No More Emails From President, Beyonce

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I feel a bit lonely now that the election is over. My email inbox doesn’t fill up nearly as often as it did, especially in the closing days of the campaign. Entire hours can pass without a new email. Since I spend a lot of time in front of a computer writing and editing, checking email is a regular habit — sometimes too regularly.

The first email from someone with quite-the-famous name appeared in my inbox in June. Why in the world is Barack Obama emailing me, I wondered? Others soon followed, from Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, campaign operatives, and other famous personages working for the president’s re-election.

Not once did I reply to any of these entreaties for money, to volunteer to knock on doors, or to put up a yard sign. The last time I gave money to a political candidate was in 1984. In a moment of foolishness, I mailed Oscar Mauzy $20 when he was running for Texas Supreme Court, because I took a shine to him, when he stopped by the San Augustine Rambler office to seek our country weekly’s endorsement. You would have thought I had sent the man $1,000. The entreaties for more contributions kept on coming in the mail after that. This was well before emails made pleading for money easy to do at a rapid clip. As a result — early in my journalism career — I concluded right then that being active in politics and covering politicians did not mix. Since that time I vote and that’s the extent of my political activity.

Still, the emails kept coming through the summer and into the fall. Michelle invited me to wish her husband a happy 50th birthday. I skipped doing so, though my bride gave me a copy of David Marannis’ biography of Obama for my birthday, which comes a few weeks after his. This is a fascinating read of a president born of two cultures — Kenya and Kansas — and raised largely by his grandparents in Hawaii. I had hoped to finish it by Election Day but didn’t quite make it. I collect presidential biographies and have a bookshelf devoted to them.

By mid-September I was deleting the emails without even reading them. Then one arrived from Beyoncè, the beautiful R&B singer with the subject line, “I don’t usually email you.” That is definitely true. I had to read that one. She and her husband Jay-Z were going to host a dinner with the presidential couple in New York in late September. If I donated $25, I would be eligible to win a chance to attend. Beyoncè would cover the airfare and hotel. Or maybe Jay-Z would.

I didn’t bite, remembering Oscar Mauzy. Odds were great I would not win the trip, though it would have been very cool to dine with the Obamas. I would jump at the chance to eat dinner with any president, even Franklin Pierce or Calvin Coolidge. But once a candidate’s campaign gets its hooks in you, the pressure only increases. Soon I would be getting emails and robo-calls from Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne. My checkbook stayed in my pocket.

Toward the end of the campaign, Joe Biden became testy with subject lines such as “Look, This is Serious,” and “This Will be Blunt.” I expected no less out of the fellow from Scranton. When it was clear Obama had won re-election, just after 11 p.m., I received a final email from him saying thanks.

It was nothing, really. I voted, but that’s all. Honestly.


This was the 10th presidential election in which I have voted. I am batting .500. The first — and only presidential candidate — for whom I volunteered died a few weeks ago. George McGovern was 90 when he died. He is remembered for losing badly to Richard Nixon in 1972. Nixon, of course, resigned in disgrace two years later in the wake of the Watergate cover-up. I have several biographies of him as well.

My small and insignificant role was as McGovern’s campaign chairman for Gregg County. A local labor leader drafted me along with some other high school students to man a small office in the old KFRO building, which was next to the downtown post office on Methvin Street in downtown Longview. We called ourselves Democrats for McGovern, in reaction to a considerably larger group in the county called Democrats for Nixon. The fact that McGovern’s local campaign effort was run — if you could call it that — by a long-haired high-school senior who wasn’t old enough to vote (I was 17) should have been a warning sign. But we had fun hanging out in the office after school and on weekends.

McGovern was a decent man, a decorated World War II bomber pilot with a doctorate in history, who remained a steady voice for progressivism ideals for four decades after that loss. I admired his integrity and his intellect, if not his ability to run a presidential campaign.

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