As the presidential campaign enters its frantic final weeks with the outcome still in doubt, the amount of mail I’m getting from both campaigns continues at a steady pace. That’s right, I said both campaigns. With all the new data-mining tools that politicians are now using to precisely target their appeals, it’s a little surprising that both sides consider me a likely target. They probably don’t really care about my vote. Kentucky is such a strongly red state that they don’t waste time trying to pick up a few more votes here. But they still think there might be money in these here hills, and both sides think they have a shot at squeezing it some of it out of me.
The Obama campaign is far more aggressive than the McCain gang. That’s not really surprising, considering the kinds of mailing lists I’m on and my donation history which is public record. I probably get at least one Obama solicitation every week. The messages from McCain are fewer. I’m a little surprised to get any at all. But what they lack in numbers, they make up in originality.
Earlier this summer, I got an autographed picture of John and Cindy, thanking me for my “committment and support”. The enclosed donation form even had a pair of boxes for me to check off whether the picture had arrived intact, or it was damaged and I needed a replacement.
As a general rule, I respond to all political solicitations I receive, as long as the reply envelope is pre-paid. I won’t waste a stamp, but if they’re willing to pay for a reply, they’ll get one. That’s probably why I stay on the Republican mailing lists. They send “opinion surveys” telling me how much they value my opinion, with questions like “Do you support victory in Iraq or the cowardly Democratic cut and run policy?” After a bunch of these loaded questions, the last one is “How much are you willing to contribute to keep those scumsucking Democrats out of office?” So I answer all the questions saying I support cowardly surrender and killing babies and all those other things, and send them back. I realize nobody actually reads the replies, but I still get a kick out of doing it.
What does surprise me is that any response they get, even one with no money, is considered a positive response. So sending back their “surveys” telling them they’re full of shit is what they consider “committment and support”, and just encourages them to send me more. So I lied a little and checked the box that said the picture was damaged and I needed a new one, and sent it back at their expense.
I never got my new picture. I guess with the race getting tighter, John and Cindy never got a free moment to have a new one taken and personally sign it. But they did manage to keep sending other interesting messages. Cindy sent me a birthday card for John, which she wanted me to sign with a personal message and send back. I assumed she would probably be heartbroken if I ignored her personal plea, so I cheerfully wrote “Fuck off, geezer” on the card and mailed it back.
Then last weekend I got a big, thick envelope from the McCains. I thought they had finally gotten around to sending me the new picture I asked for. Or maybe it was an 8×10 of Sarah Palin wearing nothing but a freshly skinned wolf pelt.
To my dismay, it turned out to be nothing but an urgent request for funds to keep that Socialist you-know-what out of the White House. The reason for the size of the packet was that it contained a FedEx envelope to ship back my check, including the pre-paid shipping form.
Disappointed as I was not to receive a picture, I realized the urgency of the message and didn’t want to disappoint them by not responding. Besides, if I didn’t respond, they wouldn’t get billed. I briefly considered writing a polite reply explaining why I wasn’t sending any money. But I decided that, since nobody reads the replies, anything I wrote would be just for my amusement and it wasn’t worth the trouble. So I just stuffed the envelope with the latest fund-rasing plea from Obama, and sealed it.
I stuffed the shipping form into the handy plastic pouch on the outside of the envelope, so I could just drop it into a FedEx drop box. But I couldn’t find the boxes that the FedEx website showed within easy walking distance of my office. So I had to walk into the FedEx store and hand it to a real person.
I felt so dirty as he took at and looked at the address and glanced back at me. For a second, I considered blurting out that it wasn’t really what it looked like, I was just helping spread the wealth from the McCain campaign to his employer. Instead, I just hastily thanked him and ran out of the store.
In hindsight, I guess I’m glad I didn’t bother enclosing a personal message. According to the tracking page, it wasn’t personally delivered to John or Cindy. It was signed for by a receptionist. I guess John and Cindy must have been occupied elsewhere. Maybe they were in a photo studio having a new picture taken for me. In any case, I would have felt a little awkward if I had written something deeply personal only to find out it had been intercepted by a lowly staffer.