Entry 592: What Side of the Brain Does Trump Use?

I try not to get too political in this blog. That’s not because I don’t have strong political opinions, it’s because I have weak morals.

You see, my primary source of income is creating direct mail packages on a freelance basis, and much of my work is in fundraising. I am a non-partisan fundraiser, by which I mean that I will raise funds for any organization that wishes to pay me. I am accepting of all religions, beliefs, sexual identities and political affiliations that are able to come up with my fee.

I suppose I may one day come across a group that I just can’t bring myself to work for, but it hasn’t happened yet. I will say this, though: the New Nazi Party can look elsewhere for its next annual appeal package (“…and please enjoy your set of personalized swastika name and address stickers!”).

My point is, I try to stay away from overtly expressing my political opinions in this blog on the off chance that a client reads it and thinks I would be an inappropriate choice for their assignment, not realizing that I am perfectly willing to suspend my most deeply-held beliefs in order to make a buck.

And now you may be looking at the title of this post and wondering if I have blown my cover. “What Side of the Brain Does Trump Use?” certainly doesn’t sound like a neutral title. Admittedly, I used it to get attention. I could have used Hillary instead, but she’s just not as good at getting people to say, “Oh, jeez, what now?”

But whether it’s Trump’s brain or Clinton’s, the question is legitimate: which side do they use?

According to an article in Smithsonian, the structure of the brain can predict political amy1leanings with remarkable accuracy. In fact, it’s even more accurate than the traditional way of predicting political affiliation, which was to simply look at the politics of the person’s parents. However, it’s not quite as accurate as the third way of predicting people’s political leanings, which is to go up to them and ask. That method is also slightly less invasive than performing brain scans, which is what this new study relied on.

Those brain scans, however, are very revealing:

“…the new research shows that Democrats exhibited significantly greater activity in the left insula, a region associated with social and self-awareness, during the task. Republicans, however, showed significantly greater activity in the right amygdala, a region involved in our fight-or flight response system.”

That’s right: people seem to be hard-wired to react in exactly the stereotypical ways you’d sobo_1909_6331expect. It certainly explains why Democratic candidates seem to be focused on social programs while Republicans emphasize defense and law and order. Your brain could be telling you that universal healthcare is more important than protection from the impending terrorist attack.

Or vice versa.

If that’s the case, you might think, then why do we bother with the entire political process? It sounds like the whole thing is an example of “preaching to the converted.”

Well, not quite. Because other studies tell us that people can be rewired. Again, according to Smithsonian:

“More than a decade ago, researchers used brain scans to show that London cab drivers’ gray matter grew larger to help them store a mental map of the city. The more time they spent on the road, the bigger their hippocampi, an area associated with navigation, became.

This implies that despite the political leanings seen through our brains, how we vote—and thus the cause of our political affiliations—may not be set in stone.”

In other words, one candidate may be crazy enough to activate a Republican’s left insula, while another may be disingenuous enough to stimulate a Democrat’s amygdala, and a third may be just so unlikeable that he makes us want to move to London.

(Let me just say here that I have a huge hippocampus, but I’m planning  to go on a diet.)

All of this may be academic, though, because whether we’re hard-wired or not, America’s wiring may not be up to code. When it comes to our politicians, it seems like the wiring can be disconnected entirely in exchange for cash. It is common knowledge that insulas and amygdalas and possibly even hippocampi are up for sale in our national and state governments. Sometimes you can’t even walk through Congress without tripping on all the wires laying on the floor.

And yes, you’re right: I’ve already admitted that I, too, am perfectly willing to ignore my personal beliefs for money, that my insula and my amygdala both defer to my bank account.

But I haven’t promised anything different to millions of constituents.

See you soon.

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