“On the Folly of Political Fundraising”
I wanted to take a time out from the grim and gruesome realities of the world surrounding us and talk, today, about the bleak hilarity of desperate and disingenuous political campaign fundraising. Here in the United States we are exactly one week away from an election that we are told–truly this time, we are sincerely told–is the most important one of our lives (and in our standard reactionary nature, should our side lose, will simmer and plot over what to do next, accepting failure as the norm). This is meant to be a referendum on Donald Trump, a master at altering the conversation to whichever nasty or petty or simply distracting issue makes people’s blood boil. He targets both the left and the right with the same issues, knowing that controversy will explode, that people will start shouting at each other, and that horrendous, duel-sided conspiracies will seep into the belly of the beast he has not so much created, but has woken from some dark, Lovecraftian cave. This cultural warfare truly is one of the ancient ones. It is the monster that destroys civilization.
I understand that my promise of ‘hilarity’ seems to be evaporating, that the incipient anger that even I am feeling, through frustration and aggravation and rage, makes me more biased than I ever intended. But that being said, there is still plenty we can attack on both sides of the political spectrum.
Both sides . . . it pains me to have to make such a distinction. In an earlier post, “The Lame Duck versus The Hungry Bear,” I discussed the limitations of having merely two political parties to rule, and set the economic and social agendas. We tell each other that a vote for a third party is a waste. We tell the majority of people dissatisfied with both of the parties, certainly more than half our citizens, that looking into a new political philosophy would just help to elect your enemies. This is a calculated lie agreed upon by our two parties.
Out of sheer interest I receive campaign funding e-mails and phone calls from both the Democratic and Republican parties. I do not give any money to either, but do fill out their surveys. The survey questions, to me, are hysterical. The Democrats begin their questions with statements such as this: “In the midst of GOP voter suppression . . .” The Democrats harp on words like ‘gerrymandering’ and ‘climate change,” and then this massive organization asks for money for ‘a grassroots contribution.’ I do not deny that the questions they are asking are very serious and that they need to be considered and addressed when voting next week. But the problem with the way these questions are framed is pretty obvious. To summarize: are you or are you not in favor of voter suppression? Do you think gerrymandering is a good thing? Do you care about climate change? An answer of no to any of these questions tells you that you’re an asshole. They do not ask if these issues should be funded, if there should be additional scientific studies. They only ask you pro or con.
And then, with the money they request, they promise that your contribution will be tripled or quadruple. They say that your donation will be raised to five times the amount. I even got a phone call saying that there was a special deal for only one day of ten times the value of the contribution, without explaining who or where this additional money is coming from. Is it a shadow donor, some conspiratorial figure trying to alter reality? Does it come from the coffers of the party itself? Will it simply be tacked onto my credit card, and I’ll get a sticker and a drawstring bag in the mail?
The Republicans are certainly no better. In fact, their strategy is exactly the same. Their requests are a striking parallel. There is perhaps no better example that the two political parties are different faces of the same crooked beast. “Our chances of winning key races are being downgraded because of tens of millions of dollars of dishonest and negative attack ads from the Radical Left!”
These scare tactics are frequently worded with the same language and warn of the same catastrophe should the other side win the election. I will not name the party for the following two examples. Tell me, please, if you can see any difference:
- Do you agree that electing a _______________ . . . would . . . be disastrous for our country?
2. With just 48 hours until the final . . . deadline, ________________ just rushed hundreds of thousands in last ditch reinforcements to districts they thought they had in the bag.
The second one also has a spot where it asks: “We could actually DEFEAT their hateful (party) and RESCUE our country for generations.”
What is the difference? What is the requested money used for? I recently received an e-mail from both parties, almost back-to-back. One asked for a donation with links to click, offering to quadruple my donation of $19, $25, $38, $63, $150, or another amount of my choosing. The additional options when I clicked the ‘other’ button were two-fifty, five hundred and a thousand. There is also a space to put in a different amount and $31 is blinking beside the cursor. Also, should you even decide to give five dollars, this becomes a monthly donation unless you can find the tiny key in lower case letters at the bottom alongside the ‘Terms of Service’ link, which gives you the opportunity of offering a one time donation.
The other e-mail boldly came out within minutes offering a five times match, telling us that they would make sure that our money was put to good use in this ‘grassroots campaign’ that the multi-million dollar national party is running. Their buttons have the following amounts you can choose (the first is the highest and it descends downward): $500, $250, $100, $50 and $25. There is no additional button for a different amount unless you click on the website, which adds an even $1000, and a cold blank space with a dollar sign in the box, and the word ‘other.’ At least this one has a more visible ‘make this a monthly contribution’ spot, with the check, of course, already filled in. If you do not notice it, again, you are paying them monthly whatever amount you decide to give.
This is how these desperate thugs raise their money, by manipulating fears and claiming an apocalyptic outcome if they lose. The reality is that both parties are much closer to the other than either is willing to let on. When one is in power, they dominate and suppress and change the laws and condemn their opposition. It does not matter who is in power. And while we might disagree on certain issues, or have a personal stake on one or another position, the same bureaucratic fumbling will continue to take place no matter who is in charge.
This is the danger and folly of a two-party system. We can only see the light through a black and white lens. We are forced to choose sides or simply not play the game. We take aim. We declare who is our home team, and then we root-root-root for our guys to score the final touchdown.