Let’s talk about emails.
Not those emails. Donald Trump’s emails. His campaign emails, to be precise.
I’m not 100% sure how this happened, but about a year ago I started receiving emails from the Trump re-election campaign. If I had to guess, I’d say it happened when I filled out a survey regarding the trustworthiness of mainstream media. I realized that the survey was being conducted for Trump’s campaign when all the questions were written with a slant so steep a professional mountaineer would have trouble climbing the slope.
My first reaction upon receiving these emails was to unsubscribe. Why would I want my inbox flooded with crazy emails? But then, I wondered, what could I learn about Trump supporters from the emails being sent to them?
Turns out, quite a bit.
I’ve been getting anywhere from two to four emails a day from the Trump campaign.
Some are pretty benign. They ask for money, offer me MAGA hats, or share some asinine spin on the impeachment inquiry. I even get updates on The Wall.
But there are also the weird ones. The ones with subject lines written in all caps and announcing the end of the world if Democratic lawmakers are allowed to do their jobs.
Subject lines proclaim “IT’S A COUP” and “IMPEACHMENT WITCH HUNT.” Replete with playground insults (Pencil-Neck Adam and Quid Pro Jo) and odd misspellings. Some of them even sound like a call to arms, a rallying cry to protect America from…America. Anyone who doesn’t support Trump is branded a traitor and proclaimed guilty of treason.
The body of the emails are packed with bold-faced type, red text, underlining, and random capitalization. It makes you wonder who’s writing them. Or rather, who they are being written for.
Who falls for childish insults and obvious fear mongering?
The psychology of Trump voters fascinates me.
I don’t mean the wealthy voters, who’d support a chicken in a cheap wig if it promised them tax cuts and bailouts.
I am, in fact, referring to the people who are hurt by typical conservative dogma but continue to support the Republican party regardless.
Is it fear that keeps them coming back? Fear of the unknown? Fear of “the other?” Probably. So why do emails that look like they’re written by a 3rd grader pass as campaign strategy?
According to Thomas Edsall, the need for chaos among Trump voters trumps (no pun intended) everything else. He quotes a study which argues that “a segment of the American electorate that was once peripheral is drawn to ‘chaos incitement’ and that this segment has gained decisive influence through the rise of social media.”
Meaning, people who once saw themselves as outsiders finally see themselves as insiders, through connections made on social media. Anyone can say whatever they want on social media. It doesn’t need to be true. People like Donald Trump thrive in this sort of environment. And so do his followers. They can say whatever they want, and are free to believe whatever they want. Opinions are dressed as facts and no one’s opinions are more correct than theirs.
Trump’s campaign emails embody this chaos. There is nothing coherent about them. They are full of false information and half-truths. They warn of a world in chaos, and promise that Donald Trump is the only one who can save us all.
To those of us with any critical thinking skills, we can take one look at these poorly crafted messages and dismiss them for the nonsense that they are. But, apparently, these ridiculous emails work. They make people angry and confused and that translates into more clicks and shares.
Beyond emails, this the method used by Trump in all of his social media campaigning. Say outrageous things that prompt people to react.
It’s crazy, but it works. Really well.
The battle for the presidency is happening online, and right now Trump is winning.