Day 108: 9/5/19

Where to even begin with Thursday’s emails? Julian Castro repeated his gun-violence email from earlier this week, still without a trigger warning (though slightly improved since the last time). Kamala Harris is still struggling with her funding. Bill de Blasio has a plan to fight automation. Bernie Sanders has never changed, while Pete Buttigieg says change is necessary.

And despite this packed day, nobody managed to upset me as much as Michael Bennet early in the morning.

Two by two, they fall in line.

Thursday brought 4 emails from Cory Booker and only 3 from Michael Bennet and Joe Biden. Booker’s first email did come at 12:01 AM ET, after he got off the stage as the last candidate for the CNN Climate Change Town Hall on Wednesday. While I do feel bad for him being on so late for me as an East-Coaster, as he put it, he was on at prime time… in Hawaii!

Things Trump does = News Events

Several candidates were reacting to Trump on Thursday. Joe Biden warned me that Trump may begin cutting social security and Medicare if he (Trump) wins 2020. Elizabeth Warren told me Trump asked his advisers if she was a fighter, and while she’s no adviser to Trump, she can certainly say that yes, yes she is.

Julian Castro repeated his call for a petition to demand McConnell end the Senate recess and get back to work fighting gun violence. He repeated the same email he sent earlier this week that I said needed a content warning, still without a content warning. At least he did amend it to have a bright yellow-highlighted hyperlink-blue paragraph before that opening line:

I watched yet another horrific gun violence tragedy unfold in my home state this weekend. I’m calling on Mitch McConnell to cut his vacation short NOW and return to Congress to pass emergency gun safety legislation. I need 50,000 signatures on my petition before midnight. Will you sign your name next to mine? >>

Julian Castro

Because nothing says fighting for the people like demanding a petition be signed.

Kamala Harris sent the only fundraising-specific email of the day, one with the subject “September Slump.”

I am going to ask you to make a contribution to my presidential campaign in just a quick moment. Please let me explain why this ask is so critical to our campaign, especially this week.

Kamala Harris

Oof. First she started with an ask/explain.

Here’s the truth: August was a rough month for fundraising and we barely scraped by hitting our goal. We expected to come out of the “summer slump” this month, but the first days of September have proven even more difficult for fundraising than we expected.

Meanwhile, we’re being outspent by some of our opponents and Trump is building an unprecedented campaign war chest to attack the eventual Democratic nominee for president.

Kamala Harris

Then we go into a “Here’s the truth.”

The truth is, we’re never going to be the best-funded team in this fight, but if we work hard and if we do it together, we can defy the odds one more time, win this nomination, and get Trump out of office.

Kamala Harris

We finish with another version of “Here’s the truth.”

Here’s the truth: I believe Harris is genuinely struggling for funds. While she’s being talked about in the same breath as the other in the top tiers–Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg–she had the lowest Q2 fundraising of those five by a lot. Pete Buttigieg topped the charts with $24.9 million, Joe Biden brought in $22 million, Elizabeth Warren had $19.2 million, and Bernie Sanders had $18.1 million. In contrast, Kamala Harris managed to pull in only $11.8 million. (source:

While every other candidate in the race not mentioned above would be thrilled to have $11.8 million at their disposal, no one but Harris is expected to run a tier 1 campaign on a shoestring budget. Her poll numbers have been slumping, and financial backing doesn’t usually pour in for candidates losing ground. This can create a perpetual cycle of loss.

You may say “Yeah, but it’s just a ploy to bring in more money.” Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. I do believe that’s what Biden does. There is no possible way the frontrunner is so bad with his budget that he runs out of ad money five times in a single month. “Oh no, we’re behind!” is always followed up with “We sure kicked that goal!” from Biden’s camp (or worse: “We sure almost kicked that goal, but we just need a little more, so keep it up!”)

Harris’ attitude in her emails has been far more desperate than Biden’s. “You’ve never let me down,” she says. “I’ve never run for president before, and I’m not a billionaire who can just self-fund my campaign.”

It’s more than just her words, though. Her donation buttons have been changing.

When I first started tracking the emails, Harris was absolutely consistent. She would include donation buttons whenever she asked for a donation, and they would always be $5/$25/$50/$100/$250/Other, averaging out to $86. Biden also used this spread of values.

Recently, in the past month or so, her buttons have changed. $10/$25/$50/$100/$250/Other. It’s not a huge difference, but it raised her average to $87. She trialed it first with just some of her emails, but now every donation button spread has that $10 button instead of the $5 button.

Her buttons are shifting again. Now, the $25 button is sometimes replaced with a $29 button, which bumps the average up to $87.50. These are tiny little steps, but they are all steps toward “please give more money.” If you’re a $25 donor and you always click the second button for Harris, and then you get a charge for $29… you’ll probably shrug. If you’re donating to Harris, you want her to win, so what’s $4 to you? But it’ll add up for her. Or maybe you want to give more than $10, and you see the next button up is $29. You can manage that. It’s again, $4 more than she would have gotten with a $25 button.

And if her campaign is gasping for money… it might give her some room to breathe.

Biden, meanwhile, has kept his standard button spread the entire time. He’s not actually struggling for money. He never has been.

Lots of “split between me and a Congressional race!”

While Harris just straight up said her fundraising was tanking and she needed help, other candidates tried more creative approaches. There were quite a few merch shop ads: Elizabeth Warren asked if I was ready to make my first purchase from the Warren shop. Andrew Yang showed me his best-selling merchandise and suggested I buy some. Marianne Williamson was launching her “Department of Peace” sweatshirt in time for fall (psst, other candidates, launch some fall apparel so I can compare you all again… or maybe winter holiday merch! Yeah, do that!).

Bill de Blasio went for the tried and true “Here’s my policy, donate if you like it” that many candidates do. He warned about the dangers of automation and talked about the “Robot Tax” he’d enact.

Bill’s automation plan is the ONLY plan that would provide security for current workers and facilitate new, secure, good-paying jobs for the next generation. His plan will take on the threat of automation and ensure every American benefits from technological innovation — not just the shareholders of the biggest corporations.

 Check out Bill’s automation plan and chip in $25 or more if you like what you see.

In Bill’s administration, we’d close loopholes that allow companies to put their money in machines rather than people — and then write off those investments on their taxes. Under his “robot tax,” big companies that replace their workers with machines would be required to pay five years worth of payroll taxes for each worker. And all that revenue would go directly into infrastructure projects and 21st century jobs that will HIRE those displaced workers.

Bill’s right: the current corporate automation regime is an existential threat to our nation’s workforce. It’s time to hold big business accountable and put money back in the hands of working people.

Team de Blasio

First note: he only asked for $1 from my non-donor account.

Second note: I think Andrew Yang would like to talk to him about automation plans.

Main note, however: this terrifies me.

Will automation take jobs? Yes. Will it make goods cheaper? Yes. Will it make factories safer? Yes. Will it come no matter what?


The future is like the tide. You can stand on the beach and yell at the waves all you want, but it’s still going to roll in. You can put up walls and barriers, but it’s going to eventually wash over them. Fighting the future will never work. You can tax businesses and make that money go to infrastructure jobs, and you can watch as infrastructure jobs develop construction robots that make THOSE jobs go away. It will happen.

We currently have a President who is scared of the future. We don’t need another one. We need a President who can look at what’s coming, see what’s coming (i.e. automation), and plan for what’s coming. Surf the wave of the future, don’t fight it! Harness it, ride it, enjoy it. Let the future make you happy, not scared. (Says me, who has never surfed in my life, and has only watched Lilo and Stitch.)

Taxing companies that use robots isn’t going to stop companies from using robots. It’s not going to save people from losing their jobs. If an automation response plan doesn’t involve finding ways to allow people to maintain their sense of dignity and self that comes from their job, or find a way to replace that sense of dignity and self with something outside of a job, it’s not a very good automation response plan.

So no, de Blasio, I don’t like what I see, and I won’t be chipping in.

Bernie Sanders decided to go a different route with asking for money. He included images of newspaper clippings over the years. In his non-donor email, he just included images of him in the past, but in his donor email, he compared it with images of himself doing the exact same thing today.

Not pictured: taking on powerful interests or relying on small-donor contributions

This is to prove that when Sanders says he’s rejecting the influence of big money, I know he’s telling the truth, because it’s what he’s always done… and that’s why he needs me to donate to make up for it.

I do have to ask, though… if he’s been fighting for the same things for nearly 30 years, why hasn’t there been progress? Doesn’t that show a lack of ability to get stuff done? Look at this clipping:

It’s cut off.

Despite being cut off, you can certainly imagine how that last line continues. Push for something to regulate the cost of drugs, right? Something that involves getting prices down to affordable levels for Americans that are equivalent to what the rest of the world pays?

He said he’d push for it in 1990. Prescription drug prices certainly haven’t gone down in the past 30 years.

You can ask Pete Buttigieg, who was 8 years old in 1990.

Buttigieg sent out an email with highlights from his CNN Climate Change Town Hall on Thursday. He did something I don’t believe I’ve seen from any other candidate before: he did it all via text.

It may be hard to believe, but even in 2019, not everyone gets pictures with their emails. Some have it turned off. Some people hate watching videos in their email. So many times, these “highlights from an event” email rely on photos with quotes written on them, or videos which, I’ll be honest, I’ve never watched. (Clicking a video in a political email is a guaranteed way to get asked to make a donation.)

Buttigieg instead put his quotes in the body of the email, in bold, and then explained them after.

“It’s going to require national action. This is why the human species invented government. It’s for dealing with issues that are too big for each of us to deal with on our own.”

We all have a role to play in preventing a climate catastrophe. Pete will mobilize the federal government to quadruple clean energy R&D funding, make clean energy investments to create 3 million new jobs, and end subsidies for fossil fuel companies.

Pete for America

While Sanders focused on how he’s always been fighting for the same things, Buttigieg focused on how as an entire country, we need to move together to make a change.

What I appreciated most was that the recap was in words. I frequently have 20+ emails at a time to go through, and I never stop to watch videos that are linked. I enjoy a good picture or a meme, but I can’t just copy/paste it into one of these posts. That requires saving the image to my computer or taking a snapshot, then uploading it to the blog. While it doesn’t seem like too much trouble, it quickly adds up when you remember that every blog post also includes a minimum of 4 charts. By having his recap be quotes, it’s much easier to read and share.

All of the above was well and good, but the email I took issue with was, as mentioned in the intro, a memo from Michael Bennet. It came at 8:44 AM ET, and it started off innocently enough.

Friends, I just shared this memo about the campaign with our staff – what we’re up against, where we stand now, and our plan forward. I wanted to share it with you, too, because you are a critical part of this team.

Daniel Barash, Campaign Manager, Bennet for America

There’s nothing wrong with what he said there. It was when he launched into the memo that I started to bristle.

Where we stand now:

Many candidates in this race have been preparing a presidential run for years. They’ve raised immense amounts of money through their own super PACs and run the gamut of the cable news circuit – being seen and heard as often as possible.

Michael never planned to have a career in politics, let alone run for president – in fact, he was known as the “accidental senator”. It was only upon being appointed to the Senate and then serving for 10 years that he realized just how backward everything is in Washington – and what he can do to fix it.

Believe it or not, it’s still early in this race.

Compared to years prior, this election got started much earlier. Fueled by the early start of the DNC debates and heightened media attention around early polls, there’s a false impression that the race has solidified. Our internal polling shows support for the current frontrunners is soft.

The truth is that most voters haven’t made their final choice or still support multiple candidates.

Will you make a contribution today to help us send a strong message that Michael is in this for the long haul?

Daniel Barash

To begin with, I highly doubt Daniel was actually asking the campaign staff to donate to Bennet’s cause.

Putting that aside, let’s look at this paragraph by paragraph. “Many” candidates in this race?

Many is a word I use frequently in these blogs, but you almost never see many of the uses, because many of the times I type it, I double-check, realize it’s only two or three, and change the word “many” to something not so strong. Many candidates have been preparing for this for years? I challenge Bennet to start naming them. Sanders, yes, Sanders has been fundraising for this since 2016, I’m sure. Biden has also probably been preparing. I’m sure Warren had been sending out feelers. But Harris and Klobuchar have both been very vocal that they do not have the big presidential campaign machine, and some of the top ten candidates like Buttigieg and Yang have literally come out of nowhere. Delaney could be argued as having been preparing for this for years. Steyer’s preparation came in the form of his daily activism. In a field of 20 candidates, I challenge Bennet to name 5 that have been using superPACs and running the news gamut for years to build up for this run.

Second paragraph: Bennet never planned for a career in politics. He was the “accidental senator.” Does that mean he hasn’t planned for his career to climb to President? Is he trying to be an “accidental” President?

Been there, done that, got the ruined country.

There is absolutely no reason to vilify someone who planned to become President. I dare say that someone who planned to become President is slightly better than someone who fell into the position, because it shows they have some ability of foresight.

This election got started much earlier that previous ones. Yes, absolutely true. This was a result both of simple creep (what time do stores start putting up Christmas decorations?) and the fact that over half the country literally cannot tolerate the current President. We’ve been begging for salvation, and the Democratic leaders have been stepping up to the task, injecting hope into the country. With over twenty candidates in the race by the end of April, the DNC had to get started on their debate calendar. And with the 2020 elections being so crucial, it’s only fair that we have as much time as we can to judge the candidates for ourselves.

What we’re up against:

It’s important to understand what the DNC is doing to narrow this field of qualified candidates before many voters have truly made a decision of their own.

The DNC’s arbitrary rules have created a reality show with unending coverage of zingers and one-liners rather than real policy and proposals to fix our country. In no way does that coverage or stifling of debate strengthen our party or enhance our ability to defeat Trump.

For reference, the first debate in 2015 was in October. To be included, a candidate had to achieve an average of at least 1% in three nationally recognized polls released between August 1 and October 10. What they’re doing now is unprecedented.

Along with that, the DNC’s fundraising criteria is an embarrassment to the party that wants to end Citizens United. If we wanted to be the party that set up rules that excluded people and gamed the system in favor of billionaires, we’d be Republicans.

Right now, Michael is staying focused on what matters most: talking to voters and beating Trump. But we need your help to send the DNC a message that voters decide our nominee — not operatives in a backroom.

Daniel Barash

It’s important to understand what the DNC is doing: you mean responding to allegations of election-rigging by attempting to make the process more fair and transparent?

Bennet is comparing the 2020 cycle to the 2016 cycle and saying the DNC’s rules are unprecedented.

Yes. They are. ON PURPOSE.

In 2016, the supporters of Bernie Sanders argued that the election was rigged for Hillary Clinton from the start and it wasn’t fair, etc. etc. Look at what’s happening this cycle already: Mike Gravel was left off of many polls. Andrew Yang is struggling to get the media to acknowledge that he’s got the poll numbers. Polls can be much more easily manipulated to give results that people want to see.

Look at Tom Steyer, accused of gaming the system by blasting Iowa with so many ads he got 3 of his 4 poll requirements just from Iowa state polls.

You know what’s harder to manipulate? Grassroots support. The DNC added a grassroots category to acknowledge that popular candidates might be getting cheated by the polls for one reason or another. Mike Gravel was able to qualify for the second debates by virtue of his grassroots numbers. Jay Inslee made it to the grassroots requirement for the third debates. The fundraising amounts the DNC are requiring are meant to indicate that there is an upswelling of support from the people of America.

A minimum fundraising amount of $130,000 is hardly a drop in the bucket for a successful Presidential campaign. Bennet acts like the DNC is demanding candidates suck in dark money, when really, look above at how Harris is struggling to succeed with ten times that amount.

There are over 250 million eligible voters in the U.S. The DNC is saying “We need you to convince 0.05% of the American population that you are interesting enough to be worth $1.”

If you cannot convince 0.05% of the population to throw you a dollar–not vote for you, mind you, just hand you one single dollar–then how can you be expected to get them to come out and vote for you?

This is the exact opposite of backroom operatives choosing a candidate. This is the backroom operatives throwing open the door and going “America, you pick.”

And this is Bennet going “That’s cheating!”

Furthermore… “…the party that set up rules that excluded people and gamed the system in favor of billionaires…”

The billionaire did not qualify. He tried to game the system and he failed.

The venture capitalist did qualify. He had no political ties or experience, and he succeeded.

THAT is the point of democracy. ANYONE can grow up to become President. If America likes you enough, they’ll support you.

They don’t like Michael Bennet. And after his recent emails blaming the DNC for trying to be better (and no, I’m not saying their rules are perfect, but this is also only the first year they’ve tried to account for grassroots support) and saying that the only people who should be getting a say in the Presidential field right now are the people of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, I don’t like Michael Bennet.

When I say a candidate is a never-vote for me, I only mean in the primary. If they get the nomination, I will absolutely mark my ballot for the Democratic candidate, no matter how angry I am with them. Country above party.

But right now, Michael Bennet is on my short list of never-votes. He needs to apologize to America and bow out, now, while he still has some political dignity to claim.

Bennet has always been talkative, but man is he a sore loser.

2 thoughts on “Day 108: 9/5/19

  1. To offer another perspective on the “robot tax”: I’m not a de Blasio supporter, but I like his emphasis on protecting workers as our country becomes more reliant on AI. He is acknowledging that automation will continue to have an impact on jobs while also asserting that that the government needs to play a role in easing the transition for displaced workers.

    This, to me, is where Yang falls short. UBI is a good idea – and can help address the economic disparities that come with automation – but it doesn’t provide the sense of meaning or belonging that can come with a job. And while Yang argues that UBI will increase employment, I haven’t seen evidence that he is correct.

    Thanks again for your insights and analysis – I always look forward to your emails!


    1. Absolutely, we can’t just leave the workers in the dustbin. But I don’t think just taxing companies moving with the times and giving the workers different jobs is the solution.

      I really like the argument that UBI lets you pursue your passions. You’re a writer? An artist? A phenomenal dog groomer? You want to run a little tea shop? UBI lets you have the jobs that satisfy your soul without needing to worry about satisfying your stomach. I like the idea of a future where machines do most of the work and humans can cultivate their minds and their families. I don’t think any of the candidates have hit on that, though, but I also don’t think it’s a requirement for the NEXT candidate. It’s a problem growing in the future, but right now, there are more critical things to fix, like the climate.


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