On the left wing, "stick" motivators are often considered unsavory and somewhat barbaric words like punishment are rarely used. On the right wing, the "stick" motivators are inherently more valued, from military retribution to capital punishment. Underpinning the right wing orientation is a belief that humans need to be accountable for themselves and their actions, and therefore they need to feel serious consequences when they do something against the law or societal standards.
Instead of debating whether this is the best motivator for human growth, let's approach the issue more pragmatically: conservatives are saying that they personally do not trust human nature without "stick" punishments to keep people in line. This can also be read as a confession: we need strong consequences for mistakes to ensure we take personal responsibility.
A revealing thing is happening with this fall's election. Republican candidates across the country are scrubbing two things from their websites, speeches, and campaign materials: George W. Bush and the Iraq War. One race I read about prominently featured web pictures of the candidate with John McCain at a fundraiser and made no mention of the fundraiser that featured the President. Across the board, Republicans are trying to make the elections focus on individual candidates and local politics. What is really happening is that they are tacitly admitting that they have made two major errors of judgment: lock-step support of a misguided President, and an expensive, botched, and deceptive war with Iraq.
Instead, all of America is bearing the consequences of these decisions. Even many right-wing pundits are seeing George W. Bush as having led America in the wrong direction, and there are few people who do not see the Iraq war as a failure.
This brings us back to the conservative approach to motivation. If the Republican Party does not feel serious consequences for the failures that it is now tacitly admitting, it will not improve, reform, or come back into integrity. It has wielded power these last few years and there is nowhere else to lay the blame for major mistakes. If elected Republicans refuse to offer solutions or to bear the consequences, instead playing a shell-game with the American people, it is beholden upon Americans from across the political spectrum to reduce the party's power.
If we have the usual Democratic-Republican tug-of-war with a high percentage sitting jaded on the sidelines, that will not happen. However, if Americans as a whole admit that something has gone quite wrong with the Republican party right now, it becomes a trans-partisan issue to rebalance the scales of power. Conservatives who can't bear to vote Democratic can abstain from voting or vote Libertarian. For moderates who see that both major parties are potentially problematic and need to be balanced, voting Democratic ensures there are some checks on Republican power in the next two years.
I see it as a moral obligation for all citizens of America to ensure that the Republican Party breaks the spiral of power intoxication, ethical decay, and arrogance that is leading it far away from the healthy expression of conservative values.
We Americans need to remember that politicians are our employees. And when political parties as a whole go awry, it is beholden upon us as the employers to ensure accountability. Otherwise, it is we the people who bear the consequences rather than those who are the source of the decisions.