Monday, September 10, 2012

Now pitching—both parties, frantically

Posted By on 09.10.12 at 11:03 AM

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  • Sun-Times
A presidential election is a good time for the desolate loners who stumble through life on the margins of society. That's when they hear from a lot more friends than they actually have.

For instance, on Sunday I received an e-mail from Michelle Obama. It showed up in my mailbox as "Michael, you're amazing," and it began, "Michael, thank you for an amazing week. Barack and I felt your energy up there. But we can't let that energy fade—because in just 60 days, voters will decide who gets to serve in the White House for the next four years. So every single one of us has got to pull together to finish strong." After a little more chitchat, Michelle got to the point. "Make this our biggest week yet," she wrote, "and give $5 or more right now to win this election in the final two months." She closed with a link I could click to make my donation right then and there.

At almost exactly the same time (the very same minute, according to the Google Mail clock), I got an e-mail from some of Paul Ryan's best friends at the Campaign to Defeat Obama. They asked me to become a "Paul Ryan Patriot," which was as easy as clicking on a link and making an online donation of at least $200. "Now is the time for all of us to reward Paul Ryan for the political courage he has shown in his fight to help save America's future," said the e-mail.

Readers are welcome to say which pitch they find more obnoxious. For myself, it is a close call.

On the one hand, Michelle Obama's solicitation reminded me of the good old days when Mom used to turn on the radio as I was dressing for kindergarten, and every morning a man on the radio held an exciting contest between all the boys and girls to see who'd get dressed faster. He had a gadget that made it possible to keep track of us all, and the fancy gizmo Michelle Obama must have had in Charlotte that allowed her to feel my energy in Chicago probably worked along the same lines. So Michelle's note gave me a nice warm flush of nostalgia.

On the other hand, it is much easier to resist being guilt-tripped out of $200 than it is a mere five bucks. (Though when I clicked on Michelle's link the suggested sums began at $15 and quickly shot up to $1,000.)

But in the end, in my very personal opinion, the Republican solicitation is more obnoxious. That's because Michelle's husband took me into his confidence early in his acceptance speech, when he said "I know that campaigns can seem small, and even silly. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. If you're sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me—so am I."

Maybe that's when Michelle's amazing energy meter picked up my snort of approval.

But I believe a lot of Republicans actually think a Paul Ryan patriot is a very special kind of patriot. I believe these people have given patriotism a lot of thought and they have strong ideas about who is and who isn't.

But it's a close call. And with both parties trying hard to hit me up on pretty much a daily basis, I'll have plenty of opportunity to change my mind.

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