Monday, August 17, 2009

Carrots, Not Sticks: THANK our Public Option Supporters!

The most valuable function of conventions like Netroots Nation is that they provide a venue for dedicated, highly intelligent people to network and share ideas in real time. The just-passed Netroots Nation shindig in Pittsburgh was no exception.

One of the principle ideas that kept coming up again and again from in conversations with such luminaries and Meteor Blades, Darcy Burner, Jim Dean and many others was the notion of using not just sticks, but also carrots. This idea of rewarding our friends and allies is something the wingnuts do well, and remains to be adequately learned and incorporated by the online left.

This is entirely understandable: our movement grew and matured as a distinctly opposition movement, at a time when no other serious resistance to Republican policies was being offered by Democrats in Congress or by the supposed watchdogs in the fourth estate. We screamed into the ether, made angry calls, and did all we could to be a fly in the ointment of our foes. We raised money for favored candidates like Jerry McNerney and Jim Webb to beat selected Republicans or bad Democrats; and proceeded to revile them at turns when they failed, by some accounts, to live up to their promise.

Rarely, however, have we rewarded our representatives and Senators for doing the right thing. Rarely have we engaged them in conversation, given them pedestals on which to stand, and showered them with the respect and encouragement they deserve. Here in California, Senator Dianne Feinstein has received 100 times more attention for being consistently wrong on the issues than our usually excellent Senator Boxer has received for being so consistently right.

Human beings are psychologically predictable creatures, much like Pavlov's famous canine. We do respond well to negative reinforcement, but we respond just as well if not better to positive reinforcement. Do nothing but beat a dog with a stick, and the dog is likelier to be aggressive than lovingly loyal. Do nothing but scream at a child, and the child will eventually fail to respond to the screaming. Senators and Representatives, no matter how elevated, are still just people: the rules of psychological conditioning still apply. If all we can do is scream at people who don't do what we want, eventually no one will listen to us at all.

On the issue of healthcare, the time has come to reward those Democrats who have committed to standing up for the public option by refusing to vote for a bill that does not include it. Fortunately, the always excellent folks at Democracy for America have made it easier for us to thank our healthcare heroes for doing the right thing, by giving them words of positive encouragement for continuing to stand up for the public option.

Piggybacking and expanding on that idea is an ActBlue page created by Howie Klein called Take the Pledge to financially reward those 64 representatives who are doing the right thing. This is part of an effort being put together by Jane Hamsher, Howie Klein, Darcy Burner, my brother Dante Atkins, myself and others that I am dubbing the Carrots, Not Sticks Initiative to help generate fundraising, blogosphere attention and broader media attention for members of the Progressive Caucus and for likeminded Senators. If the insurance industry and other big GOP donors are going to help reward those who dance to their tune, the least we can do is to help reward those who do what we want in whatever way we can, through the power of small-dollar fundraising.

From the ActBlue page:

These are the progressive members of Congress with the guts to stand up to Big Insurance, Big Pharma and to the pressure from their own party bosses. They stood with the American people and ordinary working families when push came to shove and both political parties decided propping up a disastrous health care system and a corrupt Insurance Industry was more important than keeping the promise made over and over to working families. These were the men and women who promised to vote against any health care reform bill that didn't include, at the minimum, a robust public option. 57 signed a letter to Speaker Pelosi and 18 took the FDL Pledge.

Democratic members of Congress need to understand that a healthcare reform bill with a Public Option is simply not an option-- it's a requirement. The congressmembers on this list have said in no uncertain terms that they will not vote for a bill without a public option all the way through Conference. That takes courage, and we need to show them how much we appreciate them for doing so. Please make a contribution-- and thanks for everything else you're doing from the public option.

If Anthony Weiner is right that there are at least 100 potential Hosue members to join this effort, their names will be included on the ActBlue recipient list. And, of course, if any Senators decide to sign on to the effort, they will be rewarded as well. The time has come to provide a real progressive incentivizing counterweight on the organizational side, to the series of positive reinforcements available to Republicans and conservative Democrats on the right.

As funds accumulate for this effort, those Democrats in very safe seats can be encouraged to donate funds to their more endangered counterparts in an effort to make maximally productive use of the money. They Took the Pledge also allows you to donate to specific candidates on the list, rather than to the list as a whole, so that individuals can determine how best to allot their financial carrots.

Please do what you can today to help reward our Democrats.

Donate at They Took The Pledge.

Send a good word for Progressive Caucus members through DFA's Thank Our Healthcare Heroes.

And join the Carrots, Not Sticks group on Facebook to learn more about other initiatives to help reward our best progressive Democrats for getting our backs.


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