April 1999

By David Trumbull

Return to Sender


Feeling lonesome, forgotten? Just once give money to a political cause, or subscribe to a magazine with an ideological bent, and you'll never again want for mail to read. Months go by with no letters from my family. Friends never write. But everyday my box overflows with appeals to become a "charter member," respond to an important "survey," or learn that "help is here!" And that's just from the envelopes of recent political mailings.

Envelopes--large, small, brown, white, colored, self-mailers--when it come to messages, political mail houses know how to stuff it. Only amateur outfits use plain white number ten envelopes. The big boys of the fund-raising racket have graduated to oversized six-by-nine inch envelopes--or even bigger, up to a foot long. Last week's political mailings came in envelopes a full 15 inches long. I ask myself whether this is somehow connected to Bob Dole on the TV flogging Viagra?

For Official Use Only

"Postmaster: Deliver to Addressee Only," says the large print on the package. Now that begs the question, "What does the postmaster usually do? Hand my mail out to random strangers? Each piece bears all the marks of official correspondence, entrusted to the care of the U.S. Postal Service (even if only at the 13.8 cent bulk rate), expedited for my immediate action.

Do I agree that "students should be sent home from school for saying grace silently over lunch?" asks a conservative religious group's "official survey." Surely the tally on that question will be close. The Republicans want to know if I think that "Tax Cuts that benefit all Americans, not just the Democrats' special interests" are important. I bet congressional Republicans are even now waiting for my answer. Then again, given some of their recent cave-ins on tax cuts, maybe they think there actually is a Republican constituency for tax cuts for Democrats' special interests.

Once, I answered a questionnaire as if the sender actually wanted my answers. The organization, National Right to Work Committee, lobbies for issues--mainly the right to choose one's own associates--that I support. Still, it is not a group that I choose to join. To the survey question "do you consider yourself a member of the NRWC?" I responded "No," and wrote in that I would, nevertheless, like to receive their newsletter. I also enclosed, to help pay for mailing the newsletter, a small contribution, well below the indicated membership fee. Back comes a form letter thanking me for renewing my membership. Enclosed was a membership card.

Gold cards, cards in every hue, all made to look like credit cards, complete with card numbers and expiration dates--I gotta slew of 'em. In the past three years I have received nearly 50 of these cards from the Republican National Committee, the Massachusetts Republican Party, The Heritage Foundation, The Concord Coalition, and several other organizations, most of which I have not given money to.

Presidential election years are the best. In 1996 I got 11 membership cards just from the Republican National Committee. I can hardly wait to see what 2000 brings.

Recently the Christian Coalition sent me a solicitation for a real credit card--a Visa at the usurious rate of 17 percent. Usually rates that high are accompanied by complementary leg-breaking if you fall behind on payments. Perhaps they'll repossess my soul.

Giving your name to these vultures just to get more mail is a Faustian bargain to be sure. But, I'll always have my genuine color photocopy of a photo of Ronald Reagan and my secret decoder ring with the combination to the safe in Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office.

Keep those cards and letters coming.


David Trumbull is Chairman of the Cambridge Republican City Committee.