I don't have millions of dollars to do in-depth polling. That's probably one of the many reasons I'm not part of the DC elite, who recycle consulting money around like it was a money laundering business for the mafia. I learned from independent advertising guru Bill Hillsman that the best opinion polling you can do is with your ears and your gut, anyway.
So when the story about the Congressional Democrats reform package was linked here at Huffington Post, I skimmed the story itself and immediately went to the comments section to do some real message testing.
The strong majority of you, the readers, were underwhelmed with the legislative package that includes a total gift ban, an extension of the cooling off period before a Member can become a lobbyist, and more time to read legislation before voting.
A poster named PC wrote, "I really don't think we need new rules as bad as we need new political parties."
100Below chimed in with, "Our house is burning... I hope Harry comes at it with more than a water pistol."
Mort wasn't too kind either. He wrote, "Honest and Leadership are two words that just don't go together in Washington, on any side."
Gail had a little more of an open mind, but sounded skeptical, writing, "Will be interesting to hear what it says in its entirety. I hope it's not going to be another bandaid - that would be worse than no proposal at all."
Chavez08 posted, "Yeah, that's it, legislation!! It's worked great so far, - just let Washington keep governing themselves so we can get back to sleep-walking..."
Shiela was pretty incensed with the proposal. She said, "The Big Solution all these "reformers" are proposing is that they can still take as much as they want, but they must "report it!" I don't want a report! I want an honest politician who works for ME, not for Casinos, Halliburton, Pharmaceutical Companies, Enron, or any other company or industry."
The interestingly named stupidforum bestills my heart with his suggestion that ties back to my first job working on campaign finance reform.: "Reid's little buck and wing don't mean a thing unless he's ready to back up a Clean Money/Clean Elections law...Better yet make that a Clean Money/Clean Elections amendment to the US Constitution."
Bimplebean wrote in that the proposal fell way short, and proposed seven things that should be part of a reform package, including prohibiting corporate donations, forbidding electeds from ever lobbying, and providing more public financing of campaigns.
Weeks ago, Flavia Colgan wrote a blog about where she thought the Dems should go with their reform proposal, noting the need to come out very strong on cleaning government. Her theory was that most Americans think everyone is guilty and the problem is systemic. Therefore, the party that proposed a truly radical change to the system would benefit. My gut feeling was that she was right, and that was the way the Dems should go. I tried to get everyone I knew in the party to read that piece.
Of course, that was just my gut feeling, and I didn't expect the party would listen to one shlub like me with a gut feeling. HuffPost might not be totally representative of America, but you are all very in tune to the public debate, and I am guessing, reliable voters. Many of you are independent voters. So, if you are underwhelmed, I feel pretty confident in saying that I think the majority of voters Dems want to reach out to will be underwhelmed by the "reform" agenda that's being presented this week.
So fine, Dems shouldn't listen to me. But maybe if the Democrats invested more time in listening to people like you, instead of having pollsters tell them what they want to hear (i.e., "People love the idea of incremental ethics reform!") they would finally get it right.