A common reaction to ChangeRoots is: “Why am I giving money to someone’s electoral opponent? I don’t want to give some politician money just because their opponent did something I dislike, that doesn’t make sense to me.”
Learn more about why I created ChangeRoots and what it is.
That is a rational reaction. I’d like to explain why we very intentionally designed hitting “do better” to send money to a politician’s opponent. The short answer is that it is an effective negative reinforcement. Lobbyists, billionaires and advocacy groups have used this method for decades.
The point of ChangeRoots is to give people a tool to effectively deliver both positive and negative reinforcement to politicians for their actions. In an earlier post I lay out how reinforcement is most effective if it is immediate, specific and impactful. Building upon that premise, in order to devise an impactful negative reinforcement for a politician, it must be something that has a meaningful negative consequence for them. When you decide to give their opponent money, you make it more likely that politician loses their next election. If you believe politicians are primarily motivated by getting re-elected, something we believe, then by giving to their opponent you have now delivered an impactful consequence.
Parenting & Political Giving
To illustrate the point let’s take a parenting scenario. You have twin 13-year old girls, Jane and Annie, who both love to sit in the front seat on the way to school. Normally, you alternate which girl gets to sit in the front. However, this morning Jane is disrespectful to you. Since it was her turn to sit in the front, you make Jane sit in the back while Annie sits in the front. You have delivered an immediate, specific and impactful negative reinforcement to Jane for being disrespectful by depriving her of something she cares about. At the same time Annie got a “reward” by getting to sit in the front seat. She was rewarded not because of her actions, but simply because it made her sister’s negative reinforcement more effective.
As citizens we have very limited ways to deliver effective positive or negative reinforcement. Voting is the most powerful, but you can only vote once an election and holding your vote hostage to all actions your politician takes is unrealistic and ineffective. On the other hand, campaign contributions represent one of the most effective forms of reinforcement, something elites and corporations realized long ago. We as a nation have a long history of funding the electoral opponent of a politician as punishment for policy betrayal.
This tool has been primarily used by those with resources to push their own agenda for the country. But I believe people know what is best for themselves and for the country, not elites. That’s why at ChangeRoots we’ve made it simple for regular people effectively punish politicians. It’s time you get to use this powerful tool. Funding an opponent works, I can’t wait to see what happens.