What Our Cats Teach Us About Trump’s Most Avid Supporters

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Russian Collusion. Affairs. Unhinged tweets. White Supremacist empathizer. Obvious lies. Is there anything to get Trump supporters to change their minds about their commander-in-chief?

By the numbers, the United States has lost its standing in the global community. According to a Pew Research Poll of 40,000 citizens in 37 countries, 74% of the international community said they have no confidence in a Trump presidency. Most US citizens feel the same. Trump’s approval ratings currently stand at 37%.  Trump’s pro-corporate, anti-human policies will largely impact his base the most, particularly rural America.

And yet…

Trump’s job approval rating among Republicans is a whopping 85%, with 89% approving of his handling of the presidency and 61% who “strongly approve.” Even more bizarre, conservatives have soured in their opinion of their own party, but they still believe Donald Trump is headed in the right direction.

This leaves the other 66% of us asking a collective WTF?! It turns out Fluffy may provide us with some answers.

Whatever your feeling about cats, you have to admit they are interesting creatures. They don’t play by the same social rules as dogs. In fact, they tend to exhibit sociopathic behaviors. Pet them once and they pur. Pet them twice and you may need stitches. One study suggested that if cats were bigger they would likely kill and eat their owners.

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And then there’s that box thing. If there’s a way in, they’ll find it. If there’s not, they’ll try anyway. Really, it can be a bucket, a bag, a basket, or anything with four or more sides.

Cat’s instinctually look for confined spaces where they feel the safest. In the wild they hide in clefts, caves, or enclosures that allow them to see out and protect them from predators coming in.

Humans operate like this, too, but on a very different scale. We don’t have the physical prowess to keep ourselves safe, yet safety is our key concern. We’re no longer nomads roaming in open fields as objects of prey to our four-legged adversaries. Instead, we sit comfortably in our homes getting trolled by our two-legged opponents online. The same part of our brains that told us to find shelter from the attacking lion in the field tells us to hunker down in a mental cave to keep from getting ambushed by opposing views. And it feels exactly the same.

In the evolutionary process our brains created self-defense mechanisms similar to a cat’s instinctive inclination to hide in caves or boxes. We build emotional walls around us by creating elaborate stories about who we are and what is true. We pick and choose the information that confirms our beliefs and ignore, discount, dismiss, or attack information that directly contradicts what we want to believe. We call it “fake news,” attribute it to someone’s “agenda,” or deflect by verbally attacking the person who said it, as opposed to the idea.

What’s more, once we’ve made our decisions, we protect them like our lives depend on it. We tell ourselves we could not possibly be wrong because if “the other side” has their way, the results could be catastrophic. We point to situations in the past (e.g. Hillary’s emails) to prove we are right and, again, to deflect from a truth that might otherwise be staring at us right in the eyes.

This process of thinking helps us to feel emotionally safe. It justifies our actions and helps us sleep at night when we might otherwise feel anxious or fearful. Unfortunately, this type of thinking also traps us in a box of our own making. We’re unable to adapt to approaching dangers because we’ve lulled ourselves into a false sense of security.  Anyone who’s ever closed the lid on a cat sleeping in a box knows just how easy it is to catch a predator.

The hard reality is that we are not going to change someone’s mind with facts, pithy memes, or logic. We humans, like all other animals, are first ruled by our instinct. Reasoning is secondary. Research shows that the best influence to change people’s opinions and beliefs comes from interaction with those they disagree with or oppose. Like cats, sometimes the best thing we can do is just be confident in who we are.

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