Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Harassment and Fear as Fundraising Strategies?

There is no question that fear is a strong motivator. Democrats use to galvanize elderly voters, claiming (it appears accurately in recent years) that conservatives want to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Republicans sound the alarms around a number of cultural, political and economic issues – from abortion and gun control to white panic and fears over government intervention in the economy. As this midterm election campaign draws to a close, democrats are again using fear, this time that Republicans could take over the Senate, and thus embark on a right-wing ideological project to further undermine the final two years of Obama’s presidency and turn the country even further to the right. Given the continued presence of the veto, together with the rather small majority that would emerge, some of these constructed fears are overwrought. On the other hand, it would essentially end Obama’s mandate two years early and some troubling legislation would probably make its way through.

So the fears are justified, if slightly exaggerated. And yet, as I get barraged with as many as 25 emails a day asking for money, I have to wonder what the definition of political harassment actually is? Does getting two or three emails a day from the same candidate or organization count? Does getting emails day after day from those same candidates and organizations register? How about continuing to get requests from the group I actually did contribute to? Or getting the same exact message of fear so often that I actually fear the emails more than the results of the election? Finally, what about unsubscribing from some groups and still getting emails? I am so fed up having to delete all these emails that I am thinking of unsubscribing from every progressive email I currently receive and giving money anonymously going forward (if at all).

In a broader sense, the more troubling issue is the nature of the discourse around this election from both sides. From the right, we have pleas to support a party with historically low approval ratings, based on the questionable assumption that the kings of obstructionism can somehow now become the voices of reason that actually “get something done.” Of course what they appear to want to “get done” is reduce the ability of government to accomplish anything going forward. Their successful fear-cultivating, hate-mongering attacks on Obama might just win them control of both houses of the legislature, but to what end? And with all the money they are pouring into this cause, and all of the half-truths and lies the advertisements contain, the only real surprise is that some key races are still up for grabs. On the opposite end, the main thing Democrats appear to be running on, with some notable progressive exceptions like the Senatorial race in South Dakota, is fear of what the GOP will do if elected. But isn’t this the very reason Republicans continue to win? Democrats have a message that surveys show could resonate with the general public, but they appear unwilling or unable to deliver it in a compelling way. One reason might be their continued fundraising on Wall Street and with other corporations who push them further and further away from their progressive roots each year. The other appears to be a spinelessness to actually take a chance and try to return to those roots and support the people over the elites. Finally is the media that appears unwilling to take a stand themselves, even to offer the accuracy test to most things politicians say.

The reality is that negative messaging can procure support and votes. What it can’t do is chart a path forward and give a cynical public renewed hope that the government can intervene to address some of our most pressing social and economic issues. That should be our real fear – not that the Senate might shift by a few seats …

No comments: