A number of political candidates over the years have recounted the experience of raising too much money, too much of the time, for their campaigns. They find it awkward and embarrassing to ask for the money, and the pace and intensity of this fundraising consume too much time that could be diverted to more productive uses. They understand the suspicions it raises in those looking on from the outside. Congressman Steve Israel is the most recent to write about experience, and he is a respected elected official whose contribution to this narrative will not be ignored. Israel is not talking about fundraising events to which tickets are sold, or about appeals on line or in the mail. It is about the person asked for money face to face, or ear to ear: the direct “ask”, which will be answered positively, negatively, or somewhere in between. It is a personal appeal, but one that is managed and strained: the candidate crammed in the cubicle with a phone, staff at his side, reading off notecards with bits of data about the fundraising target on the other end of the line.
Reform theorists worry about the risk in this contact of trading policy for money, or about the dangers of intense association over time with people who have lots of money. On the conscious level, the politician may be tempted to offer something for cash; on the subconscious level, he simply may come to prefer the company of rich people and identify with their policy objectives and interests.
But it can be more complicated than that. Gift theorists—not to be confused with reform theorists—tell us that the psychology of giving and receiving is never simple. William Ian Miller has written that “central to the notion of the gift is the way in which reciprocity is effected and enforced,” and this is tricky business, because gift giving and receiving have the potential to “threaten, humiliate, annoy, manipulate, and vex.” William Ian Miller, Humiliation (1993), 21, 23.
Full Article: The Politician and the Gift –.