There was a time when, if I found someone running for political office that I liked, I would donate money to their campaign. Not a large amount. Maybe twenty dollars. The last time I did that was quite a few years ago. The reason I stopped, I told myself for a long time, was that I felt money should have no part in political campaigning.
You can stop laughing. I know how foolish that statement sounds. It seemed like a good excuse at the time, but it wasn’t the real reason I stopped giving money to political campaigns. The real reason was buried a little bit deeper. I discovered it this week, when I was considering donating some money to a particular campaign.
The more I read in the newspaper, the more impressed I had become with this particular politician. I kept thinking that maybe I should reverse my decade-long policy of not donating money to politicians. (Autocorrect just changed “politicians” to “pelicans” for some reason.) But something tickled at the back of my mind, and each time I thought I should do it, I hesitated. Last night, I realized why.
The last time I made a donation to a campaign, I got put onto a list and began getting calls for more money, or for other candidates in different elections. I can’t stand those phone calls. At first, I’d be polite, and explain that I had given all that I could afford. But the people on the other end of the line got pushier and pushier.
“We can’t win without your help,” they’d say.
“Well, then, I’m sorry I gave money to such a poorly organized campaign that they can’t win an election because of someone who can’t give them an extra twenty dollars,” I’d reply.
Sometimes, the campaign workers on the phone would get irritated with me—the person who they wanted money from in the first place. Other times, they grew pedantic, explaining to me, in the simplest possible terms, the importance of an issue that was really far too complex for such simple terms.
The callers were point out all of the evil things their candidate’s opponent was doing, not realizing that (a) I can’t stand that type of behavior, and (b) I didn’t want to hear about the bad things their opponent was doing, but instead the good things that their candidate was doing.
Occasionally, they would provide a list of all of the things their candidate would achieve if I elected—and, of course, my donation would help to make that happen. These lists were so overly ambitious and vague, that I began to borrow a line that the fictional President Bartlett used in a debate in an episode of the The West Wing. “Give me the next ten words,” I’d say, “tell me exactly how they are going to do all of those things, and I’ll consider giving you the $20 you are asking for.” I could never get specifics.
Mostly it was the constant hounding and relentless requests for money that finally pushed me over the edge, and made me vow never to give money to a political campaign again.
Now, of course, seeing a worthwhile candidate, I’d like to donate a little money. But I still hesitate. Most likely, I won’t give the money. If there was a way to guarantee that I wouldn’t get a single call or email or mailing of any kind, I’d do it, but I’ve never seen a checkbox on a donation form that reads something like:
“Here’s $20 dollars for you to fight the good fight. Now never bother me again.”
If a form had an option like that, I’d donate the money.