I did something I knew was foolish: I got on a political candidate’s mailing list. Why? Because the campaign was giving away bumper stickers, and I like free things. Of course, it helps that this is a candidate I would be willing to support–maybe even to the extent of putting said bumper sticker somewhere visible (though not likely on an actual bumper).
I signed up for this mailing list, assuming that I’d get the occasional fundraising email or talking points memo. But I had hopes for this candidate. I hoped they wouldn’t resort to the typical nonsense you see in American politics.
You can guess what happened.
The other day, I got an email from this candidate,whom we will call Bob Smiley. This pseudonym isn’t a clue, by the way; it just makes me laugh. Also, there’s an actual comedian named Bob Smiley, and I am imagining him running for office, which makes me laugh, as well. In fact, let’s give you a good visual here:
The email subject line read: “THIS MUST BE WRONG: SEE ATTACHMENT.” The text of the email was as follows (names obviously changed):
Hi Dave, Bob emailed me asking for an update on whether or not we are are going to reach our target before midnight…
I’m about to send this list (attached below) over to Bob, and I know he was really anxious to see your name in the confirmed column — but it’s not.
This must be wrong, will you look and help me correct it ASAP? I need to email Bob in just a few short hours.
If you can donate in the next two hours — I’ll personally make sure you’re marked confirmed on the list that I send over to Bob. If you already responded or our emails have crossed on the web…please forgive me.
Dave, it’s imperative that we don’t come up short of our target.
National Finance Director
Smiley for President
P.S. The crowded field of presidential candidates is thinning out…money is a key factor, and I need your help to keep Candidate Smiley in this race. Can I count on you?
For the record, I did reply to this email. I wrote that I still supported this candidate’s ideas but felt that this sort of fundraising was transparently manipulative and beneath the dignity of the candidate in question. I was supportive and very polite. But that’s not the reply I really wanted to send.
What I really wanted to send back was the following:
Thank you for your urgent letter. I agree–there is something wrong, and your previous message was a bit disconcerting.
First of all, from the very-official-looking image you have included in the body of the email, it appears that the Smiley campaign is using a very outdated version of Microsoft Excel. I am concerned that running a campaign with older computer software could jeopardize Bob’s ability to maintain up-to-date records–especially if you have to stop everything and upgrade to Windows 98.
Secondly, I want to assure you that I am not “missing,” as the very-official-looking graphic indicates. I am safe and sound and resting comfortably with my family. Tell Bob not to worry, and thank him for his very deep, very personal concern.
Thirdly, I am very happy to support Bob’s campaign through word-of-mouth campaigning and possibly the strategic use of bumper stickers. This is called “grass-roots” campaigning, because grass roots can be found easily from sea to shining sea, literally all across our great nation [Void in AZ/NV/NM], as I know you want the message of the Smiley campaign to be spread.
Fourthly, in an era of pervasive online scams and internet hacking, sending a virtual stranger a message marked “THIS MUST BE WRONG–SEE ATTACHMENT” and urging them to open the attachment is the very best way to make sure your email is deleted immediately, or at least mocked slightly on a no-name blog with a readership of fewer than 3 dozen.
Fifthly, and most seriously, the use of emotional manipulation that plays upon the reader’s fear of letting down a respected and even beloved political figure/celebrity may work with a handful of retirees in Boca Raton, but what it tells me is that Candidate Smiley is not serious about running a different kind of campaign. It’s cheap, it’s tacky, and it’s beneath you. It’s beneath Bob. We don’t want to let Bob down, do we, Sally?
I am glad to continue considering Bob Smiley as a presidential candidate, but tactics like these have guaranteed that I won’t be contributing financially to his campaign.
High-fives and side-hugs,
P.S. The crowded field of candidates is thinning, and I understand that money buys airtime to get your message out there. But it doesn’t buy respect or dignity (see: Trump). The way we make a difference is through ideas, not attack ads. Don’t let me down, folks. I hope I can count on you, too.