The daily barrage of emails to the Tribune-Herald newsroom has a numbing effect. After the first couple of hundred, there is a risk of ignoring them completely and missing a good tip or legitimate news item. Such was the case this past week when an email landed in my inbox with the subject line, “I’m counting on you friend.”
For whatever reason, the subject line caught my attention for a split second. Could it be from an old friend who really needs help? Of course not. It was from the Ryan Sitton campaign, wanting money. Just another political email blast clogging up inboxes all over cyberspace.
Having been away from Texas for three years, it took a quick online search to figure out who Sitton was and the particulars of his race. No, I didn’t contribute. The last political candidate I contributed to in any way was my dad when he won re-election as county assessor for the last time 20 years ago.
Why this particular email caught my eye is still unclear. A quick search of my inbox showed up to 25 percent of my email comes from political campaigns.
A large number of those hail from the Wendy Davis for governor people. Note to Davis campaign: 12 of the 13 emails viewed for this piece told me what opponent Greg Abbott was doing or not doing. Anything about your candidate in there?
We normally ignore political email blasts in this business. Most of them are blather or seek money. Few of them disperse information about a candidate’s qualifications or plans of action if elected.
Fox News political analyst and author Juan Williams visited Baylor University Thursday as part of President Ken Starr’s engaging “On Topic” series. He was there to discuss the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Today’s gridlocked political climate was a major topic of discussion during the event. Williams elegantly put into words what most in the audience already knew: Today’s elections are about getting out the vote, not convincing people to vote for someone. To paraphrase his thoughts, the decisions have already been made, so elections are about getting the base to the polls.
The man knows his politics.
A small part of the fallout from this political climate is my clogged inbox. I can’t help but wonder if there are people out there who actually pay attention to these ridiculous email blasts. When pressed, do they pony up five bucks? (The going rate for contributions, by the way.) If so, then Mr. Williams’ synopsis of today’s political climate is both accurate and foreboding.
We published a story last week about the Republican runoff election in the 4th Congressional District. Longtime incumbent Ralph Hall narrowly missed the 50 percent mark in the March primary and faces challenger John Ratcliffe in the runoff election later this month. Hall is 90 and seeking his 18th term in Congress. Ratcliffe is 48 and is apparently clogging up inboxes all over the district with micro-targeting campaign tactics. Hall won the primary 48-29 over Ratcliffe and faces his first-ever runoff. This race is interesting for a number of reasons, particularly the tactics being deployed in the campaign. Hall shakes hands, does the pie supper circuit and lunches with veterans. Ratcliffe’s campaign is deep into social media, demographics and targeting — the same tactics that got President Obama elected in 2008 and again in 2012. My inbox is pulling for Hall.
At Baylor Thursday night, Williams decried the fact opposing sides simply do not know or like each other anymore. He recalled a story from a time when he served as White House correspondent for The Washington Post during the Reagan Administration.
“It wasn’t unusual to see (Democratic House Speaker) Tip O’Neill coming out of the Oval Office as I was going in.”
You are right, Mr. Williams. That simply doesn’t happen anymore. If it happened today, I’d get an email from O’Neill’s opponent saying Tip’s having tea and crumpets with the enemy.
Proof of Williams’ point can be found in today’s political email campaigns. We see very little about the candidates themselves, even less about their plans to make a difference. One guy wants to replace the property tax with a very large sales tax rate. While the idea has been widely panned (including by the Tribune-Herald), at least it was substantive. You have to credit a candidate for putting an actual plan out there.
Today’s political emails focus on two things: tearing down one’s opponent and raising money.
In short, more white noise in the form of e-waste.
Steve Boggs is editor of the Tribune-Herald. Email email@example.com.