When I was involved in reporting and editing at the Gazette, I was always interested in finding out how candidates for office were managing their campaigns. Along with learning about their relevant experience and policy stands, we looked at their campaign literature and asked them about their strategies. How a person runs for election and what they say and do to persuade people are strong indicators of how they will govern.
President Donald Trump’s campaign emails and texts, which I started saving in 2017, are very different from most other candidates’ communications with their supporters. Not surprising. He was the farthest outlying person to run for president on a major party ticket and one of the strangest to run for any national office at all. Now, late in this term as president, he’s moving farther out there every day. And so are his digital messages to fans.
Trump campaign communications with voters are usually sent over the signature and headshot of the president or just a few others, mostly family—his son Eric, Eric’s wife Lara, his son Donald, Jr., and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. The exact wording is different in each of them, but the styles are remarkably similar.
Rage and Hoax, two of a string of critical books that have come out during his presidency, reveal Trump’s incompetence and dishonesty in governing the country. And we’ve all seen clips of him performing on stage at his raucous rallies and seen his nasty tweets.
His campaign’s texts and emails to supporters offer yet another perspective on his style of bombastic persuasion. Trump emails and texts have overwhelmed my accounts the past year, increasing this summer. They are addressed to a pseudonym I gave the campaign with my contact information in 2017.
As a result, the Trump campaign sent me—a person who has never donated a penny to his election under my name or my pseudonym’s—1001 emails this year as of Sept. 17. I’ve received 1,357 emails from the campaign totally over time. They only started sending me texts on July 6, but I received 260 of them by Sept. 17. This month I have been getting an average of 10-12 emails and four texts over the name of Trump or someone in his inner circle every day of the week.
Has his campaign never considered they may be irritating supporters!? Marketing experts don’t recommend sending so many messages in such a short time. Aren’t his campaign staffers afraid of looking and sounding desperate? Apparently, they think swamping supporters’ inboxes will work in this special case.
I’m sure experts also don’t recommend telling untruths that would be instantly obvious to recipients. But the Trump campaign doesn’t mind.
Excessive, nonfactual flattery with offers of “rewards” will get you everywhere with individuals seems to be one of the Trump campaign’s beliefs. The campaign doesn’t seem to respect recipients, lavishing gratitude on them no matter what they may (or may not) have done for him. Maybe making supporters feel important and undeserving at the same time is a special tactic.
The emails compliment me—someone who has also never bought anything, gone anywhere, or uttered a word of support, unless you count ordering free tickets to a rally I didn’t attend in early 2017— for my loyalty.
I have even answered their surveys over the last year by suggesting Trump appoint Barack Obama to the Supreme Court and saying, among other many contrary positions, that I don’t approve of his immigration policies or his attitude toward racial justice and Black Lives Matter. My opinions (like other supporters’, no doubt) don’t matter, or nobody at the campaign reads people’s responses—or both.
The messages the campaign sends make the recipient sound completely devoted and emphasize the importance of my pleasing Trump personally. They ask for money, but seldom directly, right near the start, as most candidates do. Standard campaign emails frequently talk directly about the need for funds and deadlines. Not his.
The texts and emails reflect his way of governing. According to the Washington Post, he made 20,000 false or misleading claims while in office as of July this year, and the rate of falsehoods issued has been increasing throughout his term.
“President Trump knows you’re a good supporter,” a typical email begins. Who says Trump watches a lot of TV or takes a lot of time off? Trump either spends 24/7 memorizing the content of databases, or he is omniscient. But, then, I’m not a good supporter, am I?
A fondness for quid pro quo shows clearly.
“Wow. We just checked your donor file, and according to our records, you only need ONE MORE donation to qualify for the Trump Donor Hall of Fame. You’ve been such an incredible part of our movement. All you need to do is take the next step to cement your name in history…” The next step is always a donation..
“We’re reaching out because we noticed you STILL haven’t claimed your PERSONALIZED SIGNED photo from President Trump. This is one of the ONLY official photos the President has ever signed AND personalized, and as one of his TOP supporters, we wanted to make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to own a piece of history.”
Oh, and there’s the Personalized Platinum Card 2020 that would have Trump’s and the donor’s name on it. “President Trump REALLY wants YOU to get your PERSONALIZED Platinum Card and we know you don’t want to let him down.”
Becoming “a part of history” is frequently mentioned as motivation. They show the “signed” photo at the bottom of the emails. It’s the standard headshot with gold letters in a boxy serif font, including his signature, stamped in the corner with a spot for the recipient’s name left blank.
Other special things supporters can be are an Official Text Member (“one of the President’s most trusted advisors”), or they can be “an excellent addition to the Trump 1000 Club” and get one of “the President’s OFFICIAL Trump 1000 Dollar Bills.”
In another email: “You’ve been identified as one of President Trump’s fiercest and most dedicated supporters, and according to your donor file, you’d make an excellent addition to the Trump 1000 Club.”
“I’m pleased to present to you this invitation to become a member of the Official First Family’s Circle. This is a brand new membership program that’s exclusively for our TOP supporters like YOU… I’ve only selected a few Patriots in the entire Nation to join this prestigious group, and YOU are one of them.”
“President Trump wants to do something special for you to show you how much your steadfast support means to him. He’s asked us to give you EXCLUSIVE ACCESS to get our BRAND-NEW Official 2020 Make America Great Again Pint Glasses.” A follow-up text a few days later congratulated me on “winning” the pint glasses. Said if I paid $35 soon I could have them. Never says how many glasses.
Some letters ask for help with the campaign from supporters who are willing to pay to give it. Just before the Republican National Convention, an email with a red, underlined all-caps headline appeared: “CONFIDENTIAL CONVENTION SPEECH DETAILS, DO NOT SHARE. … before I get on that stage, I want to get your input. I’m requesting the help of Patriots across the Nation to help me prepare for my Presidential Acceptance speech.”
No convention speech content was there, of course—just the usual “survey.”
In early September, they asked recipients to join an unnamed person in nominating Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize by clicking on a red box to sign a petition and donating. This kind of nominations for the prize are not accepted by the Nobel committee.
“The Democrats hate you” one recent text proclaimed, followed by my pseudonym. I involuntary pulled back from my phone.
Most of the texts also flatter, and all ask for money. At least half of them feature grandiose threats they claim are posed by Trump’s opponent.
“Biden would gut the middle class with taxes.” “Do you stand against Biden & ANTIFA?” “BIDEN WOULD LET ANTIFA DESTROY OUR NATION.” “ANTIFA ALERT THEY’LL ATTACK YOUR HOMES IF JOE’S ELECTED.” “Biden will increase taxes by $4 TRILLION & let ANTIFA run wild. Defend America!” The most recent one I got leads with this serious (not!) allegation: “BIDEN IS A FRAUD! He uses a teleprompter for TV interviews!” Then it asks me to give $45 in the next hour.
Recently the “Biden hates you” message has increased with “These Radicals HATE President Trump and they HATE you, [my pseudonym], and everything you stand for” underlined in an email.
“Congratulations, (pseudonym)! You won our brand new “FILL THAT SEAT” shirt. Pres. Trump will hold it for 1 HOUR! Donate $30 & claim NOW,” said a campaign text on the Sunday morning after the Friday Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died.
Trump has been compared to many types of leaders. After being barraged with his communications to followers on my computer and phone daily for months, I would say (as at least one book does, apparently) he’s most like a cult leader. The frequency, hyperbole, and personal nature of his campaign’s digital communications with individuals feel like attempted brainwashing.
I’m sorry for his actual followers. I hope they save themselves from the dangerous combination of false flattery and fabricated fear his campaign is blasting out by unsubscribing to the strange emails and texts and then not voting for him this fall. In case it’s too difficult for most of them to leave the cult, people who prefer a sincere, trustworthy leader need to turn out to vote this fall like never before.