The House That Direct Mail Built

Josh Marshall makes an interesting find regarding campaign spending :

Turns out there’s one place GOP prez candidates spent a lot more than their Dem rivals last quarter: direct mail. Don’t want to read too much into one factoid or imply that direct mail is an outmoded campaign money technology. But it was very much a key pillar of what the late 20th century GOP machine was built on. And I would imagine the political future belongs to the digital equivalents of direct mail.

I completely disagree that this is a sign that the Republican party is “slower to make the switch” to more technologically advanced methods of voter outreach. Have you seen direct mail campaign literature? At first glance they look like nonpartisan “voter guides” that give a rundown on the various measures and candidates that will appear on the ballot. It’s only upon closer inspection that people see that they’re carefully constructed bits of Republican propaganda that give the illusion of being impartial. This is where Fox News got their “fair and balanced” trick.

Moreover, despite the higher costs, direct mail has a distinct advantage over other forms of communication. Voters may tune out political ads and instinctively delete mass emails, but they hold on to these flyers until election day. For a week or more before election day, many of the recipients of the GOP direct mail efforts see the same advertisement over and over again, whether it sits in the mail pile, used as a bookmark, or tacked to the refrigerator, these ads make a much more lasting impression than any other type of political communication.

When election day arrives, these voters pull out their “voter guide” to do some research and then march to the polls to vote the way the Republicans told them to. It’s a brilliant move, I just wish our side did it more often.