E-mail has become the preferred way for presidential candidates to stir up their supporters, but the process generally misses its potential...
E-mail has become the preferred way for presidential candidates to stir up their supporters, but the process generally misses its potential as an information conduit in favor of developing the new medium as a fundraising tool.
Since I first addressed the topic (Inbox, Nov. 17), we have lived through the first caucus, the first primary and several examples of political natural selection.
After all of this, the best you can say about the new channel is that it has done a small part to save the environment, as it has vastly decreased — or in my case, completely eliminated — the steady stream of printed propaganda that proliferates in our postboxes at this point in the election cycle.
Content aside, this next wave of campaign e-mail has enough similarities to make it seem that it was all designed by the same person. There are embedded links leading to information of varying importance. There are embedded videos, sometimes showing a speech that occurred moments ago. And there is always a huge “contribute” button — or even two — in plain sight.
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E-mail from a candidate — or a company — is totally promotional, so the one-sided spin should be no surprise. The point is to emphasize victories and ignore the defeats. Barack Obama, for example, sent out a message at 8:59 p.m. Jan. 3, saying he had won that day’s Iowa caucuses, thanking me for my support and urging me to turn on my TV right then. Had I been at my keyboard at that time it would have been an authentic technology-is-great moment. Since I was out, the candidate covered himself by sending along a video link to his victory speech the next day.
But Obama did not win Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. By the time I went to sleep that night, only the winners had sent out dispatches. Both Hillary Clinton and John McCain applauded their victories, thanked me for my support and asked for more money to continue the good fight. (McCain, in fact, urged me to send money and forward the pitch to friends “before you head to bed this evening.”)
When I awoke, there was a note from Mike Huckabee and another from Clinton. Nothing from Obama, a contrast to his in-your-face posts after Iowa. That was a disappointment, because I would have liked a permanent link to his election-night “loser” speech, which was arguably more exciting than Clinton’s victory lap.
Maybe I am naive, but it seems that a little bit of honesty and perspective would be refreshing and might even gain a candidate some support. I must admit that I have not scoured every message received from a dozen campaigns into a specially designated mailbox — such an activity would be tedious, even if I am paid to do so — but I didn’t see any candidate saying, “Hey, I lost this one, and I’m disappointed.” Instead, we get another shot of spin.
Why not the truth? Clinton supposedly won New Hampshire because she showed some emotion and humanity. These letters are always addressed to us directly, as if we were actual friends of the candidate. Is it so outrageous to expect frank honesty, rather than hollow pitches for contributions? While aware that I voluntarily added myself to each of these candidate lists, it didn’t take long before it began to feel a lot like spam.
There are still a few experiments to conduct. Soon enough I will test the efficiency of the mandated unsubscribe link. On the other hand, I won’t contribute money to any of the candidates through these links. That, I am certain, will raise the frequency of the messages without a corresponding increase in value.