The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is missing a chance to both help itself and help the American people*. I might not have a great deal of authority with which to decree that, but consider the following:
One, the DSCC has many thousands of donors who get daily e-mail blasts, and even more people who donated to something or someone tied to the DSCC and who get those blasts because of that. I’m one of them (I donated to OFA and Obama-Biden 2008, and 2012), and many of my friends are too. Two, those e-mails go straight to my spam folder. Three, I’m not unique. The only time I read them is for the donate link, and the only time I donate is when something else tells me both that I should and can afford to help.
If people actually read the e-mails, rather than sorting them away, what would that do for the donor rolls, influence, and public presence of groups like the DSCC? While many things are a possibility, the worst it could reasonably do is nothing. That their reader engagement is so low is a huge missed opportunity, regardless of how many people are subscribed to their mailing list. They could be making a substantive difference in the party’s image around the country, and could be informing the debate in a meaningful and constructive way. Instead, they spend all their time trying to scare me and then beg me for money.
Fear and ignorance, which when stewed together become conspiracy and paranoia, are two very powerful enemies. Polling seems to bear me out that when government is transparent and not completely ineffective, people trust it more. When people trust government more, they are willing to support policies and ideas that lean on government rather than undermining it. By informing the debate, by using their bully pulpit to do something other than add heat to the culture war, not only could they help themselves they could help the country.
How do they do that? Any or all of the following would be a good start.
1. Links to proposed legislation and summaries thereof. Many people wont read it, but the fact they have those links and that information, that the DSCC is going out of its way to give people that information, makes it a much harder sell that they are hiding something. People (and Fox News) can say it, but if the response is immediately, “You say they’re hiding it, but I got this in my e-mail…” then it is significantly harder to maintain that lie.
2. Links and reprints of prominent opinion pieces and articles about good things that Democrats, the DSCC, or its members are doing. One of the most frequent lines of attack that conservative media use is that Democrats only serve certain people (people of color, the underprivileged, unions, the urban poor, etc), and not the “average” American. The best way to respond to that isn’t by saying that it’s wrong, it’s by showing that it’s wrong. “We’re helping everyone, and here’s how…” works better than simply screeching invectives about how the other side is greedy or short-sighted, even when they are.
3. Simple summaries, infographics, and other social media shareables that deal with common notions and controversies in public affairs. “They’re coming for our guns? Here are all the gun-related bills signed into law in the past 20 years and how we are not, in fact, doing that:” Again, information is the greatest enemy of fear. Don’t put out so much that you confuse the issue, which is why something like an infographic is ideal, but more information than, “Give us money because reasons” could only help.
4. Short, humanizing profiles about the people that are leading the Democratic party and what they care about. I hear a whole lot on the news about Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and so on, but I know little about them beyond what they are doing. That makes it hard for candidates to get name recognition, and makes it hard to put anyone in the field for a Presidential or Vice Presidential campaign. Don’t tell me about their stance on abortion or gay marriage or whatnot (I probably already know that, anyway), tell me where they went to college, what their wife/husband’s name is, and who their favorite author is. Make them human to me, and it’s more likely I’ll be able to empathize with them. That makes it easier to trust them, and by extension easier to trust government.
In short, give us a reason to read the e-mails you send, and we will. Prove to me why I should donate to your cause, and I will. Know your audience, DSCC.
* Note: Okay, probably several opportunities. I’m just going to focus on one with this blog entry, however.