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.

Tags: Doug Schoen, Hillary Clinton, Mark Penn (all tags)



Re: DC Pollster Culture

Actually, it's more like we handed over the keys to our car to a drunk driver who didn't even like us, and thought he was a beneficiary on our life insurance policy, and not only didn't notice for fifteen years but covered our ears when someone tried to tell us.

And then we wondered why we had been in so many near fatal accidents.

by mjshep 2007-04-27 02:43PM | 0 recs

Just in case any of you are wondering why so many Democratic politicians are so fucked up on healthcare issues...more than once I've run into these celebrity pollsters/publicists/strategizers at one event or another and chatted with them about healthcare...and the majority of them have big, fat drug company contracts.  And you don't want to piss off Daddy, do you?

by California Nurses Shum 2007-04-28 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

Beautiful post. The drunk driver thing. Awesome. Uncoverint and sharing the kinds of facts you do here is the kind of thing that keeps MyDD great.

by demondeac 2007-04-27 02:44PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

It's times like this I'm so glad I don't watch TV. I read the debate transcript this morning and had no problem making a list of Top 10 Reasons I'm Proud to be a Democrat.

I find it incredibly exciting how the discourse has changed since a year ago. We're now have discussion the best way to get Universal Health Care. We're trying to figure out if a Carbon Tax is needed instead of just Cap and Trade. That's not to even mention how the conversation on our occupation of Iraq has changed.

I'll take anyone of our candidates over any one of their candidates any day. Any one of the stage last night would be a major upgrade from Pres. Bush.

by WVaBlue 2007-04-27 03:55PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture


Here's the link for Penn, Schoen, Berland.

I wouldn't be surprised if those guys have been big players in peddling the 'free trade' nonsense.

by global yokel 2007-04-27 04:09PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

  I wish someone would confront these clowns in a public setting and ask them, point blank, WHY ARE YOU A DEMOCRAT?

 Seriously. If they hate Democratic values and the party's base so much, why would they bother to publicly identify with the party?

by Master Jack 2007-04-27 04:30PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

"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."

Amen!  Nothing I can add.  Exactly right, Matt.

by littafi 2007-04-27 04:34PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

I dunno...this guy make a lot of sense.

For a Republican that is, I don't care what he calls himself he's a frikin' Republican.

The sort of fifth-columnist who is placed with the enemy lines to destroy them from the rear.

The fact that he has been deeply entangled with Big Puppy and The Hill tells me that....

She is not what we need in the White House.

Be interesting to find out where his money actually comes from.

Ya know?

by Pericles 2007-04-27 04:55PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

The money comes from major corporations & trade associations.

by howardpark 2007-04-27 05:36PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

To put it mildly, people like Schoen just don't understand blogs (I can't speak about him personally, just his peers in general).  I run into a fair number of people who work maybe one level under Schoen and they often have hilarious misconceptions about blogs.  Some really do believe, for example, that Kos puts out talking points every morning and that people like Matt Stoller have taken some special sort of blood oath to spread the Kos message.  They really believe that stuff.  Some of them think blogs are sort of like the Catholic Church with a strict hierarchy.  They just can't think of the world in any other way than a top down model.

by howardpark 2007-04-27 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

My first instinct would be to wonder if any of these folks like Schoen and his colleagues actually log onto dKos or MyDD or even a Z-lister like Blast Off! to see firsthand how the blogs work.

But I know the answer to that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go look at the weekend talking points.  This blood oath ain't going away ...

by Sinfonian 2007-04-28 05:27AM | 0 recs
Fuck these fuckers

Just as well, continue to build the new power center. Next time you tap us, I'm in for $300.

by MikeB 2007-04-27 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

This is a message we need to hammer home over and over.  One of the most powerful attributes of the blogs is that we have so many different people looking at these things.  We need to identify more people like this in the Democratic rank and file and continuously attack them until they lose all credibility.  That's one of the best ways to take the party back.  Nice post.

by BobbyWallace 2007-04-27 05:50PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture - Nice Rant!

You mean you should be paid?!  You have living expenses not subsidized by  pharma or tobacco?

You're such a loser ;-))

I assume that we bloggers are viewed as Huns, tools, and f*ckups.  Our job is to function as the Big Internet ATM Machine in order to enable consultants.  

Funny thing, however...  the Rovian RNC servers have been dissected on the b-l-o-g-s.  Ummmmm... would that be where people with technical skills tend to gravitate?  D'ya think they might know more about servers than your average consultant or your average newsie?  

Funny thing, also, how Josh Marshall at TPM has created a virtual online Document Dive for analyzing DoJ doc dumps.

Funny thing, how Chris Bowers and MyDD did some Google-bombing Fall 2006.

So, hey.  I say the next time that the consultants want you to spread their mantra (for FREE!), make 'em an offer:  after THEY Google-bomb, after THEY create a gigantic virtual community for Document Diving (for FREE!), and after THEY figure out (for FREE!) how Rove and Bu$hCo stole the election on RNC servers that were co-hosting Ohio electoral data ...

Tell 'em to go initialize a snippet that'll extract their head from their arse long enough to grasp the bald fact that good things in this world are worth paying for -- and only creeps want something for nothing.

Keep ranting.  

by readerOfTeaLeaves 2007-04-27 06:24PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

I just want to point out that there are good political, small consultant out there.  I am a consultant.  I read this page everyday and consider myself a progressive Dem.  Of course, I am not one of the major consultants that are often discussed here.  But I did want to point out that there are some good folks in the business.  

by Marylander 2007-04-27 06:25PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

Ditto. On all points.

by domma 2007-04-27 07:55PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

Same here--I usually work on staff for campaigns, but sometimes I do contract consulting.  The thing about Schoen is that he isn't just a clueless consultant, but he seems to have also HIRED a clueless consultant for himself!

I'm sorry, but just how out of it does someone need to be to think that a.) MyDD and dKos are big on the whole guest blogger thing, and b.) that you can't post what you want on MyDD or Kos without the express blessing of the site owners?  The last race I worked, the first thing I did was sign the campaign up for accounts on the big name blogs and start doing posts, many of which would get on the rec list within ten or fifteen minutes, simply by virtue of us, as a campaign, having shown a desire to engage the netroots in a conversation of equals.  The thing about the lefty blogosphere is how damned democratic so many parts of it are--sure, Kos and Jerome and Matt and Chris are going to post their stuff where it's easiest to see, but good writing and insightful ideas will find a way to shine through (and hell, on Kos you can even vote for who gets front-page posting abilities--pretty damn democratic way to do things).

The paradigm shift concerning online politics has been happening since at least 2003.  There's simply no excuse for a blog-based consultant like the schmos at blog-guests.com to not understand how we operate online, and there's especially no excuse for not being familiar enough with the Great Orange Satan and MyDD to know that you don't need anyone's blessing to stop in and say hello to all of us.

by Jay R 2007-04-27 10:35PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

There are consultants, and then there are conslutants.

(Sorry, it was a typo that came when I tried to post at Ezra Klein's blog, but one I felt really shouldn't be wasted  :-)  )

by killjoy 2007-04-27 11:21PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

You wrote: "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"

Even if they did donate to progressive netroots organizations it doesn't mean you must or should become a left wing dittohead. You should probably give a little thought to exactly what obligations are due to a big donor. Sooner or later that issue is going to come up.

Personally, I'd say if it's not in tune with MyDD's orientation and mission, then it's not getting any play. But maybe that's too idealistic.

by billybob 2007-04-27 07:15PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

I received an email back explaining that Schoen was not exactly blog savvy or something, and needed help in that regard. Yeah, no kidding.

Seriously, Doug.  Go to Blogger.com and click the big orange start button.  Do it now.  You'll figure it out.  It's even free.

Fer cryin' out loud.  It just ain't that complicated.

by karichisholm 2007-04-27 08:32PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

Plus, that's the lamest excuse I've ever heard, since that wasn't Doug writing the stupid-ass email asking for a guest spot, but a supposed "blog booking agent" with some fly-by-night consulting outfit designed to get people booked as guest bloggers.  So presumably the letters were written by someone claiming to be an expert on the blogosphere.  Priceless!

by Jay R 2007-04-27 10:37PM | 0 recs
Schoen got Venezuelan election wrong by a

Penn and Schoen, which i'm not sure if it's link to Doug Schoen, predicted that Hugo Chavez would lose the 2004 referendum by 20%.
At the end, the opposite occured: Chavez beat his opposition by 20%.

A 40% margin of error.

by kingsbridge77 2007-04-27 08:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Schoen got Venezuelan election wrong by a

Sure, but that wasn't necessarily because the polling was flawed. It was because they wanted Hugo Chavez to lose by 20%.

by Englishlefty 2007-04-28 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

Chris, thank you for finally laying into 'em.  I'm sick and tired of DINOs and DLCers running this party into the ground.  They are this party's past, not the future.  We are the future.

by joshuaj83 2007-04-28 01:38AM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

The biggest move in taking the party back from the DINO Establishment and the DLC'ers was making Howard Dean DNC chair.

I credit him more than any individual for making the 2006 Democratic gains reality, and there's no major player on the national scene, IMO, with a better understanding of the operations - and the power - of the netroots.

Absolutely right - the DINOsaurs are becoming extinct.  :)

by Sinfonian 2007-04-28 05:24AM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

Agreed.  More than once, I've thought that Dean's experience as a physician has proven invaluable to national politics.

His has been the most astute diagnosis, followed by a treatment plan, that I can ever recall.  (And I say that as someone who'd utterly given up on  Dem politics, voted bipartisan for over 20 years, and nearly gave up voting  completely before Dean came along.)

He's reality-based.
He doesn't simply try to finisse, nor 'market' his way out of problems.  

He appears to have a physician's committment to healing, renewing, and revitalizing.  We are extremely fortunate.

by readerOfTeaLeaves 2007-04-28 12:44PM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture
Democrats should push back about the Republican charge that they have not defined themselves. I don't think the Repubican mantra of pre-emptive war, favoring the rich and entertaining no alternatives other than privatization to the impending entitlement meltdown is a winning gambit. And perhaps Democrats ought to be asking if Ann Coulter and other rabid right-wing pundits define the Republican party.
What have Democrats failed to define about themselves after all? I'm not sure where I get my wild ideas, but the party stands for a lot of the things I support. They must be doing something right even if they aren't able to turn the country around in a few months, especially with an obstinate dogmatic president in power.
by findingavoice 2007-04-28 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

Matt, bulls eye again.

May I humbly suggest that any time you get a request for guest blogging from big name FOX Democrats, you send them an official donation email for $1000 & up (have boxes to check: $1000, $2000, $5000, $10,000, %25000) & see their response. Note that this does not obligate you in any way regarding blogging privileges but is rather intended to support the work you're doing in spreading the message.

by carter1 2007-04-28 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: DC Pollster Culture

Going after these guys is one very important reason I donate money to support MYDD.

by johnalive 2007-04-28 09:04AM | 0 recs


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