Many people never see this stream, but I think it explains a good deal about why a substantial minority of Americans still say they support him.
First off, this stream is relentless. I may be alone, friendless, trapped at home by the epidemic, jobless. My family may forsake me, my friends grow bored. But Trump never forgets me. Since last June, when he announced his re-election bid, I have received at least 712 emails. (There were more, but I failed to save the rest.) They come in the name of the President; his sons, his daughter, his daughter-in-law, his vice president, his vice president’s wife, his campaign manager Brad Parscale, his former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and several Trump PACs. This spring, they picked up the pace, sometimes sending six or seven messages in a single day.
All politicians use email. In fact, each day I get up to a dozen from various Democrats around the country, including some I’ve never heard of. Like Trump’s, the Democrats’ messages are all about raising money. But Trump’s are different, not only in their volume but in their tone and content.
Mostly the emails aim to make me feel special, chosen, wanted: “You have been selected.” “You’ve been chosen.” “You’ve been hand-selected.” “My father needs your help.” “This is ONLY for my TOP supporters.” “I knew you wouldn’t let me down.” They offer to make me “a Trump Grassroots Leader,” an “Official 2020 Trump Platinum” member, an “Official 2020 Trump Executive Member,” and a member of the “Trump Presidential Honor Roll” and the “Trump VIP Club.”
“You’re a perfect fit,” one tells me. “Not many people are.” They show me gold-rimmed certificates to display on my wall, and gold cards for my wallet. They urge me to sign birthday cards for the Trumps and the Pences and invite me to win all-expenses-paid trips to meet with them. One recent email, with the heading “Your plane ticket,” even bore the paper clip icon that signals an attachment, although, sadly, nothing was attached.
Like so much about Trump, these come-ons are a con. I am not one of his best supporters. I have never sent him money or shown support for him, beyond supplying my email four years ago out of curiosity about his candidacy.
So along with the messages about how special I am, come emails steeped in shame and disappointment. “Did I make a mistake in trusting you?” they ask. “Where have you been?” son Eric Trump asks. “Each day my father sees an updated donor list and EACH DAY he notices that you STILL haven’t contributed… he asked me to reach out and offer you ONE MORE CHANCE to get on the right side of history with us.”
It is as though I have been inducted into a dysfunctional family, where folks love me but are so very, very disappointed in me. Can’t I just be nice this one time, for Dad’s sake? Can’t I write or call or send money? “Where have you been?” they ask. “You can do better.”
Much as the Heavenly Father is said to see the fall of every sparrow, Eric’s father is said to know the name of every Gold Club member — and he hopes to see my name on this list by tomorrow morning. This family drama extends to internal rivalry. Recently, for instance, I was warned that I would lose my chance to become an Official 2020 Trump Executive Member: “We can only hold your spot until 11:59 PM TONIGHT. After that, it will be released to Meredith in Pennsylvania.”
Even though my own family was not into guilt tripping, and my own father died some 50 years ago, the pleading and scolding do give me a twinge. Don’t we all want to be embraced, praised and reassured? Don’t we all think we could have done better?
His latest email promised not to protect me from Covid-19, or to build a fairer society, but to protect Confederate statues from “Un-American THUGS.” I think these days of my email rival, Meredith in Pennsylvania. I hope she will choose reality over a reality show. If I could send her an email, I’d tell her: “We need you more than ever.”