Dear Chairman Priebus,
I realize that you probably will never see this. I realize that, by and large, you don’t take your cues from sites like this one – though you (and we, and the party, and the country) would probably be a lot better off if you did. If, however, you do somehow come across this letter, I hope you will take what follows to heart, though my level of confidence in that actually happening is somewhere approaching nonexistent.
I awoke this morning to find a disturbing email in my inbox. The email in question purported to be from RNC Treasurer Tony Parker. The subject and text of that email follow, in full:
Subject: Michael, did you abandon the RNC?
Did you abandon the Republican Party?
Chairman Priebus has written to you already this year asking you to contribute to the RNC and renew your membership. But we haven’t received your financial support yet this year.
Your past support has shown us that you believe in the Republican Party and the conservative principles we stand for. That’s why we still believe you haven’t given up on the Republican Party yet.
Right now you are handing the advantage over to Democrats. That’s exactly what President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid want you to do. With committed Republicans like you sitting out in 2014, the Democrats are able to continue their liberal rampage on conservative principles.
2014 is our last chance to step in, step up, and take back the Senate to regain Republican control in Washington. Don’t turn your back on the Republican Party now.
I am a Republican for many reasons. First and foremost among them is the fact that I believe in bearing personal responsibility for my own choices and the consequences thereof. I believe that I am better suited to determine how to spend my money, time, and energy effectively than a government bureaucrat or some professional-campaigner-turned-professional-politician. As such, I detest the attempts of others to coerce me into operating in their best interests rather than my own through guilt-trips, passive-aggressive cajoling, or other forms of manipulation.
The same goes for Party “leaders,” and that’s just as true when the party in question is my own.
If you want to convince me to support you, the way to do so is to demonstrate – not just with words, but with actions – that doing so will benefit me and the people and country that I love. The quickest route to an ironclad guarantee that I will not support you is through an attempt to bully me into it.
That being the case, you might see how I’d be bothered by the notion that my failure to send a few bucks your way is synonymous with “sitting out in 2014.” You might understand my offense at veiled accusations that I am “handing the advantage over to Democrats,” or that I have “abandoned,” or “given up on,” or “turned my back on” the Republican Party.
I haven’t. Not yet. But those of you who run the party seem determined to drive me to it.
Chairman Priebus, as a professional marketing and communications consultant, please allow me give you some free advice: Fire your marketing and communications consultants!
You and I both know emails like this one don’t get sent in a vacuum. Clearly, someone is telling you these sorts of marketing tactics work. And they’re right, these types of emails do work very, very well – for the other side. The other side is not composed largely of people who find passive-aggressive attempts to control them offensive. Yours is. The other side does not consist mainly of people who instinctively buck against attempted manipulation in pursuit of a particular outcome. Yours does. The other side is not comprised mostly of people who are innately suspicious of any attempt to convince them that you know what’s good for them better than they do themselves. Yours is.
The first rule of communications is simple: Know your audience. The other side knows its audience; your side clearly does not. The very existence of this email is proof that your marketing consultants are not worth what you’re paying them, which means that I and other committed Republicans like me who received this email because we aren’t filling your coffers have made a wise decision to invest elsewhere.
Here’s the problem with trying to duplicate the unquestioned success of the Obama campaign in 2012, which rode high on the backs of donations in response to its relentlessly focus-grouped fundraising emails: You’re not sending this email to the same susceptible, low-information voters who were targeted to unprecedented effect by OFA. You’re sending it to your party’s core supporters: people who have donated previously, have knocked doors for you, have attended your meetings, have served as your poll-watchers, and have participated in – and in some cases helped to organize – your local events. I’ve spoken with others, some of them far more active within the party than I am myself, who received this same email – and we are not amused. Insulting and belittling your core supporters is not a viable fundraising strategy. Stop it!
Let me be blunt: The party you lead is favored to take back the Senate in a few months, giving it undivided control of the Legislative Branch. The biggest reason you find yourself in such a favorable position is the fact that your party’s core supporters are more enthusiastic about this election than your opponents’ core supporters are. The sort of ham-handedness that is evident in this email gravely risks dampening that enthusiasm, which means that because you have a more powerful platform and a bigger microphone than I can ever hope to acquire, simply by approving this email for dissemination you have already done more to “hand the advantage over to Democrats” than I am even capable of doing – especially by failing to write a $10 check.
I do want to thank you for one thing. In sending out this email, you have made it very clear that any time, money, or effort I choose to give to the people and causes I care about will be better spent elsewhere. Thank you ever so much for demonstrating that a donation to the RNC is, and will continue to be, a bad investment until you – and those to whom you pay considerable sums of money for their alleged expertise in outreach and communications – obtain a much better understanding of the people to whom you’re reaching out. I am certain that the candidates, campaigns, nonprofits and other organizations who will benefit from the support of those you alienated today will be very appreciative.