Over the past week, candidates celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Tulsi Gabbard sued Hillary Clinton, and I get introspective about humiliation.
For all new readers: Welcome! I am currently on the mailing lists of 8 candidates for the Democratic Presidential Nomination! This blog breaks down recent emails with charts and excerpts. If you already know all of this, feel free to skip to the next chart!
I signed up to all mailing lists either on May 21 or the day the candidate announced, whichever was later. Using a different email address, I have donated at least $1 to all candidates who have been on a debate stage (I have given additional donations to my preferred candidates through my personal email, but the campaigns have linked the two accounts together and may ask for more as a result).
When showing breakdowns by campaigns, there will usually be 2 numbers. Emails to my non-donor account will be indicated by a darker color/top bar in horizontal bar charts. Emails to my donor account will be indicated by a lighter color/bottom bar.
Unless otherwise specified, all other charts combine the donor and non-donor numbers, as they are roughly 1-for-1, so the percentages and relative differences don’t change much. You can divide the numbers in half to get the rough estimate for what someone not signed up twice would be receiving. The rules I try to follow for the various categories are laid out in The Framework.
If you want specific data on any particular day, feel free to drop a comment!
Pete Buttigieg was actually DOWN email-wise this week, sending only 36 emails over 7 days. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren tied for second place with 27 total emails, while Joe Biden lagged far behind at 26 emails in a week. However, every single campaign did end up sending emails this week, so there is that.
For once, there wasn’t any obvious trend in number of emails sent over the week, with most days getting between 53-58. Monday marked the two-weeks-to-caucus date for all of these campaigns, and their hype is building.
Every last campaign was focused on raising the money they needed to see them through Iowa. Some senators, like Michael Bennet and Bernie Sanders, were concerned about how being stuck in D.C. for the impeachment trial would affect their fundraising, while others, like Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, didn’t mention impeachment at all.
How candidates were doing in polls was also a big topic of discussion, counting as “news events.” Bernie Sanders was touting multiple first-place national polls, while Pete Buttigieg calmly pointed out that hey, he’s beating Trump by big margins in head-to-heads. Joe Biden worried about how close the poll numbers were, and Tulsi Gabbard…
Well, Gabbard’s news events were all troubles of her own making, as she talked about how mean Hillary Clinton was to her and Sanders and how she was going to sue Clinton for voicing what everyone was whispering about.
Phone banking was another huge topic this week, with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg asking me to make calls for them into Iowa and New Hampshire. Buttigieg also asked me to road trip to Iowa or attend virtual fundraisers.
Elizabeth Warren hit her three millionth donation this week and laid out a massive roadmap of how she was going to win across all the states, while Pete Buttigieg launched Phase Four.
Deval Patrick decided he would introduce himself to me with a video talking about his background growing up on the South side of Chicago. He’s convinced it’s not too late to catch on.
Only a quarter of the asks this week did not involve a direct ask for money, though 9 of them were somehow offering merch, whether it be talking about new merch in their shops or offering me a sticker in exchange for a donatoin. Mike Bloomberg wanted to hear my stories about why I support him, and Tom Steyer suggested I go volunteer in my community for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Speaking of Dr. King, most candidates sent out an email with no ask at all, just information, on Monday. John Delaney and Mike Bloomberg offered up policies for Black America, while Tulsi Gabbard, Deval Patrick, and Andrew Yang gave me videos to watch. Yang was the only candidate who had his MLK email come from his team and not from himself. Bernie Sanders was the only candidate to not send me an email about Dr. King and his legacy (though Deval Patrick’s was several days late).
Joe Biden sent me one of his typical IF IF AND IF emails.
This email got me thinking. While Biden is definitely the number one candidate for overselling the dramatic nature of what a failure to hit a goal could mean, he’s far from the only one. Several candidates, most notably Andrew Yang and Joe Biden, talk about what happens if they don’t hit a very public fundraising goal. Everyone will know. Bernie Sanders talks about it in this language too: they’re all watching to see what we make. John Delaney and Michael Bennet have slipped it into their emails on occasion. Even Deval Patrick has worried about what people are going to make of his fundraising numbers.
But there’s something in common with all those candidates: they’re all men. By contrast, while Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Tulsi Gabbard openly worry about not hitting their goals (to a greater or lesser extent than others), they don’t couch it in terms of “everyone will see us fail/we’ll lose face.”
Because that’s ultimately it, isn’t it? A public failure. Losing face. It’s humiliating. The message these men are sending is that I need to help prevent them from being humiliated by giving them money.
That got me thinking about humiliation and its use as a weapon. Humiliation is frequently considered a fate worse than death, because while death ends your life, humiliation can end your standing in life. It is a weapon of hierarchy: those higher up can humiliate those beneath them. To be humiliated by one beneath you is the ultimate shame.
At least… that’s how it comes across from so many of these male candidates. There is a lot of manly-man language and false bravado in their emails, particularly from Biden. For all his talk of being the best and the strongest, Biden’s emails are frequently the most desperate, begging, pleading, cajoling me to just give him five dollars so no one sees him fail.
Andrew Yang is very much the same, boasting about how far his campaign has come and oh god, Yang Gang, our fundraising is publicly displayed on our website, so everyone can see when we miss a goal! Don’t let that happen!
Bernie Sanders goes a slightly different route, talking about how great it is that so many people hate him and his campaign and are doing everything they can to stop him. It’s the old trope of hating someone first so their hate doesn’t affect you. “You can’t fire me, I quit!”
But it all boils down to humiliation. Joe Biden is especially horrible about it, not just in how he doesn’t want to be humiliated, but in how openly and freely he talks about doing everything in his power to humiliate Trump.
The women don’t talk like this. In many ways, they can’t. It is far easier to humiliate a woman than it is to humiliate a man. Case in point? Congressman Joe Barton decided not to seek re-election after nude photos of himself in a consensual relationship were leaked. He was able to finish his term, serving an additional 2 years after the photos were revealed.
Congresswoman Katie Hill resigned upon having nude photos leaked.
And this isn’t a one-time occurrence. It isn’t just among sitting politicians. Women today are far more worried about being victims of “revenge porn” than men are. Women are far more likely to have serious public or professional repercussions if they are humiliated. The female candidates cannot even hint that they might be humiliated, for fear of having that turn into a very real humiliation. They can be let down. They can miss a goal. But they can’t imply that doing so would turn into a campaign-shattering disaster, because it absolutely would.
(How many articles do you remember about Andrew Yang missing his last two fundraising goals? Because he was telling me it was going to be all over the place, the media rubbing his failure in his face. How about Kamala Harris’ fundraising woes, how many times did you read about that?)
But it’s not just talking about being humiliated that women can’t do. They also can’t talk about humiliating a man. The female candidates are starting to dip their toes in the water, pointing out that Nancy Pelosi beats Trump every day, but they never use the phrase “humiliate.” They never imply they are going to physically beat Trump up, like Joe Biden frequently does, or even Cory Booker mentioned at one point (wanting to punch Trump in the face, but not actually). Nancy Pelosi, after all, is reviled by some for how much she runs circles around Trump. By how much she humiliates him.
Remember, humiliation is hierarchical. And for as much as we talk about equality, the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t been ratified. There’s a reason the saying is “A woman’s place…” and not “a man’s place…” Being humiliated by someone beneath you is worse than being humiliated by someone above you.
But there’s one more aspect of humiliation that I want to touch on, and it has to do with Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg is a man. A white man. By all means, he should be free to talk about humiliating his opponents and worry about being humiliated himself, but he doesn’t. And while one can argue all day about how the women and Buttigieg are just too morally good to use humiliation as a weapon or a tool, I’d like to offer up another theory.
Like the women, Buttigieg can’t use humiliation, because he is gay.
There is a major sexual bent to most forms of humiliation. If you’re trying to humiliate a man, you might call him a “sissy” or a “momma’s boy,” i.e. comparing him to a woman. In ancient Greece, (bear with me, I’m a Classics major!), homosexuality was not considered sinful or bad. However, it entirely depended on your position in the pair. If you were the giver, good for you, but if you were the receiver, well, you were being treated like a woman, and that was shameful.
Fast forward to today. I’m willing to bet most of the people who mock and shun Buttigieg for being gay say that he “takes it,” even though we have not received any steamy tell-alls about Buttigieg’s private life (unlike our current President, whose sexual proclivities I know WAY too much about).
Buttigieg, by virtue of being gay, is blocked from being able to use humiliation the same way a woman is: just by being himself, he is inherently more at risk of being a victim of humiliation than a straight man. But while the humiliation of women is a topic front and center these days (look at the recent spat between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders over whether Sanders said a woman couldn’t beat Trump, or look at the multitudes of endorsements of major news outlets for the female candidates, most notably the double-endorsement of the New York Times, saying either woman is best, or the Des Moines Register, endorsing Warren by with a caveat that they don’t actually endorse her policies), the humiliation of those in LGBTQ+ circles is still, in many places, perfectly legal.
Sexual orientation is not a protected class under the federal law.
This was entirely too long of a musing on humiliation being a privilege of straight males. It really is incredible the directions these political emails take me.