“We’re sorry. We hate flooding your inbox like this. But you’re our final hope.” So said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in one of 42 e-mails I have received over the past eight days.
I have been very nearly personally attacked by Nancy Pelosi. I have been told by Gloria Steinem that “The outcome of this election will be determined by… women,” even though I am neither of voting age nor a woman. I have been strapped into an electoral roller coaster, lurching between hope and despair and then back again, often within a few hours.
To squeeze money out of me and whoever else has had the misfortune to get on its e-mail list, the DCCC has been running a sleazy, cynical e-mail fundraising campaign, relying on misrepresentations of facts and crude, heavy-handed emotional manipulation that is unbecoming of one of our nation’s main political institutions.
With its e-mails, the DCCC has used unsubstantiated and often made-up facts to paint an over-simplified picture of the 2014 campaign.
On October 21, the DCCC sent me “another shocking poll” from Politico that put Democrats at 44% to Republicans’ 41% – a dead heat in a poll with a +4.2% margin of error. However, on Politico, no such poll seems to exist. Instead, what polls there are are specific to individual offices within individual states. A New York Times Senate forecast puts Republicans’ chances at winning the Senate at 68% to Democrats’ 32%, casting further doubt on the supposed Politico numbers.
In its e-mails, the DCCC has pushed the narrative of “the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, and… other Republican outside groups” filling “TV screens with lying, Obama-bashing ads,” with the heroic Democrats relying on donations from “grassroots” individuals. However, that is far from the truth.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), nine out of the top ten organization contributors to the 2014 election are “solidly Democrat/Liberal.” Koch Industries is only 33rd. Additionally, five out of the top ten individual contributors, including the top three – Thomas F. and Kathryn Ann Steyer, Michael Bloomberg, and Fred Eychaner – are Democrats.
The e-mails are also peppered with vaguely apocalyptic hints of ruin, such as “Our budget deadline is in just a few hours. And we’re coming up $183,000 short,” which suggest that the Democrats are outgunned financially without actually saying $183,000 short of what goal.
This, too, is disingenuous. Among current candidates, although House Republicans have outspent House Democrats by $454 million vs. $358 million, Senate Democrats have outspent Senate Republicans by $234 million vs. $196 million, according to the CRP.
Following that little $183,000 factoid comes “If we can’t get to our goal now, we can just throw in the towel. Go home. Give up.” Besides the absurdity of the idea of $183,000 making that much of a difference with such vast sums already in play, besides the cheap language straight out of every sports movie ever, this holds me personally responsible should the DCCC fail to meet its arbitrary funding goal.
Herein lies the real problem of these e-mails: they show that the DCCC is willing not only to lie but also to emotionally manipulate people to separate them from their money.
“Hello,” one e-mail begins, “We’re reviewing our records before tonight’s critical election deadline.” It then points out, in bold red letters, that I have failed to “President Obama’s call to action.” Pelosi begins another with “We will fail to hit our goal,” again in bold red lettering, before implying that I am lazy and uncaring for not having given the DCCC money even after being e-mailed by both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
The inconsistency of tone between e-mails can make the DCCC seem positively manic-depressive. Between October 21 and 22, it sent consecutive e-mails with the subject lines “STUNNING Comeback,” “Pack up. Go home. It’s done,” and then, apparently having calmed down a bit, a meek “Hey, quick favor.” On the 24th, “AMAZING NEWS” segued smoothly into “It’s over. It’s done. Go home.”
It would appear that the DCCC is looking to get maximum gut-punching emotion out of each individual e-mail, with little regard for the overall coherence of their message. Look back at the whole e-mail campaign, however, and a potentially sinister picture starts to form.
Curious, I plotted the tone of each e-mail over time and found a pattern: the tone fluctuated between positive and negative at fairly, though by no means perfectly, regular intervals. This suggests that the tonal shifts may be deliberate, planned out in advance, a cycle of giving hope and taking it away again, to maximize my guilt.
To make me give them $5 of my precious money just so that when the Democrats lose the Senate in November, I can feel okay knowing it wasn’t my fault.
These e-mails bother me. In a time of decreasing party affiliation among youth, I am proud to call myself a Democrat, but even I cannot defend this campaign. The Democrats are supposed to be the peoples’ party, struggling valiantly to represent the common man against super PACs and Big Billions. This campaign has forced me to see that they are not inherently more noble than anyone else. It’s forced me to question my long-held beliefs, and I don’t like it.
But hey. At least they’re sorry about it.