Here’s the deal. I’ve already voted for Biden. I’m making calls on behalf of the Democratic party. I am worried sick about the election. All polls depress me. When I hear Trump I cringe. When I hear Biden I also cringe. Is he going to say the wrong thing? Why did he call the “Proud Boys” the “Poor Boys”? C’mon, Joe, get it right!
Through all these nail-biting days, though, nothing gets me down more than the hundreds of fundraising emails I get every day. When I see a fundraising email now — which is now about one every minute, I shout and curse at my screen. I say F* You! Stop! Stop! Are the fundraisers actually trying to make voters like me feel both powerless and murderous?
To keep myself sane, I’ve begun a little typology: There are the crying-wolf emails (Jaime Harrison Lost), the emo emails about the enemy (Lindsey Graham is laughing), and the emo emails about us (We are choking back tears), the Do-you-hate-Obama? mails, the command birthday cards (Wish Michelle a happy birthday), the fake final emails, the fake surveys, the fake petitions, and the fake time bombs.
Here’s an emo email from We Train Democrats. “FIRST: Biden was S-O-A-R-I-N-G in the polls. We were over the moon!! THEN: Trump POUNCED!! He BLITZED Biden with horrible attack ads in key states… We thought it was all over.” Do I pull out my wallet? No! Why would I give money to this campaign that is clearly off its meds? As if that isn’t enough, the email goes on: “President Obama is PLEADING.” He tells me, “Whatever you have done so far, it is not enough.” What? If it’s never going to be enough, why should I try?
And what about the NIGHTMARE emails? The Democratic Majority in Alabama shrieks: “Sarah — this is our WORST. NIGHTMARE. Doug Jones is … SLIPPING in the polls.” This use of “NIGHTMARE,” especially in ALL CAPS, scares me. Also, really? This is your worst nightmare? By the way, I know now, from We Train Democrats, that nightmares can be good. Here’s an email headlined “Trump’s NIGHTMARE.” The tone was excited: “YES YES YES! Nate Silver just made a MAJOR prediction: Trump is FINISHED! … Donald Trump THOUGHT he was safe. … Then Joe Biden SNUCK UP … But we HAVE to get serious. Donald Trump is praying that you IGNORE Nate Silver. He’s praying that you close this email. He’s praying that you walk away without a donation!!”
There are so many problems with this. First, psychotic mood swings: Clearly, this writer could not decide whether to be confident or desperate. So he used both. Second, bad logic: Trump is not praying that we ignore pollster Nate Silver’s rosy predictions; he’s praying we do pay attention to them and become complacent. Actually, he’s not praying at all. He doesn’t pray. And third, now I am confused about nightmares. Aren’t we the anti-nightmare party?
This leads me to another irritation — the horse race aspect of these emails. Here’s an example from Blue State Digital: “It’s a MIRACLE. … DONALD TRUMP NEVER SAW THIS COMING.” Now here’s the money shot, so to speak: ONE: Trump spent over $103 MILLION to DOMINATE Florida. TWO: Democrats did the impossible… We beat back Trump’s lead!!! NOW: Joe Biden just clinched a ONE POINT LEAD!! Trump is about to LOSE IT ALL!!
By “LOSE IT ALL” do you mean lose the money race? Or lose the election? The writer has mistaken winning donations with winning the election. Hey, I’m aware that these days (since Citizens United) every election is, to some extent, bought. But for god’s sake, don’t say it!
Another thing: Don’t order me around so much. I got an email from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee commanding me to “Sign Michelle Obama’s Birthday Card.” Which I did, because I am not a mean person, right? Now I doubt Michelle got my good wishes. And I really don’t mind making a birthday “sacrifice.” But why don’t they just say Michelle is having a birthday fundraiser? It’s the lying that kills me. Isn’t that Trump’s job?
What finally pushes me over the brink, though, are a string of “Do you Hate” emails from We Train Democrats. Some of them ask me to confirm my hatred for Mitch McConnell. They ask, “do you hate McConnell? (OR JUST IGNORE THIS).” OK. I’ll bite.
But then in another message, they decide to test my hatred: “Sarah actually HATES Barack Obama?” They want me to prove my non-hatred of Obama. “You’ve Been Selected: Take The Emergency Obama Poll Now … Do you HATE Barack Obama?!?!”
My brain is in a twist. I don’t hate Obama. Yet part of me wants to say that I do, just to spite this poll. I pass up my chance. I am miserable. This manipulation of my hatred, which I cherish very much, is really having a bad effect on me.
I make up my mind at this point to give false answers to the next poll that comes my way. I don’t have to wait long. Let America Vote, orders me to “Be Brutally Honest” in the poll they offer. I tell my truth-telling self to shove it.
I am off to the races. It takes a lot of willpower for me to say that Trump won the first debate and that I don’t think the rules of the debate should change for the last one, but I click on those answers anyway. It is even harder to say I will not be voting for Joe Biden (a total lie). But now I’m on a lying binge. I say that I don’t care about voter confusion or a voter education campaign. What will happen? Will these “pollsters” try to change my mind? No. They ask for the same donation as if I’d said nothing.
Finally one of the campaign fundraisers tells me that they’ve had it with me. The “We’re giving up” email sounds like it’s written by a long lost boyfriend who’s fallen on hard times: “Sarah, we’re choking back tears as we write this: We emailed once to tell you Mitch McConnell was on the verge of LOSING. We emailed you again to tell you we UNLOCKED a 400%‑MATCH. But then we emailed you to say we were falling WAY behind. But STILL NOTHING. We’re BROKE!!!”
I’m sorry you’re broke, but it’s not my fault. And maybe if you weren’t such a manipulative jerk you wouldn’t be broke!
One particular goodbye message catches my attention because it has a fascinating gizmo attached. “Goodbye Sarah. … FINAL NOTICE IN D.C. … 500%-MATCH is ACTIVE … But you’re almost OUT OF TIME!” To drive home the point, they’ve set up a kind of bomb clock.
I’m fixated on the clock. What will happen at the 00 hour? I wait. I watch. I fail to donate and the bomb fails to detonate. Doomsday comes and goes. Nothing matters.
By the way, after the last election (yes, I’ve collected these fundraising emails for the past four, no eight, years) I had a chance to ask someone who is closely connected to the Democratic party about the piles of whining, debilitating, manipulative emails I’ve received. Why in the world do you send these? I asked. He shut me down with three words: “Because they work.”
Sarah Boxer, a native Coloradan and a former critic and reporter at The New York Times, is now a freelance critic who writes for The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The Comics Journal and Photograph magazine. She is also the author of two psychoanalytic comics, “In the Floyd Archives” and “Mother May I?”
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