How Are Votes Solicited in America

Like many others, I receive each day a hefty number of e-mails and letters. Many are sent on behalf of political candidates or on behalf of needy people and animals. Letters ask for money. Some letters contain money or an equivalent–a 5 cent coin, a calendar, and sometimes even a large piece of useful cloth, such as an apron. Many include pictures of deformed children and animals. The themes change from support for a political candidate or cause, to support of the needy or religious, or to benefit various institutions, but very few lack something useful for the receiver. I admit to keeping the calendars. I never touch the coins or any other of the sent things. I usually pay periodically for causes and candidates that I support. The rest of the requests go to thrash can.

However, I wonder what is in the minds of the senders regarding their receivers? After all, they senders continue to adopt the same form of solicitation no matter how many are ignored? I wonder about the reaction of the receivers as well. Are the messages effective on others (even though they are not effective on me)?

First, most of the messages start with a note of raising an alert! Something great will happen, or something terrible has happened or will happen soon. That great or terrible thing presumably raises the readers’ attention. Second, the coin, calendar and the really big gift, are assumed to induce the receiver to reciprocate. The drive for giving is then shifted from the purpose of giving to the shame of not “paying” for what one has received. It is similar to a bribe. In fact, I throw the 5 cents and especially the “big cloth of something” and the terrible pictures of children and animals in the thrash can. These offend me.

I check how much and when I paid for each of the requests and see that they encourage me to pay MORE now. I then usually continue to pay as in the past; however, sometimes I get angry at the attempt to manipulate my feelings and tendency to support what I believe in, or rely on my old age to forget that I already paid very recently and will pay again.

I am willing to accept the cry of success or shriek of upcoming disaster. I will not change my vote nor will I change my political or charitable support by these types of methods, but I am becoming increasingly suspicious of the content of these messages.

Yet, I am far more concerned about the core culture of America:

Money rules America, no matter how corrupt, cruel, and selfish is its use.

Money is the main support of winning.

Money was always important in America, and there are other countries, in which money means a great deal.

Yet, the real issue is what surpasses money? Are there other competing or limiting forms of behavior, ideas or contributions, which are as valued, or even more valued, than money?

What about fairness, honesty, identification with other humans, or ideas, or merely feeding hungry humans with food, knowledge, independence, and guiding them to do the same, instead of creating insatiably for more and more than others, a better life for all? Does giving and sharing rather than craving always create a better life for the givers and the receivers?

Why are minorities (not like me) hated by many Americans today? After all, these minorities demand little and provide services that the wealthier majority would not choose to do? I venture to suggest that haters may feel uncomfortable with their own well-being and watching or recognizing their own “contribution” to the misery of others. This discomfort raises in them the needed relief of blaming, which is part of their upbringing: If I cause misery and feel bad about it—it is their fault! Now I could hate them, and feel good about it and about what I am doing or not doing!

Conclusion. Dishonesty, manipulation, and hatred may have one of their important roots

in the quest, power, and value of Money. Competition is another. However, this does not mean that money and competition are unimportant. It means that other values and independent thinking are crucial. That is even if the simplicity of valuating everything by one measure is sacrificed, because humans are complex. Their values cannot be simplified but must be analyzed, understood, and balanced.

Money does not make humans or their life simpler. In fact, it may make their lives more complicated and far more miserable. If they have money but crave for more, or if they do not have enough, they learn to beg or use force or deception to get it. Money and politics share the ultimate independence of power. Independence and power over others can be used positively or abused. But no matter which form they take, they must be considered as part of their effect on each and every one of the subjects to others’ ability to affect their lives, or, perhaps everyone else. That is why power should be dispersed. That is why voting and money may conflict. That is why these items should not be used together for choosing the rulers of this country or any country.

How does this discussion fit with the subject of different cultures? Arguably, it does. Culture represents social and societal habitual rules. For example, not all societies combine voting with payment. In fact, many do not. If we view culture as a social habit that is compulsory to some extent, because many members of a society follow it, then the link of voting and money fits into the culture topic. It may demonstrate how a culture is born and evolves into a social habit that becomes almost compulsory. It may well be that the link of voting to money emanates from history in which the candidates for political office were very wealthy people and could finance their competition. Later, when far less wealthy candidates began to emerge, they needed money to raise the popular interest and following. They must travel, stay in hotels, rent halls to attract audience and perhaps pay journalists to report and publish their speeches.

In this sense, politicians may be similar to immigrants who, at one time, were more willing to share food or other needs than Americans. Immigrants may often be more generous in times of trouble, perhaps because they experienced need for generosity. It might seem the reverse should be true but arguably it is not.

The most used words are always:

  • Complimentary: we need your opinion.
  • Disaster: The other party is the Enemy and it is getting more money
  • The enemy is winning and we are losing!!!
  • Donate: The request is by the President or top official. And the money is in cents or broken dollars. Harder to put it into one round number.

Once you donated:

  • You continue to get the messages.
  • If you did not donate, there are more messages and the words are more personal.
  • Word of war “fight” “strike” etc. etc. are abundant.
  • IT IS A WAR, KIDS. We must strike to win?!!!!!

Food for thought

*To what extent, if any, does America’s culture reflect the power of money?

*Why is there so little said about the pluses and minuses of the differences between the parties?

*Do you agree or disagree with the statements and concepts noted above and with the conclusions and why?

*Are your decisions focused on the society or on the individual well-being?

*Are these distinctions meaningful, are they connected, and if so, how?

Tamar Frankel
Professor of Law Emerita
Boston University School of Law

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