So it turns out I’m a friend of Donald Trump’s. In fact, I’m one of his top supporters. Also, my name is Joe.
If this surprises you, imagine how I feel.
Those revelations come by way of Trump himself in emails that have deluged my inbox for months. From them, I learn that when Trump scans a list of his donors and doesn’t see my name, he’s hurt and surprised, given that I’ve always been so generous in the past.
He implores me to keep on giving. And just to sweeten the offer, he has a personally signed MAGA hat for me. Or he’s holding an “Official Trump Card” for me! Or a “Let’s Go Brandon!” T-shirt that’s sure to “trigger the libs!” Or some Trump wrapping paper! Or an autographed baseball! And he wants to meet me! And if I act fast, he’ll put me on the Trump Honor Roll!
It never stops. A dozen or more, every day. I am in mailing-list hell. Should it need saying: I’ve never given Donald Trump a dime. In fact, I haven’t contributed to a political campaign since 1994. My son ran for sixth-grade president that year, and I sprang for markers and construction paper. He won on a platform of more field trips, a longer lunch period and better snack machines.
That’s as much involvement as I desire — or as matter of professional ethics am allowed to have — in political giving. Wish I could get Trump to understand that.
Yes, I could block his emails — and I probably will at some point. But truth to tell, some part of me is morbidly fascinated by the nakedness of the grift — and by the realization that there are people who respond to it. Indeed, according to media reports, they responded to the tune of $75 million in just the first half of the year. I’m reminded of being amazed by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the 1980s. Not just that their appeals for money were so garish and cartoonish, but also that they were so successful.
No, Trump is not the only one. Though they don’t offer cheap tchotchkes like he does or have his talent for incessant begging, candidates like Florida Rep. Val Demings and Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock do turn up regularly in my email queue seeking donations.
Far from inspiring me to reach into my pocket, such appeals leave me vaguely embarrassed for the people making them — and more convinced of the need for the overhaul of our system of campaign finance. The one we have turns public servants into panhandlers, which is, you’d like to think, beneath the dignity of high office.
Of course, dignity has never been Trump’s problem. If we are lucky, high office won’t be, either.
There are two schools of thought on whether he’ll seek the presidency again. Both center on his fragile ego. One holds that he must run because that ego simply can’t absorb the humiliation of losing. The other holds that he can’t run because that ego simply can’t risk the humiliation of losing twice.
One wonders if even he knows where the ego will land. Meantime, raising money is an end unto itself, and to watch him con it out of people who should know better is fascinating and repulsive in equal measure. He weaponizes their fear and foolishness, and the cash comes rolling in. How sadly, grotesquely and absurdly American that is.
“In 2022,” goes an email in my queue, “we will SAVE AMERICA from the radical left.” It offers an “official” Trump calendar for any contribution over $45.
Sorry, Donald, not interested. But if you ever need markers or construction paper, let me know. I can get you a good price on some, slightly used.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. firstname.lastname@example.org