The Paradox of Conservative Campaign Solicitations: A Sequel to Critique of Democratic Party Fundraising

15 May

 

The Paradox of Conservative Campaign Solicitations: A Sequel to Critique of Democratic Party Fundraising 

 

I put a post on this website a few days ago complaining about the approach taken by liberals in recent years to soliciting financial support via the Internet. By perverse coincidence, I received a comparable appeal from one of the leading Tea Party ‘conservatives,’ Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Florida, who made national headlines by delivering a 21 hour speech on the floor of the Senate denouncing Obamacare, insisting that this health plan was a menace to the nation and the constitutional integrity of relations between government, society, and citizen.

 

As in my criticisms of the liberal style of solicitation, my interest is not here in the substantive implications of the appeal, but in the way of relating to the citizenry, being disturbed by Democratic Party notables who approach supposed supporters among the citizenry as of little relevance other than as cash cows available for frequent milking! Such a monetizing of the state/society relationship was further corrupted by the false note of addressing me by my first name and signing it with a similar flourish of familiarity. Whoever drafted such a personal appeal, which would certainly not be the signatory, must believe that such shallow intimacy will persuade most recipients to more readily part with a few dollars.

 

Reacting to the appeal from Senator Cruz that is pasted below for your ‘reading pleasure’(!), a few observations occur to me. First of all, there is a greater dignity in being addressed, however wrongly, as ‘Dear Fellow Conservative’ rather than as ‘Richard,’ ending with the formal signoff of ‘Senator Ted Cruz,’ which I found less off putting than ‘Barack’ or ‘Michelle,’ or in my example, ‘Debbie.’ Also, compare the subject lines used by Debbie Wasserman Schultz in messages received the last two days: “This is personal, Richard” My response: “It is anything but personal.” The subject line of her second message was along the same lines: “Can We Count on You, Richard?” My response: “Get real, first.”

 

Further, and more tellingly, the Cruz message is about the political importance of selecting the Republican candidate who will have the best chance of becoming the next senator from Nebraska because of his ideological alignment and stands on issues of principle. There is no mention of money, only a call for support, and the sly promise of promoting a political upset. In the accompanying message signed by the candidate in this primary election, Ben Sasse, substantive issues are stressed, and the appeal for funds is not personalized beyond the usual stress on the relevance of sufficient money to buy the TV time that will offset the funding power of the competing candidate whose campaign has far greater resources. An aggregate sum needed to achieve this result is mentioned, but no suggestion is made as to how much is expected to be contributed by each recipient of the message. It is left to me to decide how much I will give if I am persuaded, which for substantive reasons, I am not. Incidentally, Sasse scored an upset in this primary earlier in the week, and will be the Republican candidate in the Nebraska Senate race come November.

 

I will leave for another time, whether such Republicans relying on the label of ‘conservative,’ however sincere, obscures more than it discloses. To be clear, I support Obamacare 100%. My only wish is that the legislation had been more generous and inclusive. Without governmental empathy, tangibly expressed in action, for the many poor and marginal living within our affluent borders, there is little worth conserving except perhaps the wealth of the conservatives.

 

********************

THE TEXT OF SENATOR TED CRUZ AND BEN SASSE MESSAGES:

 

Fellow Conservative,

 

I am writing today to ask you to support Ben Sasse for U.S. Senate from Nebraska. He is a strong defender of the Constitution. Ben has the courage and character to stand on principle and to tell the bosses in Washington, “I don’t work for you. I work for the people of Nebraska.”

 

 

Ben is a leader in the fight against ObamaCare. He has read the entire ObamaCare bill, and he has a plan to stop it.

 

We need more conservatives who will stand up to defend the Constitution the way that Ben Sasse will. Both Sen. Mike Lee and I urgently need reinforcements like Ben in the U.S. Senate.

 

Please read the below email from Ben and share it with friends? With two days to go until Election Day, I strongly encourage you to support Ben.

 

Sincerely,

 

Senator Ted Cruz

 

 

https://owa.princeton.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=OK3y_PwUKkKnYQkPrK3iEkSFSrKcQdEIXTdzIkoqcAO8iS5oYDIM84rC7mYXSGEwJ50MLIPYR1U.&URL=https%3a%2f%2fnews.psysmtp.com%2fwta%2flink.php%3fM%3d31172393%26N%3d96763%26L%3d34758%26F%3dH

 

Dear Conservative,

 

I am proud to have the support of Ted Cruz. And I urgently need his help and yours right now to pull off the conservative “upset of the year.”

 

The DC Lobbyist Establishment is 100% determined to stop me. And I can’t survive their onslaught without you by my side.

 

My name is Ben Sasse and my U.S. Senate primary in Nebraska two days from now is the most important race in the nation bar none.

 

The truth is simple. Right now there’s a war raging for the heart and soul of the GOP.

 

On one side stand conservatives like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee who refuse to sit back to let Obama “fundamentally transform” America. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee know the country is at stake — and they want to go on offense and fight for it.

 

On the other side stands the “Old Guard” Washington Establishment. They are raising big bucks for my opponent and will do anything necessary to stop our campaign before May 13.

 

This primary contest may well determine who runs the Republican Party: Conservatives or the Washington Establishment.

 

It’s why the Washington Post is running a story with the headline “Why Nebraska is a make-or-break Senate race for the tea party”.

 

I am not preferred choice of the Permanent Political Class in DC. I’m going to Washington to fight for conservative principles. And that’s why Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Sarah Palin, and Tom Coburn support me.

 

 

 

 

 

But even more threatening, my opponent is raising a flood of cash from Washington, D.C. lobbyists who mostly care about making money off taxpayers for their clients.

 

This is a direct threat to the conservative values you and I hold.

 

Let’s understand something important: the problem in D.C. is not just that the Democrats are in charge. The problem is that we have too many Republicans who think Big Government is perfectly fine and just wish they were in charge.

 

I do not believe in that. I believe that we must be the Party that stands up for liberty, against Big Government and the Special Interests that leech off of it.

 

The DC Lobbyist Establishment is funneling money to my opponent as fast as they can. And I can’t turn on television or radio without hearing some dishonest attack ad that smears my name.

 

I need the help of conservative leaders like you to fight these attacks.

 

With two days left, I need to make an emergency media buy of $67,382 and I need your help to raise it.

 

Too many Republicans go to DC because they want to be in the “Senate Club” and have fancy dinners with lobbyists.

 

That’s not me. I’m going to Washington to fight for conservatives.

 

And today I need you to stand with me to win this primary.

 

Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Sarah Palin, and Tom Coburn are in.

 

Are you?

 

Two days left please consider helping me raise $67,382 for my emergency media buy. Please help me right now.

 

For America,

 

Ben Sasse

 

 

 

 

7 Responses to “The Paradox of Conservative Campaign Solicitations: A Sequel to Critique of Democratic Party Fundraising”

  1. sirajdavis May 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Reblogged this on A Collective Consciousness and TJP Production.

  2. Gene Schulman May 16, 2014 at 1:24 am #

    With all due respect, why should one care about how politicians solicit for their campaigns funds? None of them deserve a dime of respect.

    • Richard Falk May 16, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

      Agreed, but my point was that this marketization and monetization of
      political discourse is a sign of structural corruption that suggests
      the deep rot that is destroying the foundations of political democracy.

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin May 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

        Perhaps American political parties can learn from their Israeli counterparts. Israeli parties make do with budgets in the low millions or sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars — almost all of it publicly funded. Foreign donations are allowed only during internal party primaries, and general election campaign donations are limited to about $500 per household. Television ads are permitted only a few weeks before the elections, and only at designated times.

        In 2013, the year of the last national elections, blocs of free air time were made available for political commercials, televised ads were not permitted until two weeks prior to the elections. They then appeared on only two channels between 6:00 p.m. and 11:15 p.m.

        Readers of this blog might not like the results of Israeli elections. But you’ve got to admit that Israel’s system responds to Prof. Falk’s criteria.

        Rabbi Ira Youdovin

  3. Clif Brown May 16, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Undoubtedly, the Democratic Party appeals are constructed based on focus group results and psychological studies. It doesn’t work for you (or me) but it must have proven successful with many or they wouldn’t be using it. I’ve run into the phony personal touch with other appeals. It’s all part of the attempt to make mass produced correspondence seem intimate, another example being carefully constructed typefaces and signatures that are machine made but look handwritten.

    My belief is that this is yet another example of how advertising, with its license to lie to us as long as it does so with finesse and style, to corrupt everything we do, forcing even the most trusting person to become a cynic simply out of self-defense. Political fundraising is very close to advertising with the candidates being the products for sale.

    By the way, as was so well described in the book Bowling Alone, group participation in America has come to mean little more than contributing money, whatever the goal of the group may be.

    • Richard Falk May 16, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

      Thanks for this perceptive and illuminating comment, and for linking
      it to Robert Putnam’s famous article (and book).

  4. Beau Oolayforos January 13, 2016 at 11:28 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    Please pardon me, but I can’t resist telling my own story: Years ago, I was surprised to get a “personal” letter from Trent Lott. I was already thinking “WTF??” before opening the envelope. The message itself was an odd mixture of flattery and imperiousness, as he praised my sagacity (from what sort of information I’ve not the foggiest), and then practically commanded me to attend some fascist pow-wow or other, where my ideas and advice would, of course, be given due respect & careful consideration.

    There was no mention of money. There didn’t have to be. It took me a little while to realize that Lott’s missive came soon after I had transferred my savings from one bank to another. Not a princely sum, perhaps, but seemingly enough to alert the money-laundering watchdogs, as it was only a bit short of the amount that doomed the Washington Madame, along with a few of her girls, to their tragic “suicides”, just in case we didn’t understand what happens to modern-day Beltway cortigiani, or hetairai when they might know too much.

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