The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion I thought Democrats would appreciate my first-ever donation. I was wrong.

Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned with Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin and others in Madison, Wis., where he criticized Trump's response to the Pit (Video: Reuters)

John Emshwiller is a retired reporter living in Portland, Ore.

I recently made my first-ever campaign contribution to the Democratic Party. A short time later, I discovered I had snubbed and perhaps insulted President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

I certainly didn’t mean to. When I went online Oct. 23 and put $250 on my Visa card for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (plus a suggested $10 tip for volunteers who were doing something or other to keep the wheels of democracy rolling), I didn’t expect any notice from party leaders. I was wrong.

My decades-long failure to throw a few coins into the electoral ring didn’t come from a lack of interest in politics. For 44 years, I was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, which takes a very dim view of newsroom employees showing any political partisanship.

Early last year, I retired from the Journal. I had long been a registered Democrat but hardly a fervent one. I think it’s hard to be a fervent Democrat. So, initially, I stayed on the same partisan sideline I had occupied for decades.

Ultimately, though, President Trump is a very persuasive fundraiser.

For a few hours after kicking in my money, I felt pretty good. Maybe my contribution — tiny among the political megabucks — would in some small way help Democrats win the House and provide a little more restraint on a president whose idea of self-control seems to be ending a tweet with only three exclamation points.

My good cheer lasted until 1:58 p.m. when a text message from the DCCC announced “our entire world just SHATTERED.” It seemed “EVERYONE is reporting the Democrats could LOSE the House,” and with it all the accomplishments of Obama. Would I, the text asked, be one of 4,473 Democrats to pitch in $5 before midnight to save Obama’s legacy?

I was a little surprised that a presidential legacy could be saved for just $22,365. And I probably should have tossed in my $5. But having just kicked in 50 times that amount (plus the $10 tip), I figured I had already helped cement more than 1 percent of Obama’s accomplishments.

At 4:48 p.m. that day, things seemed to be looking up as a text message proclaimed, “Trump COLLAPSES.” However, in the rest of the message, the president sounded quite un-collapsed as he had “launched a MASSIVE election tour” to “SINGLE-HANDEDLY edge us out” of winning the House. Happily, the number of loyal Democrats needed to pitch in $5 each had fallen to 2,148. I didn’t become 2,149.

My mistake.

By Oct. 25, my ante for helping save the Republic had jumped 3,660 percent to $188. I have yet to figure out how they came up with that number.

This bad financial news came from Dan Sena, the DCCC’s executive director, whose email also included a “Democratic Values Survey,” which asked which of 15 issues I most cared about. The list didn’t include climate change. Call me an alarmist, but with the Earth resembling a toaster-oven that has no off switch (and us being the toast), I thought my political party might include global warming on the list of things to care about.

After Dan came Nancy, Barack and Joe asking for that $188. Then Nancy again to remind me that I had already ignored her, Barack and Joe. As an added inducement, she promised to “personally triple-match” my contribution. I was almost overwhelmed by such generosity. Almost.

Along with more messages from that Big Three, lesser — though still distinguished — Democratic voices joined the chorus: former secretaries of state John F. Kerry and Madeleine K. Albright, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) and last (well, probably not) but hardly least, Jimmy Carter, who I’ll happily support as the best ex-president ever. Madeleine mentioned I had also been asked by Hillary Clinton, but I haven’t seen anything from her. Perhaps she’s having trouble with her email server.

Nowhere in any of these high-powered missives did anyone acknowledge that I had just given the party more than $188. It reminded me of the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sentiment that I found so endearing in some of my former editors.

Still, despite the Democratic Party’s best efforts, on Halloween I kicked in another $50 ($250 if you count the improved quadruple match dangled before me). After all, Donald Trump is a very persuasive fundraiser.

Read more:

Dana Milbank: The GOP is buying the House. Literally.

The Post’s View: The river of dark money just got darker and wider

Bertram J. Levine and Michael Johnston: Campaign contributions should be anonymous

Eric Peterson: Publicly funded campaigns haven’t lived up to expectations anywhere. Why would they in D.C.?