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How Cats Can Help Fix Politics -- No, Seriously

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Author: Perry Waag
Created: 07 June, 2021
Updated: 14 August, 2022
2 min read

Bess Truman famously said “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Well, even though I’m a dog person myself, cats might just hold the key to fixing our politics. Let me explain why.

If you’ve ever seen the show "My Cat From Hell" you know that cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy helps cat owners figure out why their cats are misbehaving and get them back to having a mutually beneficial and harmonious relationship. The nonpartisan innovation community needs to take the same approach with fixing our broken political system.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Jackson Galaxy, it’s that by changing a cat’s environment and how you interact with them you can get the desired behaviors out of them. We need to make our fellow citizens see that same connection with what we are doing and how politicians are no different.

Cats can be food motivated or play motivated. They can be territorial. Just about every issue an owner has with a cat can be handled either with catification (making the living space more cat friendly) or changing the way the owners interact with their cats (play with them more/differently, change feeding habits, etc).

We need to demonstrate to our fellow citizens that our collective relationship with our elected officials can be fixed in much the same way and that the electoral solutions we in the nonpartisan community are presenting do the same thing.

We need a simple tag line—Election Innovations Change Behavior, or Better Elections Get You Better Candidates (or something like that), and drill it into the population.

When we end gerrymandering we fix territorial problems because a competitive district makes politicians less polarized and more responsive to more of the electorate.

When we open up primaries, same thing.

When we require a majority vote to win a seat and use ranked choice voting (or another method) to get to that majority, we are incentivizing the right behaviors that we want from our candidates, just the same way Jackson uses food/treats to incentivize the right behaviors in a cat.

You get the idea.

Bottom line, our collective success or failure in the nonpartisan reform movement is entirely dependent on making a connection with the general population about why what we are advocating for is important, how it affects them, and how they can help change their elected officials’ behaviors.

Otherwise we will all continue to get My Politician From Hell.

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