Another email lands in my inbox. The subject: “Rebecca, we need your help.”
I think, Well, sure…What can I do?
Donate. Donate again. And again. “Your $10 makes a difference,” I am assured in the hundreds of emails I have received from the myriad Democratic fund-raising organizations.
Because I want to change the face of Congress so that Republican lawmakers are addressing serious issues, instead of pushing for a 20-week abortion ban, trying to roll back access to birth control, or working to limit low-income women’s insurance coverage for abortion, I did donate to a number of Democratic candidates during the 2012 election cycle.
Since then, my inbox has been inundated with pleas for more donations.
Some are really effective, like this one I received last year:
“News just broke that Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan snuck off to the Koch brothers’ infamous secret gathering of right-wing millionaires.
You can bet that Cantor and Ryan are lining their pockets with money from the Kochs and some of their closest friends. All of that cash will go toward obstructing President Obama’s agenda at all costs.”
I will admit this information caused a stab of anxiety. Cantor and Ryan lining their pockets with seemingly unending sources of Koch money gets my ire up. And when my ire is up, my credit card becomes vulnerable.
Okay, so I donated…But did it help? Maybe. After all, Cantor is history.
Fast forward to this year, and we learn that the Koch brothers held another super-secret retreat of millionaires and billionaires. Invitees included the most powerful Republican Party leaders, and the most important Republican candidates. All came running, of course.
It has been reported that Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Minority Leader, speaking of the Republican Party, said at this retreat, “I want to start by thanking you, Charles and David, for the important work you’re doing. I don’t know where we’d be without you.”
No doubt I will soon get another email from many Democratic organizations—and probably even President Obama—telling me we have to fight back against the Koch brothers and other millionaires who are buying elections. And again, it will get my ire up, and I’ll probably donate.
Somehow, the DCCC and the DNC know this. But what do they know about me? I know they keep records of how much I donate, because I just got an email summing up my 2014 donations, with a request for another donation. So then I wonder, do they have some kind of software that is able to identify what particular emails elicit a donation from me?
Do they know what tone, what issues, what names provoke a keystroke that adds to their coffers? Or do they just shotgun emails to me, along with 40 million others and count on a certain percentage to respond? My guess is the latter, and suspecting that, I have determined I can ignore these emails and they just won’t notice or care. But it doesn’t diminish the onslaught.
Hundreds more emails from the DCCC have come in since June, 2014. This particular one prompted me to write this blog:
“This is a real problem :
Speaker Boehner is throwing everything he’s got at re-electing his House Republican majority. And if he wins, we’ll be stuck with another 2 years of Tea Party Republicans trying to destroy everything you and President Obama have worked for.
This may sound harsh — but the truth is that if we get outraised, we won’t win the House this year.”
Fear. Anxiety. Despondency. Defeat. Resolve. Every now and then, Hope slips in.
The emails are masterfully crafted, succinct, and appealing. They push my buttons, hoping I’ll push the “Donate Now” button. I can’t block them all, and I don’t particularly want to, because I do like to see what the Republicans and the Koch brothers are up to.
But I never saw it as my responsibility to beat back the Koch Brothers’ attacks. I never accepted it as my role to keep John Boehner from wreaking havoc. I have a hard time believing that I can save Social Security. And I’ve never thought I could personally be effective in shaping government.Yet I’m assured that “even $10 (up from $3 last year) will make a difference.”
I didn’t enable the “one click” option for the lightening-quick donation site, Act Blue. If I had, I would be able to donate with alacrity, and my credit card would become more stressed than I. But my donations are tempered by my having to get up and go get my credit card. This is deliberate on my part. There’s a bit of time for reflection during that exercise, and it often saves me from myself.
So what is the upshot of my donations? How effective are they? Finding exact numbers is not easy, but from sunlightfoundation.com I learned that, “More than a quarter of the nearly $6 billion in contributions from identifiable sources in the last campaign cycle came from just 31,385 individuals, a number equal to one ten-thousandth of the U.S. population.”
In other words, 1% of the 1%.
“One sign of the reach of this elite 1% of the 1%: Not a single member of the House or Senate elected in 2012 last year won without financial assistance from this group. And 84 percent of those elected in 2012 took more money from these 1% of the 1% donors than they did from all of their small donors (individuals who gave $200 or less) combined.”
Since I gave nowhere near the minimum amount of $12,950 that would qualify me as 1% of the 1%, am I to conclude that my donations had no affect whatsoever on election results? If not a single member of the House or Senate elected last year won without financial assistance from this 1% of the 1%, what does that say about the effectiveness of my $25 to $200 donations?
Really, who can say? But the bottom line for me is, I’m not ready to stop donating altogether, despite how insignificant my donations may seem. Somehow, I still want to believe I can make a difference with my dollars. I want a voice that is louder than the voice that my single vote casts.
Am I deluding myself? Possibly. But I know that when I do give into the impulse and I do donate, it is done with the hope that my $25 might fuse with one million other $25 donations, and that the resulting $25 million might, just might, help level playing field.