Two Democrats have bundled up and forwarded to me two separate fund appeals they recently received from conservative groups.
Both fund appeals were designed to look like questionaires, but even a cursory glance at the questions they pose make it clear they are nothing more than gimmicks designed to bring in contributions.
Do you want the Democrat House of Representatives to continue to squander your money? Do you think loafers and drug addicts should be permitted to sponge off honest taxpayers? Are you in favor of another big Democrat tax increase? Do you support President Reagan's efforts to get this country moving again? Please give us your views on these important questions and, by the way, tell us how much you'd like to contribute to our campaign against the Democrat spendthrifts.
Both "Democrat" recipients of these questionnaires consider the questions slanted and useless for serious fact-finding. Both ask why Republicans use this technique.
I am not privy to the thinking of fund-raisers, but I have myself received four letters of this kind. I assume I have gotten on various mailing lists because I subscribe to both liberal and conservative publications.
My theory is that knowledge of the outer limits of "right" and "left" can help a fellow steer a course through the main channel. The theory works rather well except that one must learn to live with its one drawback: Liberal and conservative extremists both assume you're one of them.
So I get letters. Boy, do I get letters! All of them want to do something for me . They want to give me an opportunity to contribute to a campaign fund that will save our nation from its most dangerous enemies -- those other guys.
Why do they use the "survey" or questionnaire format? I think it's because so many of us these days share Rodney Dangerfield's feeling that nobody listens when we talk. Nobody shows us no respect. Therefore when a letter arrives from the Coalition For A Better Tomorrow, or from the Association of Grass Roots Defenders of the Republic, and when that letter asks for our opinions, you'd better believe we're going to shout and our views, loud and clear. It's about the only chance we have to be heard.
And then, popped off and stated our super-patriotic views, can we do less than enclose a generous check that puts our money where our mouth is? The efficacy of this form of fund raising seems self-evident.
So one reason it is becoming more prevalent is that it works. It is productive.
Another reason, without a doubt, is that direct mail fund solicitation, like advertising generally, is a very trendy art form.
When one master of the craft uses a technique, others hasten to follow. It isn't even necessary to wait long enough to find out whether the new gimmick works. Everybody assumes that if an agency as prestigious as Poundem, Twistem & Skinnum used the gimmick, it must be productive.
When one solicitation includes a sepate sheet of paper folded to reveal the message, "Before you say 'No,' please read this," other circulars immediately pick up the idea. When one advertising insert in the Sunday paper contains two pages deliberately printed "upside down," other advertisers immediately assume that somebody has discovered an effective new way to force the reader to pay attention. When you make it necessary for him to turn the page around, you create an indelible recollection of the message in his mind, right? Of course! So every advertiser wants to do it.
And when one fund-raising letter slyly adopts the format of a questionaire, will the others be far behind? Of course not.
Only one thing remains to be explained: Why is it that all four of the "questionnaire" fund-raising solicitations I have received thus far have had a Republican or conservative slant?
The obvious answer is that Democratic fund-raising activity has been invisible to the naked eye in recent months.
When the conservatives are the only political entity active in soliciting funds, they will be the only group using old techniques, new techniques, good techniques or bad techniques.
Before there can be any discussion of what the Democrats have done to raise money, they must do something. The party should twitch occasionally, so that we'll know it's still alive.