On Thursday, March 5, 2020, at 12:43 PM, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign for President..
Elizabeth was in the race for 390 days after a 40-day exploratory committee. I only tracked her emails since May 21, 2019, however, so 289 days. During that time, she sent 726 emails to me as a non-donor and 666 emails to me as a donor, for an average of 2.5 emails every day.
Elizabeth liked to send emails on weekdays, though she lulled a bit on Wednesdays. Tuesdays and Thursdays were her favorite days to email.
Elizabeth stuck to regular office hours, for the most part, emailing in the middle of the day and early evening, however, near the end of her campaign, she started sending me emails about local events between midnight and 2 AM. Those emails always came at such a bizarre time.
For being the woman with a plan, Elizabeth actually didn’t email about her policies all that often. For her, email was definitely focused on bringing money in instead of getting information out. Even around debates, her emails seemed reluctant to talk about anything pertinent, and she skimmed over the debate itself as quickly as possible to get back to asking for money.
Elizabeth talked a lot about how great it was that she wasn’t taking money from billionaires or super PACs, and that meant she could focus on me, but as a result, she focused on my money, not my issues. During the entire time I was tracking Elizabeth’s emails, she was never close enough for me to attend one of her events, nor did she have a virtual event I felt comfortable joining (I didn’t count myself as one of her volunteers). Especially at the start of the race, all of the content I was consuming was coming from Elizabeth’s emails…
…and they were not painting a rosy picture. Elizabeth was very hard on herself for her fundraising, never really painting a picture of a bright tomorrow, but instead painting a bleak picture of the dour today. She boasted about not selling her time, and then turned around and encouraged people to donate again and again, dangling the temptation of a personal phone call with the candidate if only you donated to this email. And this email. And Elizabeth will be calling people who donate today, so donate again to get a chance to be called!
The longer this went on, the less charming it was. At first, it felt like Elizabeth just had a running list of donors, and ten or so would be randomly chosen from all of her donors to get a call. By the end, it felt like previous donations absolutely did not count, you had to donate in the moment, or you got nothing.
Elizabeth chased the almighty dollar across her entire campaign, frequently setting nebulous, undefined goals that she was always pacing behind on. We almost never knew if she was aiming for $5,000 or $5,000,000, or just 50,000 donors. She would tells us specific goals for our state, but rarely how that fit in with the overall plan. And some of the things she would do for a dollar…
Elizabeth’s emails were occasionally sprinkled with stories of someone who had next to nothing still giving her their last $3, and how she was grateful “down to her toes” for their sacrifice. Reading these stories, I was horrified up to my ears. It was touching when it was her first election, when she was genuinely a nobody and other working class people wanted to get behind her, but once she was an established politician with national recognition, $10,000,000 seed money in the bank from a previous election, and millions of her own money, it just felt incredibly selfish to hear how she would accept money from the college student with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt and only $6 in the bank. The rich need to pay their fair share in this world, and Elizabeth was boasting about how she wasn’t letting them.
One billionaire maxing out their campaign donation at $2,800 would have meant that 933 broke college students didn’t have to scrape together $3.
Billionaires were a frequent target of Elizabeth’s anger, starting with Tom Steyer joining the race and spilling into the supporters of other candidates. She sold mugs labeled “Billionaires’ Tears” and attacked any Democrat who said her plans were unrealistic or demanded straight answers on how she would afford them.
One candidate Elizabeth didn’t attack was Julian Castro, who also never attacked Elizabeth. Shortly after dropping out, Julian turned around and immediately endorsed Elizabeth for President, campaigning for her and stumping for her across the country. It was apparent to everyone watching that he was angling for her VP position and had been even before he dropped out.
Mercifully, Julian joining Elizabeth’s team did not trigger her to use the word “humble.” In fact, Elizabeth never used the word humble to describe herself.
However, Elizabeth did use a lot of tropes from political emails, asking to get the chance to explain herself, talking about her past, and telling me what the truth was. She did remember to thank me a fair amount, but she also called me a top supporter far more than I deserved.
Elizabeth asked for more than money at least a quarter of the time she emailed, though many of her emails included a donation ask. Even her merch emails frequently had straight donation buttons at the bottom, and sometimes she was so busy asking me to donate that she forgot to indicate obviously that I could get a free sticker out of donating.
When Elizabeth just sent info, she was frequently talking about a holiday (Memorial Day, Impeachment Day, Christmas Day) or saying thank you. She did use non-ask emails to tout website additions, such as a centralized hub, a digital donor wall, or a savings calculator. While pleasant, these emails were few and far between.
Her Volunteer asks really took off in 2020, with over half of those asks happening in the past two months. This really isn’t surprising, as the past two months are when most people started paying attention and voting.
Elizabeth liked asking me to sign petitions to support her policies whenever she rolled out a new one. This was a common tactic among many candidates, as petitions were ways to get information from interested people and to attempt to get donations.
Overall, Elizabeth’s campaign was one of chasing money and never catching it, at least according to her emails. It tried to be both folksy and educated, resulting in a campaign that felt a bit inauthentic and a bit out of its depth. Elizabeth needed to position herself as a better alternative to Bernie Sanders to succeed. Unfortunately, she ended up just highlighting why he was more successful. Maybe he couldn’t pay for his plans or bring people together, but he at least never changed his message.
Farewell, Elizabeth Warren. Thank you for letting a generation of girls know that running for President is what girls do.