Primatologist Jane Goodall has made her name studying chimpanzees for over half a century. So, if anyone can deduce a distinct correlation between a brash chimp and the egoistic hubris of, say, the president of the United States, it’s Goodall.
Pre-election, last October, Goodall made a comparison between then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and the primates she has devoted her life to understanding.
“In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” she told the Atlantic.
“In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: Stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”
Trump’s election campaign was littered with plenty of metaphorical stamping and rock-throwing, like the press conference with women who alleged sexual misconduct against his political rival Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton.
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Trump’s outlandish publicity stunts, boisterous rally speeches and boastful promises to “make America great again,” as Goodall presciently foresaw, did help him rise to the highest office in the U.S.
Now that Trump is president, Goodall is doubling down on her comparison between the president and a chimpanzee, agreeing that he is like an aggressive chimp, and even referring to him as a “swaggering” one.
And if Goodall's observations in primate behavior are accurate, then, she says, it’s usually the “swaggering” chimps that fall from from their lofty treetops first.
“When chimps are competing for dominance, they do a lot of blustering, swaggering, and intimidation,” Goodall explained to Jezebel.
“The chimps who are smart, they use their brain and they get to the top by forming clever alliances, like with their brothers. So you don’t challenge the top guy without a lot of support. They last longer, the ones with the brain. The ones who do the swaggering don’t last as long.”
Just in case you’re wondering which camp she feels Trump falls into, the interviewer responded, “Here’s hoping.” Goodall agreed: “We’re all hoping.”
So, according to the famed primatologist, Trump is more like a “swaggering” chimpanzee—quick to show his brawn and might—but lacking the intellect to be strategic. Maybe that explains why he goaded Kim Jong Un by calling him “Rocket Man” in his U.N. address Tuesday.
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