Discover more from Innovation and Money in Politics
I'm TIRED of spam. Send me $3 now!
Everyone hates political spam. Some leaders show a better way.
Political donors are punished with an avalanche of email spam. Even billionaire Democratic donors have tweeted frustration about it.
All donors receive the spam. Fewer recognize that a handful of email programs set a positive example for the rest of the movement.
Emails in the three days following the Dobbs decision (overruling Roe v. Wade) are a great example.
Worst Practices: Party committees in a race to the bottom
Over three days, the DSCC and DCCC (Democratic Senate and Congressional Campaign Committees, respectively) sent 15 and 42(!!!) spammy emails — scant on content, lots of colored text, a few misleading claims, and raising money only for themselves. Nancy Pelosi’s campaign sent only four emails, but their content was no better. The beginning text from the first DCCC email is below as a footnote,but you immediately get a sense just from looking at them:
It’s a shame that the Democratic Party’s major organs behave like this, because others model a better way.
Best Practices: Substantive engagement via email
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent five emails during these three days. The first three emails speak eloquently to the emotions of the moment, encourage readers not to give up, and fundraise for abortion funds.The latter two advocate specific actions by the administration and Congressional leadership. Some are outside the Overton window (“Restrain judicial review [and] Expand the court”) but others are entirely possible (“Hold floor votes codifying Griswold, Obergefell, Lawrence, Loving, etc” and “Vote on Escobar's bill protecting clinics”). See how different her emails look:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent two emails. Both addressed the emotions of the moment,but focused mostly on strategy. The first described winnable state-level initiatives to protect abortion rights in Michigan and Kansas, and fundraised for each. The second described the importance of widening Democrats’ Senate majority, and fundraised for Senate candidates in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Both AOC and Warren fundraised for others, not themselves. Too few party leaders offer strategic giving advice.
The Democratic National Committee was the only organization with no fundraising ask. It sent one email that encouraged volunteering, offering six different ways to get involved. Its language was fairly vanilla.
And of course, countless volunteer donor advisors (people who help their contacts find political donation opportunities) emailed their networks. As always, they focused on building long-term donor engagement and sharing strategic giving advice.
Why are things this way?
The spammers have a simple retort; “It works,” defined as raising money, and A/B tests show that the spammy emails work best. But this analysis ignores how spam alienates donors (even billionaires!).
With thousands of candidates and organizations that need funding, some degree of spam is inevitable. What’s not inevitable is major players sending such awful emails.
Democratic Party emails could be a source of pride and inspiration, showcasing the best of the movement rather than the worst, if only we wanted them to be that way. I hope that stakeholders like donors, activists, and elected officials can find a way to make that happen.
Closing questions & bonus tip
Who do you view as best or worst actors in email programs?
How can we fix the email spam problem?
Bonus tip: I filter all my emails containing the word “unsubscribe” into a separate folder. This isn’t perfect because I sometimes miss things that I want, but otherwise my email would be unusable.
To receive future posts as they’re released, subscribe here. It won’t be spam!
It’s fair to view these emails as each organization’s best efforts. The decision was leaked seven weeks in advance, giving everyone plenty of time to prepare for this major event.
The DCCC’s first email begins:
BREAKING NEWS: Supreme Court OVERTURNS Roe v. Wade
John, this is devastating: The Supreme Court has officially voted to OVERTURN Roe v. Wade.
John, let us be clear: This is an outright attack on our fundamental freedoms -- and this moment requires Americans everywhere to rise up in historic numbers.
So we’re calling on 10,000 grassroots Democrats in PA to join us in fighting back against anti-choice Republicans and their attacks on reproductive rights.
In AOC’s first email, subject line “Are we screwed?,” she writes:
What is important in moments like these is to not think in binaries. Good/bad, screwed/not screwed. […]
Rather, it is really about a choice all of us will have to make in life, either consciously or unconsciously: will I be a person who is safe and creates good for others? Will I be a person who stands up? Will I be a person who primarily minds my business and serves myself or try to be part of something bigger? Or will I just be a passive, "neutral" observer of it all?
You are allowed to be scared. To grieve. To be angry. But you are also allowed to create good, to be soft, and enjoy the small reprieves. Struggle lasts as long as we do.
Elizabeth Warren’s first email begins:
The worst-case scenario is here: Roe v. Wade is gone.
But in the face of this dark reality, I have three words: Hold onto hope.
Do not give into despair. We can still fight back, and we must.
We can’t immediately undo the damage it took Republicans five decades to accomplish, but let’s be clear — we can fight back right now. Roe is on the ballot this November. There are key fights happening right now at the state level where we can make an immediate difference — to expand abortion protections or defeat attempts to restrict access.
DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison and other DNC leaders write:
Democrats, and the majority of Americans, believe women in this country have the right to make their own health care decisions. We will always be the party fighting for reproductive rights from statehouses to the halls of Congress.
Today’s Supreme Court decision is the culmination of a coordinated Republican effort to roll back reproductive rights. An ultra-conservative Supreme Court majority — in the face of 50-year-old precedent — has empowered MAGA Republicans across the country to further attack our fundamental freedoms.