DC Pollster Culture

In honor of Ezra's piece criticizing DC pollster-for-sale Doug Schoen, here's a prediction made by Schoen prior to 2006.

The 2006 Congressional elections thus far are a missed opportunity for Democrats to lay out an agenda for change that both unifies the party and presents them to the electorate as the logical (and acceptable) alterative to what the Republicans are offering America today.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have simply not done a credible job defining who they are or what they stand for. Their rationale today is simply a litany of individual top scoring policy proposals, and not an agenda to move the country forward by addressing the common good.

I enjoyed this prediction.

In order for Democrats to fully benefit politically from Republican failures and begin to position themselves for success in 2008, their Common Good agenda must address these matters and move away from the pie-in-the-sky political rhetoric that promises healthcare and college for all. The consensus in the minds of the public is to move away from policies that seek to redistribute wealth and pursue market based solutions instead.

Schoen is a paid contributor to Fox News, and didn't disclose it in his interview when he was on the radio bashing Moveon during the Fox News/Nevada Democratic Party scuffle.

Oh, and both the way, he's done a lot of work for pharma, and tends not to disclose it in editorial pieces unless pushed very hard. Schoen was a very important pollster in the 1990s, business partners with Hillary Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn until fairly recently. People like him are the reason the party is so messed up. It's like we handed over the keys to our car to a drunk driver and didn't notice for fifteen years.

Update (Chris): I just have to pile on this one. I received exactly the same email Markos posted on Dailykos, word for word, requesting some front-page time for Doug Schoen. I mean, it was exactly the same, except that it was address to me instead of Markos. It is so utterly out of touch with the world of the blogosphere that it is hard to fathom. It is as though diaries don't exist, and that in order to submit an op-ed I have to be approached in the same manner of an op-ed page editor. I emailed the guy back, linking to a recent article I wrote ripping Doug Schoen, and told him that if I was interested in further debate I would write another post, and if Schoen was actually interested in further conversation that he could just post a diary (or just email me directly, which I did not actually write in my email response). I received an email back explaining that Schoen was not exactly blog savvy or something, and needed help in that regard. Yeah, no kidding.

I want to point this out not just to rip on Doug Schoen, but to rip on the entire DC consultant culture that views people like me as nothing more than megaphones and bulletin boards for their message. Like I am just hear to echo them. What really pisses me off about it is how I am constantly being told what I need to be blogging about (which is always whatever topic someone else is working on) even though those people are quite wealthy, have never offered bloggers one iota of support, and don't even understand bloggers at all. It is all just so fucking elitist and patronizing that I want to scream. It is quite literally and attitude that people like me exist in order to support our Democratic betters. They don't give a single shit what I think, or even how I pay the rent. All they want to do is use me to help increase their message.

It need to be understood that this is a problem that is by no means specific to Doug Schoen. However, at the same time, it needs to be understood that the negative things we say about Doug Schoen need to be understood not as just dismissing DC consultant culture in general, but much more specifically about hating on Doug Schoen in particular. It is Doug Schoen's individual actions that piss me off, and whatever vague conclusions we draw about DC consultant culture based on Doug Schoen's actions, it needs to be remembered that we are always specifically hating on Doug Schoen more than on DC consultant culture in general. Making generalizations from particulars is always difficult, and it seems ahrd to imagine that all that many Democratic consultants engage in behavior as egregiously awful as Schoen. The only generalization I like to draw is that people like Schoen are openly tolerated at the highest levels of Democratic consultant and political culture, and that tolerance for this kind of behavior is demonstrative of a serious problem we face. Regular failure to disclosure conflicts of interest, overt ignorance of new media, and elitist, patronizing behavior toward the Democratic rank and file would result in progressive blogosphere death. And I don't mean that a combination of those three would be a problem, I mean any of those would be a problem that would basically result in exile. However, apparently in D.C., it results in consultant stardom that no elected officials are willing to speak out against. It is left to poor saps like me to finally push back when one too many Democratic free loaders in DC go too far in demanding that we spread their message and do their work for them without ever expecting any support in return for ourselves. I mean, of course we are supposed to post their op-eds no matter what they say, but heaven forbid their Leadership PACs donate to progressive netroots organizations, or even that bloggers be defended in the established media. We might as well just be interns who should be grateful for supporting the Democratic cause, rather than valued members of a broader political community.

Lots more on this in the coming week. For now, I just had to vent.

There's more...

Doug Schoen To Democrats: Cave On Iraq

It is nice to see Democratic consultants trying to divide and undermine Democrats in the ongoing battle with Republicans over Iraq. I mean, we wouldn't want a united party of anything during this fight, because I can't possible imagine that would help us:
A dangerous game of 'chicken' for Democrats

By Doug Schoen | April 23, 2007

DEMOCRATS and Republicans in Washington are headed toward a showdown. At issue is how to provide an additional $100 billion in supplemental funding to support American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Congressional Democrats are intent on passing legislation that will include a requirement -- or at least a call -- to bring the troops home next year. President Bush insists he will accept no such provision, even if it means vetoing legislation that would provide badly needed money for the troops in the field. The American people, he maintains, will fault Democrats if that happens.

In short, the politicians in Washington are playing a high stakes game of chicken -- one whose outcome will change the balance of power and have a profound effect on the 2008 presidential elections.(...)

Democrats should not be misled by polls showing that most Americans support the idea of cutting off funding for the war unless benchmarks of success are reached. Of course they do, in the abstract. But Bush's counterargument -- that Democrats are prepared to undermine troops in the field -- will be a powerful one, in part because it is far more concrete than Democrats' complex, poll-tested plan.

In short, Democrats would do well to compromise. If that means accepting a "clean" supplemental funding bill, so be it. While Democrats must continue to criticize the prosecution of the war and the Bush administration's failure to promote political reconciliation, they should also recognize that the public has not yet elected a new commander in chief.
Democrats are "playing chicken?" They should "compromise" by doing exactly what Bush wants--pass a "clean" supplemental bill? They will be blamed for abandoning troops in the field? They should ignore polling showing public support for timetables and withdrawal? This is so anti-Democratic, it is barely even triangulating. This is basically just a stream of Republican talking points on Iraq that seeks to divide the Democratic Party, sprinkled with a few neo-liberal hawk talking points like "Democrats must continue to criticize the prosecution of the war" without ever mentioning that the war was a bad idea or that withdrawal is a good idea.

The regularity with which DLC-nexus Democratic consultants publicly triangulate against their own party and attack Democratic Congressional leaders while employing Republican talking points is a constant drag on our electoral and legislative efforts. The lack of disclosure in these attacks, and the complete lack accountability these consultants face for such attacks, is particularly grotesque. For example, in the recent past, Doug Schoen has publicly attacking MoveOn.org and defended Fox over the Nevada debate, without disclosing that he is a paid commenter on Fox News, and also posted anti-Democratic messaging on Medicare drug benefits without disclosing that the polling information he gathered for the article was commissioned by pharmaceutical companies. Schoen seems to basically exist in order to provide anti-Democratic messaging in public on any major political battle Democrats currently face, often without disclosing his conflicts on interest on the matter. Shouldn't there be some form of reprisal for this behavior in terms of lost business among Democratic campaigns, or at least in the form public smackdowns from prominent Democrats for his regular lack of disclosure and divisive anti-Democratic messaging? Do we just let our consultants run wild and never hold them accountable? It certainly seems to be the case, and the tacit approval that many leading Democrats give to such behavior by continuing to hire firms like Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates despite Schoen's actions demonstrates that it probably won't come to an end anytime soon. Right now, attacking and dividing Democrats is a profitable business for Doug Schoen, and for several other "Democratic" consultants as well. As long as that is the case, expect DLC-nexus consultant attacks against Democrats to continue unabated.

Update: Commenter tgeraghty directs us to a recent post by Matthew Yglesias on this very subject.

Fox-Paid Pollster Doug Schoen Bashes Moveon, Backs Fox

Here's Doug Shoen on the Fox News scuffle.

Schoen: "I agree with Dennis Kucinich.  I think you want to go on Fox. I think you want to try to hold them to the same standards you hold everybody else. But to sort of see this in terms of power politics, leverage, I think is very much contrary to the intrerests of democracy and the Democratic Party. I think you want to go on Fox. I think you want to present your ideas, and I think one of the best ways to have as broad a debate as possible is to have the sort of co-sponsorships that Nevada considered and unfortunately in my judgement dropped.

Host Warren Olmey: What about the argument, as Adam Green contends, that that legitimizes Fox. That they are part of what he refers to as a right-wing smear machine.

Schoen: Well, A. They're not a right wing smear machine. B I don't think that tryingt to something media as part of partisan politics is a healthything to do. I wouldn't say that Air America couldn't sponsor debates. I think it woudl be great if Air America sponsored debates in the Republican Party as well as the Demcoratic PArty. I think this is a very very bonechilling trend. And I think given that Senator Harry Reid was one of those who was involved in embracing the idea, this has really becaome - as Roger Ailes said - a case of a left-wing pressure group trying to put pressure on the Democatic Party. One other thing. Roger Ailes, and I spoke to him, his comment about Obama and Osama was a joke about President Bush. It was not, in any effort, to smear, criticize, Senator Barack Obama. It was a joke that he made to a group of broadcast journalists who he thought would get a kick out of it given that, as you said, the president is not exactly all that popular and he hasn't after all found Osama Bin Laden.  I think this is just MoveOn using this as an excuse to try to put pressure on the Democrats and on Fox to advance their narrow agenda.

..."As to whetehr Fox always does what MoveOn does, what MoveOn wants, undeniably they don't. But, you know, I think part of the fact of life is that Fox news is the highest rated cable network in America.  It's got an audience bigger than CNN and MSNBC combined, and two thirds of their audience are probably non-Republicans, they are Democrats and Independents. And for the Democrats to try to run them out or put pressure on them is again contrary to the party's interest.

Adam Green brought up Fox News exec John Moody's messaging memos to the news desk, a key lever Fox News uses to maintain message discipline.  Here's Schoen's take:

You know, I think that there are different perspectives on different networks.  And one memo taken out of context does not to me decide that an organization is worthy of being excluded or shunned.

Media Matters examined 33 memos, which suggests Schoen doesn't know what he's talking about.  Actually, it's worse than that.  Schoen is a well-respected pollster in the Democratic Party, business partners of Hillary Clinton pollster Mark Penn.  Doug Schoen is also a paid contributor to Fox News, a role he didn't disclose in this interview.

If you want to know why the Democratic Party is broken, it's because of broken, corrupt men like Doug Schoen.  They will do anything to get ahead, to make a buck, or get on TV.  Anything.  And they are the ones in the rooms giving advice to Democratic leaders on how to make decisions.

UPDATE: Oh man, this guy Schoen is just a joke. Look at this piece he wrote in October, 2006, right before the election: "Without a centrist common good agenda, public sentiment can swing back to the Republicans in 2008 as the electorate remains fiscally and socially conservative."

Unethically minded and with exquisitely awful political judgment. I think Schoen's days in the party are numbered.

There's more...


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