A Creepy Campaign E-mail? Not to Me.

In his post below, Jim suggests that the e-mail he received from the Obama campaign about celebrating the President’s birthday is “a bit creepy”:

[A]sking millions of Americans to sign a birthday card for the President suggests a tone-deafness about the cult of personality. If we lived in a dictatorship, getting millions of subjects to celebrate the Dear Leader’s birthday would be routine, but in a free republic this appeal to get millions of citizens to celebrate a current president’s birthday strikes a discordant note to my ear.

No, I am not saying we are in a dictatorship; I am saying that because we are not, we should not be emulating the trappings characteristic of that fundamentally different sort of regime. Nor do I think this is particularly ominous, just a very small step in the wrong direction.

My reaction is quite different. As far as I can tell, Jim received this e-mail because he signed up to be on the Obama campaign’s e-mail list (as was the case with this prior e-mail he blogged about). Politicians and political campaigns maintain lists of supporters for lots of reasons, but I think it’s generally understood that the contents of the communications are pretty light fare. They’re messages to keep supporters engaged and help them feel involved, presumably on the theory that supporters who feel engaged and involved are more likely to give money. I assume that was the idea behind the e-mail; it gives supporters a (rather cheesy) opportunity to feel close to the President. Given that this apparently was just a campaign e-mail, only sent to people who voluntarily signed up to receive such things, I have trouble understanding why Jim sees it as “emulating the trappings” of a dictatorship.

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