Politicians & Rats (But I Repeat Myself), Negative Reinforcement Equals Gun Rights

Grass Roots North Carolina Remember in November Project
Grass Roots North Carolina Remember in November Project

Politicians are rats. And no, I don’t mean that metaphorically. (Well, maybe just a little.)

What I mean is that like rats in a Skinner box, politicians respond to pleasure and pain: positive reinforcement … and punishment. Anyone who claims subjects don’t respond to punishment is wrong. In any species, the most effective behavior modification relies on combining both. The application of those principles to learning, extensively researched by BF Skinner, is called “operant conditioning.”

Thanks to my (distant) background in physiological psychology, my organization, Grass Roots North Carolina, applies operant conditioning to politics. Imagine a rat in a Skinner box (or, more properly, an “operant conditioning chamber”). Down one alley, they find a lever which delivers a food pellet. Down the other lies an electrified floor grid. Unsurprisingly, they quickly learn which alley delivers pleasure, and which delivers pain.

Applying Operant Conditioning to Politics

The key to operant conditioning is consistency. The same results must happen each time, every time. If they don’t, “extinction” occurs, and the rat (or politician) quickly learns they can get away with unacceptable behavior without punishment, which is precisely why “friendly” politicians feel free to sell out the NRA.

Politicians, of course, respond not to food pellets (except, perhaps, very expensive gourmet food pellets), but instead to the application – or withholding – of three things: Votes, money, and power. We apply operant conditioning by tracking votes on gun issues – all gun votes – and having our political action committee, the GRNC Political Victory Fund, deliver pain and pleasure in elections via “independent expenditures” such as mailings, email, automated phone and text alerts, radio spots, and even a sophisticated method called “geofencing.”

Politicians must understand that betrayal inevitably results in election pain. For Republicans, that usually means a primary, although we have been known to go after them in the General Election as well.

One time, when a candidate refused to return a survey while running against a leftist we wanted out, we mailed 6,000-odd postcards into the district telling gun voters to vote for nobody. He lost, allowing us to later elect a superior Republican. When the first guy eventually ran for office again, he scrupulously returned our survey and has been voting right ever since. Every election, we get surveys from candidates who, in previous elections, had wandered down the electrified alley. They generally do so only once.

No Exceptions

I say all this, in part, to remind some in my leadership who have formed personal relationships with certain politicians and, accordingly, decided that all votes are not created equal – that, perhaps, some legislative votes against gun rights should be “excused.”

Like Alice down the rabbit hole, along that path lies chaos. When we track votes, each gets a “100%” or a “0%.” There are no “25s” or “50s.” And when we evaluate candidates for our “Remember in November” project, we tabulate survey scores, voting records, bill sponsorship, and leadership willingness to move bills to produce an objective evaluation of where a candidate stands. A candidate who agrees with our control group at least 90% of the time gets four stars, at least 80% gets three stars, etc.

To motivate them to return the survey, a candidate who lacks a voting record and refuses to return the survey automatically gets a “zero star” evaluation. Every election year, I field calls from irate politicians who get zeroed, claiming they “didn’t get” the survey. (Even the USPS isn’t that bad.)

Unlike the NRA, we don’t make “deals” for candidate ratings. They get what they deserve: no more, no less. The net result is politicians who vote right. A leftist House member who sponsored a mandatory gun storage bill we killed once told the state’s gun control group she had co-sponsors of the bill tell her they couldn’t vote for it.

Get a Dog

To steal from Harry Truman, if you want a friend in politics, get a dog. In 30 years of political action, I have met perhaps a dozen legislators (I hesitate to call them “politicians”) I trust, who rarely make it far in politics precisely because they are trustworthy. That’s why, unlike those in my leadership who seem to need reminders, I rarely make “friends” of politicians.

Moreover, with rare exceptions, I don’t give a flying $^@% whether politicians like me or not. Actually, I prefer they don’t. In lectures and in my book, Rules for ANTI-Radicals: A Practical Handbook for Defeating Leftism, I remark that Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern power politics, was spot-on when he said:

“…it is much safer to be feared than loved because … love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

GRNC-PVF Candidate Recommendations

As noted, our political action committee, the GRNC Political Victory Fund, takes the objective candidate evaluations and makes “recommendations for effective voting” in selected races where we can make a difference. These are not endorsements. We aren’t attesting to candidates’ virtue. We are only saying they are the best pro-gun candidate in the race. We do so because blanket endorsements have a habit of coming back to bite.

North Carolina’s March 5 2024, primary is less than a month away. GRNC-PVF candidate recommendations are available at: grnc.org/remember-in-november/2024-grnc-candidate-recommendations.

Even if you aren’t North Carolinian, check them out. We would be happy to help you replicate the program in your state.

About Grass Roots North Carolina

Founded in 1994, Grass Roots North Carolina is an all-volunteer 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving individual liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with emphasis on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.Grass Roots North CarolinaGrass Roots North Carolina

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