Monday, February 25, 2008

Confessions of a Mass Email Artist

How I pissed off some faculty with just one click

I woke up in high spirits on Sunday, put on my “I heart Hillary” tee, and set out on a mission to change the world. I arrived at the Dallas Headquarters for the Hillary Clinton campaign at around noon. It was a little hectic due to an early vote rally with President Bill Clinton which had taken place that morning in Arlington, but I was eventually shuffled to the appropriate person. After expressing my desire to help out with the campaign, I was given a briefing on how to be a precinct captain and discussed options for reaching out to the SMU community. I agreed to do what I could, and I intended to follow through with my promise.

After hearing about emails circulating to student leaders recruiting volunteers for Barack Obama, it dawned on me that I could use the school email system to do the same. I developed a very short, generic message about why I am voting for Hillary, asking those who felt the same to email me with “questions about the process or if you are interested in becoming a precinct captain or volunteering.” I figured that if I got any replies from students, I could help them get in touch with the appropriate person or possibly form a student group on campus to help “get out the vote” on March 4. I used the SMU email directory to quickly send out hundreds of messages simultaneously. I knew that many students would ignore or even disapprove of the email, but I thought that if I even got a few positive responses, that it would be worth it. I still believe in that calculation, but I was not expecting what happened next.

It took about five minutes before angry faculty members were writing me emails, chastising me for being “out of line” in using the directory to send out “spam” to “influence voters”. I didn’t realize that when I searched for addresses under “display name”, that I was targeting SMU staff, professors, and deans. Realizing my mistake, I quickly sent out an apology that explained that I didn’t really believe that people would change their minds after reading my short message and that I was just trying to organize volunteers for Hillary’s campaign. I recognized that I probably didn’t use the appropriate forum for doing so and regretted any inconvenience I may have caused.

To make the matter even worse, many people hit “reply to all” in asking to be “removed from the list.” In a matter of hours, I had caused email boxes all across campus to be filled with junk. My political zealousness had momentarily clouded my judgment, and I was a little embarrassed. But after my initial feelings subsided, I was mostly shocked that certain professors and university employees had such rude things to say to a student who was only trying to get others involved in the political process.

I’m not going to mention any names here for obvious reasons, but I think it’s important to include some direct quotations. I am disappointed that an employee of our school felt it necessary to call me “stupid” for my actions and that “I must be related to Hillary” for supposedly trying to “lie my way out” of the situation. It is even more disturbing to me, that the most hateful emails, four to be specific, came from individuals affiliated with the Perkins School of Theology. I understand that they may not consider Hillary Clinton to be representative of their political ideals, but the condescending tone was uncalled for. One person in particular wrote that, “This is a university, meaning that smart people work here” and that “as a senior at a minimum here you ought to have learned how to think.” I would think that as a faculty member at a minimum here he ought to have learned how to address a student in an appropriate manner.

Despite blatant attempts to discourage me, the negativity has only increased my motivation. I have never felt more strongly for a candidate, and I plan on doing everything in my power to make sure that Texas gives Hillary Clinton the comeback she deserves. In all fairness, however, I have to include a response I got from a member of the Math Department. “Curtis, don't apologize or feel bad. I get all kinds of email every day. From junk about Viagra sales…to notices about events on campus that I am not even remotely interested in. Political activism seems like a much more appropriate way of using email than any of these. Please don't let anyone intimidate you. Stay active. If people were angry, screw 'em. And by the way, I'm not saying this because I'm a Clinton partisan. I'm voting for Obama.”

Hillary's getting pissed....and I love it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama Uh-oh

FROM CNN.COM- "On a conference call with reporters, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said it was clear Obama had “lifted rhetoric” from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Portions of Patrick’s speeches during his gubernatorial run resemble some of Obama’s addresses this year.

“If you’re going to be talking about the value of words, the words ought to be your own,” said Wolfson."

I agree...what do you think?

It's not you, George. It's me.

Breaking up with the President

It’s hard for me to believe that four years have gone by since the last presidential primary in Texas. While the day itself was largely uneventful, 2004 was a difficult time for me. It was my freshman year in college, my mom and sister had recently moved to Chicago, and I was in a serious relationship with a Republican. Don’t ask me what I was thinking.
In my infinite wisdom as an undergraduate senior, I can now offer the following advice: Don’t spend four years of your life with someone you wouldn’t vote for.
Life in suburbia was bland, but I found joy in the daily task of pulling my John Kerry yard sign out of the dirt and placing it back in front of the Bush one, where it belonged. The kitchen table hosted our dinnertime debates, but without a moderator, things frequently got ugly. Out of both patriotism and spite, I decided to volunteer for the Collin County Democratic Party as an election clerk in the 2004 primary. I was the only worker under 70, but I was proud to be a part of what I thought would be a new beginning for America; an America without George W. Bush as President. I was wrong.
I woke up early on the day of the election and drove proudly to my local polling place. I stood in line quietly (for once), knowing that I was largely outnumbered by a bunch of impatient people on their way to hunt. I closed my eyes and prayed that Wylie, Texas wasn’t representative of the national electorate.
It was just about two years after that day before I finally realized that I wasn’t with the right person. I got tired of living with a Republican, and I left. Yes, I’m kidding.
Party preference ultimately had little to do with my failed relationship. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye after four long years, but I knew and still believe that it was the right decision for the both of us.
I also know I made the right decision when I voted for John Kerry, but I wish for America’s sake that there wasn’t so much evidence to prove it. I also wish I could just call Bush up on behalf of America and end our relationship. With about 335 days to go, I would say whatever necessary to get him out of there early. “It’s not you, George, it’s me. I still love you, really I do…I just need time.” Yuck.
Maybe what I’m trying to say could best be summed up in a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. “Many people will walk in and out of your life,” and blah, blah, blah. Never mind. This says it better: People come and people go, but you could be stuck with a bad President for eight years.
This time around, you wont find me checking in voters and passing out stickers, but I will be in line. March 4 is being labeled as the second Super Tuesday, and most political analysts agree that it’s do or die for Hillary Clinton. The race is tight here with a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll showing Clinton and Obama in a statistical tie in Texas.
A lot more has changed in my own life than in the U.S. over the past four years. When I wake up on November 4, 2008, and drive proudly to my local polling place, I’ll still be voting in a red state. I wont have to go home and argue about the morality of stem cell research or run outside to switch the yard signs, but the country will still be at war. As much as I’d love a convincing Democratic victory on the day of the general election, it’s probably going to be a close race and a hard fought battle. This time, however, I won’t be wrong in predicting a new beginning for America; an America without George W. Bush as President. And that, my friends, is something to celebrate.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Money Isn't Everything

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have raised over 10 million dollars apiece since Super Tuesday, a day that divided delegates and demonstrated just how close the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination really is. By the time this article is published, those estimates are likely to double for each candidate.
It is hard for me not to be pleased when contributions for both Clinton and Obama substantially exceed that of any Republican candidate, but the excessive attention recently given to campaign fundraising has given me pause. While many, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, have expressed concern over the possibility of an undecided race heading into the convention, I think that America deserves as long as it needs to choose its future President. On the other hand, I think the focus needs to be on policy, rather than a back and forth contest of who has been able to raise the most money.
As someone who looks forward to a debate like a playoff game, I was disappointed to hear that Obama only agreed to one of Clinton's weekly challenges in February, stating that “it is very important for me to actually reach voters, something that may be less important for Sen. Clinton to do because she is better-known in many parts of the country." The Los Angeles debate, which “actually” reached an estimated 8.3 million viewers, has been the only chance for voters to draw distinctions between the two front-runners since John Edwards exited the contest.
Political advertising is about to blanket Texas in an effort to get out the vote on March fourth. Leading up to Super Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Obama and Clinton were dishing out an estimated two million dollars per week on television advertising. It’s hard for me to imagine that thirty seconds of cheese; smiling faces, handshakes, and broad generalizations can tip the scale for an undecided voter, but it’s probably safe to assume, given expenditure reports, that there is significant evidence available that substantiates its power.
While the incessant coverage of fundraising in the media has been frustrating to me personally, I know that there are a lot of reasons to be thankful for it. It gives me hope that in an unstable economy, there have been hundreds of thousands of new contributors for both candidates; individuals who want so badly to see America head in a new direction that they are willing to give away their own hard earned money. I guess that it’s just hard for me to watch so much of their sacrifice be spent on commercials.
While I think that there is very little that can be learned from the man, Mitt Romney’s decision to end his Presidential race reminded me of something. Votes cannot be purchased. Despite contributing over 35 million dollars to his own campaign and outspending all of his competitors, Mitt Romney simply could not convince Republicans to support him. He ended his Presidential bid at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, and I somehow managed to make it through his entire speech without changing the channel. I watched as he passed his moral judgment, citing terms like “activist judges” in his call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, referencing percentages of children born out-of-wedlock in claiming that our nation cannot stand “when its children are raised without fathers in the home”, and saying that Europe’s “weakened faith in the Creator” has created a “demographic disaster.” He compared welfare programs to “poison” and used fear tactics in describing a vote for Clinton or Obama as a “surrender to terror” and an end to the war in Iraq as a declaration of defeat. As his long list of reasons as to why I am voting for the Democratic nominee in November of 2008 came to a close, I smiled at the realization of something that recent reports and media coverage had led me to question. Despite it’s undeniable importance, money isn’t everything.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Fingers crossed...Super Tuesday has arrived.

Today is monumental. Even if delegates are split and we come out in the same tight race we're in now, it's still going to be a VERY interesting day.
In other news, contrary to my previous post, Clinton and Obama struck a completely different tone in the last debate. In fact, they were OVERLY cordial to one another. I have no doubt that if Clinton gets the nomination, she will ask Obama to run with her. Clinton Obama '08 IS a Democratic dream ticket...for a lot of reasons that I might examine more closely if tomorrow still allows for such speculation. Take a look: