Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018
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Tom Walton

If you want my vote, don’t call me Shirley

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Tom Walton.

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Now that Labor Day weekend is upon us, this fall’s congressional, gubernatorial, and Senate races are in white heat mode, and we ask our desktops, laptops, and phones to weather the storm. The intrusions in my life are about as welcome as a pimple on prom night, not that I remember prom night.

Every time I go to my computer inbox, another half dozen pitches have arrived from both parties’ various political campaigns.

Read the previous column from Tom Walton

One email message advises me it’s the 26th of the month so why not send $26 right now? I would have preferred hearing from them on the 1st.

Apparently door-to-door campaigning now means monitor to monitor and phone to phone. Are you ready for all those calls?

I miss the old days when a candidate showed up at the door. It was a familiar and comfortable routine. He or she would knock or ring the bell. The dog would go nuts. I would hide. The candidate would eventually give up, leaving behind some swell souvenirs, like a notepad or an emory board and a card that said “Sorry I missed you.”

Many years ago an imaginative candidate left not only his propaganda but a brick. Attached was a note that instructed me to put the brick in the toilet tank and “help us save water with every flush.”

Campaigning door to door with a bucket of bricks? Talk about heavy lifting. He won my vote right there and eventually became a friend. His name was Sam Farr, who later served in Congress for 24 years from California’s Central Coast.

It’s not like that anymore. Now political campaigns are waging their fights via computer. Their efforts are getting more personalized than ever, and not necessarily in a good way. Candidates now address me by my first name in their computerized messages.

It’s forced familiarity, and you know what they say about familiarity and what it breeds.

“Only 60 days to go, Tom,” one will say. “Help Rufus (or Mason, or Spencer, or Nolan, or whomever) close the gap on his opponent. Give us $100. We need it now, Tom. Like today. Okay?”

If $100 is out of my reach, they’ll accept $25, but they won’t be as warm and fuzzy about it.

Another pitch tells me in the subject line that “I saw Hamilton with Sherrod.” If true, history has misinformed us. Either Hamilton didn’t lose the duel or Senator Brown is remarkably well preserved.

Another campaign is thanking me for something I didn’t do.

“You stepped up, Tom. Thank you,” their email reads. I stepped up? I gave and don’t remember it? It was a ploy to get my attention and it worked. I wonder what would happen if I really did mail off a check. Would they send flowers?

“We’ll fall behind without you, Tom,” another email warns me, noting that their guy’s opponent is being bankrolled by organizations that represent all that is evil in the world. If I give by midnight, I am advised, an anonymous group of donors will match my campaign contribution dollar for dollar.

So operators are standing by, and they’re ready to double my order? Where are these anonymous donors? Russia? I guess a ruble just doesn’t buy what it used to.

And what is it about midnight anyway? Yet another candidate implores me to get on board by midnight, along with 137 other insomniacs, or a fundraising goal will go unmet, evidently triggering a calamity of some sort.

Unless they are threatening to outlaw my right to buy peach ice cream, I am unmoved. First thing you know, only outlaws will have peach ice cream.

Anticipating that my response will be positive, the candidate’s campaign manager seals her message not with a kiss but three blue emoji hearts. I’m touched, just not enough to pick up the phone and pass along my credit card information.

Another email arrives in my inbox late at night. “Only 90 minutes left to meet our goal, Tom. If you’ve ever felt like giving, now is the time.”

I’m sorry, but it’s 10:30 p.m. Now is not the time.

One campaign’s email even acknowledges as much. “One thing before you turn in,” it begins. “I know you’re probably getting ready to call it a day.” Well, yeah.

I would expect to get pitches like these from Ohio candidates, but now I’m getting pleas on behalf of a guy named Joe who’s running for a congressional seat in South Carolina. Evidently the seat Joe covets is considered critical to the future of mankind.

Help Joe and we all get to live. Ignore Joe and we all die, although I’m paraphrasing here.

Even a California politician is reaching out. A candidate for governor there is thanking me profusely for joining his team. Wait, what? What team? Where?

“Thanks so much for hopping on board with our campaign,” he gushes. Maybe he’s playing the guilt card, hoping I’ll feel bad that I haven’t hopped aboard yet. Sorry, sir, that train has left the station.

The desperation could not be clearer in an email whose subject line says simply: “Everything You’ve Got.” Seriously, they want it all.

One candidate informs me that I am his “secret weapon.” This is a tightly held secret I knew nothing about. If it’s true, his campaign is doomed.

I also won’t be helping the campaign that advised me recently that the opposition is “out to get the jump on us, Tom,” and “surely, it is time to pull out all the stops.”

When we need a brick in our toilet tank, we get cliches. And don’t call me Shirley.

Tho­mas Wal­ton is the re­tired ed­i­tor and vice pres­i­dent of The Blade. His col­umn ap­pears ev­ery other Sun­day. His ra­dio com­men­tary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard ev­ery Mon­day at 5:44 p.m. dur­ing “All Th­ings Con­sid­ered” on WGTE FM 91 Contact him at: twalton@theblade.com.

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