In this past week: Steve Bullock has finally started up his campaign machine, Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that, and Amy Klobuchar has finally created some new fundraising charts. Also, just about everyone is behind on their fundraising, and my support will decide who is successful.
Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren tied with Tim Ryan this week for “Most afraid I’d forget about their existence” with 18 emails each. Joe Biden came in second with 17, but third was Amy Klobuchar at a distant 14.
There’s something to be said for the “everyone does it, so it’s okay” method of politicking that I find incredibly distasteful. When I complain that campaigns are sending me too many emails, I frequently get “yeah, but that’s just how it is, I delete most of them.” We, as voters, we tolerate bad behavior from our politicians because everyone does it. Because that’s how it’s always been done.
Many of these campaigns offer “email-lite” subscriptions. There are options to be on a list to only get “important” emails. I haven’t tested any of these, but I’ve heard, for example, that Elizabeth Warren offers the option to turn off fundraising emails and only receive policy/event emails.
I’ve also heard that if you select that option, you still get fundraising emails.
I’ve spoken with so many people who have told me that they very specifically do not donate because they don’t want to be spammed. They don’t want that low-grade level of annoyance and frustration in their lives. That’s actually become a selling point of some candidates. “Donate to Pete Buttigieg,” I can say. “In 10 weeks, he’s only emailed me 40 times. That’s 4 emails a week on average. It’s not annoying!”
Unfortunately, as we can all see from the charts in this blog, very few candidates subscribe to the “less is more” belief.
And yes, there has to be a certain level of shamelessness in fundraising for a campaign. You have to go to people who have already given you money and ask them to give again. People tend not to just randomly think about donating and throw money at you. If you don’t ask, they don’t bother.
I’m sure there is some value in machine-gunning emails out to optimize your chances of hitting someone with an email at that exact moment they feel like being a little generous, but I feel like there is not enough focus put on how a candidate’s emails make a voter feel. Every candidate spams, so you can’t ding a candidate for spamming you, right?
I say wrong. If a candidate spams your inbox, ding them. Get mad. Scold them publicly or privately, reply to their spam with “This has made me like you less.” There are over 300 million Americans. By the numbers, the closest you will likely get to talking to a candidate is through the emails they deliver straight to your inbox. That means those emails matter. Are they talking to you or at you? Are they treating you as a personal bank or are they providing you with value for your donations? Do they ever talk to you if they don’t need something from you?
Don’t reward bad behavior with attention or money, but don’t forget to reward good behavior with attention and money. Politicians are supposed to work for us. Let’s not let them forget it.
Rant aside, let’s look at why I felt the need to rant today. 22 campaigns emailed me this past week. 10 told me they were behind their goals:
- Kamala Harris: 9 times
- Elizabeth Warren: 8 times
- Bernie Sanders: 6 times
- Joe Biden: 5 times
- Michael Bennet: 3 times
- Jay Inslee: 2 times
- Kirsten Gillibrand: 1 time
- Beto O’Rourke: 1 time
- Tim Ryan: 1 time
- Cory Booker: 1 time
- Tulsi Gabbard: 1 time
If the same/similar emails were sent to donor and non-donor accounts, I only counted them once. However, I did read them twice. That means I received 18 emails from Harris fretting about not meeting her goals and 16 emails from Warren, and 12 from Sanders, and I was pulling my hair out by the end.
Most of the candidates in the list above are among the front-runners of the race. You could probably pick at least 5 or 6 of them out of a group photo. In fact, according to their own campaign messages: All four of the top-polling candidates are failing at fundraising. The message that can be inferred from this, but which I’m sure the campaigns don’t mean to imply, is that none of the top four candidates are capable of inspiring the American population to step up.
I know the “we’re falling behind!” message is meant to spur you to action, to feel urgency of your team losing and you can help bolster them. I have every confidence that all four top-polling candidates will pull out miraculous recoveries to meet or smash their fundraising goals, and I’m also fully confident that within the first week of August, they will all be worried that they’re behind on their fundraising again.
It’s emotional manipulation.
I’m sick of it.
Steve Bullock launched some new things this week that really should have been launched when he first started out. His campaign store went live on Monday, just over two months after he first announced his candidacy. While campaign stores can take time to set up because they involve a lot of logistics, he announced on Thursday the launch of his official Bullock for President Facebook group. Official Facebook groups are so essential to marketing these days that I automatically assumed every candidate had one in place the moment they announced. For Bullock to not… that speaks of a level of unpreparedness that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with as my next commander in chief.
Elizabeth Warren was pushing her fundraising hard and heavy, stressing how important her end-of-month goal is, how she’s tracking behind her deadline, and, impressively, a list of all of her policies that she needs money to accomplish:
Elizabeth has a plan to:
Cancel student loan debt and create universal free public college
Lead the global effort against climate change
Make high-quality child care affordable for all
Make sure that no president is above the law
Create a fair and welcoming immigration system
Solve the affordable housing crisis
Pass federal laws that protect the constitutional rights in Roe v. Wade
Replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote
Ensure that corporate executives face jail time for overseeing massive scams
Make sure the biggest corporations pay their fair share
Protect public lands
Break up big tech
Improve our military housing
Address the black maternal mortality crisis
Provide debt relief for Puerto Rico
End the opioid crisis
Reduce corporate influence at the Pentagon
Put American wages ahead of Wall Street bonuses
Close the startup capital gap for entrepreneurs of color
End private prisons and stop companies from exploiting those in our criminal and immigration systems
Secure our elections and stop racist voter suppression
Rebuild the State Department
Level the playing field for America’s family farmers
Promote equity in the private sector and boost wages for women of color
Accelerate the transition to clean energy
End Wall Street’s stranglehold on our economy
Stop the next economic crash
Big, structural change for our country requires bold ideas. It also requires a massive grassroots movement fighting hard to make it happen. And we can’t get it done if we miss any monthly fundraising goals.Team Warren
I feel like this would have made more of an impact if it hadn’t been sandwiched between all of her other pleas for money.
Warren wasn’t the only one with a Plan. Joe Sestak started the week off with a list of topics that he could talk about at the September debates if he qualified:
Please, Friend, contribute $1 to make the DNC requirement of at least $1 from each of 130,000 unique donors in order to be permitted to mount the fall Democratic Presidential Debate stage…
Then someone will be there to discuss and understand China, Iran, Korea, Russia, the need for an international response to climate change, challenging autocrats, nuclear and chemical arms control, cyber warfare, international refugees, world trade through the WTO, protecting the dollar as the world’s currency, international human rights and human trafficking, loss of US command of the seas in the Western Pacific, outsourcing of national security by corporations with China’s virtual monopoly on manufacturing tech (at times embed with damaging software/hardware), convening allies and friends, and all the other challenges we face.Joe Sestak
Cory Booker included a column he wrote in Essence about how we’re failing women of color and need to fix that. Joe Biden laid out his plan for criminal justice reform, and John Delaney talked about reducing prescription drug prices. Beto O’Rourke sent an email from a supporter who spoke favorably of his health care plan, while Michael Bennet hyped up his Medicare-X plan and talked about the need for great Pre-K. Bill de Blasio talked about a worker’s bill of rights and Pete Buttigieg launched his policy to empower workers. Jay Inslee focused heavily on climate change, and Kirsten Gillibrand chimed in with her climate change plan. Tom Steyer promised to declare a climate emergency on day one of his presidency. Bernie Sanders stressed the urgency of fighting big pharma. John Hickenlooper used the Mueller testimony to shine a spotlight on the importance of cybersecurity. Tim Ryan told me he had an Industrial Plan for America, but he didn’t actually give me any details about what that meant or what it entailed, not even a link to a policy page. He just wanted me to give him money so he could talk about it.
The real eye-roller of the week was Amy Klobuchar. I don’t talk about Klobuchar all that much in this blog, and that’s because Klobuchar doesn’t talk about all that much in her emails. She’s never the most nor the least prolific, and her emails are all vague and repetitive, lacking any sort of concrete details. Klobuchar likes to repeat the same few headlines and news bites ad nauseum. I don’t know how many times she told me about that one quote that listed her as the most aggressive critic of Trump, or how the Boston Globe declared her the winner of the first debate. People are lined up out the doors at her events, but there are never any pictures of these packed houses or any locations for these crowds. And her charts? Her charts are never labeled.
I called Klobuchar out on her laziness when it came to her fundraising charts already: she kept reusing the same chart because without labels, why did it matter? After calling her out, though probably not related, she did start changing up her chart. She included one that wasn’t animated but was much fuller, and then recently she included the GIF above. It shows money coming in… but how much? How quickly? How much does she need? Like her emails, there are no details, nothing to latch onto. I don’t write much about Klobuchar because I can’t. There’s just no substance.
I always find it interesting to look at this chart of average donation ask. Kamala Harris is consistently the highest, because she almost always asks for either an average of $86 (the default average ask for ActBlue donation buttons) or nothing, and she almost never asks for nothing. Pete Buttigieg is consistently the lowest. He only really comes out with specific monetary asks around the FEC deadlines, and otherwise his emails have no specific monetary ask. Cory Booker hasn’t been asking for anything specific lately, though he does ask for a lot of donations and occasionally mentions “even a dollar,” while Joe Biden, like Harris, will frequently go with the default donation buttons (or even higher). As the month draws to a close, the amount of campaigns asking for donations always increases.
That doesn’t mean I’m obligated to give.