Near the end of every month, in-boxes begin to fill with desperation. Not for love, though it sort of is, but for cash. Your cash. Not from the mythical Nigerian Prince desperate to cut you in on his fortune if you’d only help him get it out of his country, but an equally fraught plea from political candidates hoping you’ll beat the latest deadline and help improve their bottom line before this “important” date. Like the Prince, they’re scams.
First off, let me say that if you’re inclined to give money to a politician running for office, more power to you. It’s your money, you can do with it whatever you want. (Though, if you’ve got piles of it laying around and want to unburden yourself of some, shoot me an email and I’ll happily make your burden less so (I’m a hero like that.) But the fundraising emails attempting to impose a sense of urgency and importance around a certain date, any date, are absurd.
The only dates that matter, and they only matter from a PR perspective, are the ends of each reporting quarter. It’s…well, we’ll call it “junk” measuring time, when all the campaigns have to publicly report how much they’ve raised and reporters rush to use this as an indication of support and future outcomes. It reinforces narratives more than anything else.
Quarterly reports are, well, filed at the end of quarters. The last of which was the end of June. So, any talk of deadlines outside of those is a straight-up manipulation tactic.
Joe Biden is the example I’ll use here because he’s been using this approach a lot, but you can pretty much insert any candidate’s name because they all do it.
An email from “Team Joe” read, “in less than 10 days we have our end-of-month deadline AND our second debate, so the world will be watching. Will you make sure they see that people in Maryland are powering Joe?”
What is the “end-of-the-month deadline”? It’s just the end of the month, it holds no significance beyond that.
In another email just the day before, the campaign asked, “So with the debate and our July end of month deadline on the same day, hitting our 10,000 donation end-of-month goal has never been more important.”
Why? They don’t really say. It’s just important because they’ve declared it to be. And the “10,000 donation” goal is also arbitrary, but it sounds serious, doesn’t it?
The Bernie Sanders-created “Our Revolution” sent out an email reading, “Brothers and Sisters, after looking over our budget numbers, it appears that meeting our fundraising goal before tonight's deadline is going to be a challenge.” The date of that email: July 21.
What campaign fundraising deadline falls on a random Sunday night in the middle of a month? They don’t even try to come up with one, they simply conclude the pitch with, “Donate now before tonight's deadline at midnight to ensure we can keep up with the establishment's increasingly desperate war against progressive ideas.”
“Give us your money now, it’s important, and it’s important because we want it now.” Doesn’t really fit on a bumper sticker.
My favorite manipulation trick is the local donor numbers. These emails come with a very specific number in it.
On April 30, the DNC sent a cry for help. “With only hours before the deadline, we’re falling behind,” it read. “We still need 2 supporters from” zip code I used to live in “before midnight or we will risk four more years of Donald Trump in the White House.”
If you’re only $6 away from your very important, crucial goal, hit up an ATM and push the campaign over the finish line.
The whole thing is garbage. Some emails claim they needs a specific dollar amount, say $12,487, by the end of the day. Then another email sent in the afternoon cuts that figure significantly, but they’re not quite there yet and need your help. By the end of the day, they’re so close they can taste it; your $5 can make all the difference in the world. It’s all made up.
It’d be refreshing if a candidate, any candidate for any office, simply sent out an email asking for money because they want it. They don’t want to dip into their personal fortunes or book royalties, they want yours. I’m not sure how effective it would be, manipulation seems to work pretty well, but at least it’d be honest. Then again, the deadline for honesty in politics passed decades ago and no one gave it a thought, let alone a dime.