants. The consultants who produce this trash see the politically active and naive as ATM machines. Hit the right buttons and the cash will spew out. And then they get paid.

Here’s an analysis from Laura Putnam, a political science professor at the University of Pittsburgh: “National Democratic and progressive groups together burned through the surge of liberal organizing under Mr. Trump, treating impassioned newcomers like cash cows, gig workers and stamp machines to be exploited, not a grass-roots base to be tended. Worse, research by academics and political professionals alike suggests many of the tactics they pushed to engage voters proved ineffective.”

She goes on to say that while these breathless, endless appeals for money do raise some of that in the short-run (why else would they do it?) they contribute to a sense of hopelessness and despair in the long-run. They are undermining our democracy and sapping our civic energy almost as surely as any election denier out there.

I’ll give money to the first candidate who doesn’t count on my gullibility.

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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