B Y C A I T L I N
What does the international cat movement mean to you? How do you reconcile our sudden confession, via Internet hit count, that we truly don’t care about anything but grainy clips and white block letters mashed onto photos of felines? Now that Grumpy Cat has evolved from funny Reddit meme to movie deal and Lil Bub stars in films for VICE and employs a entire cadre of Bloomington-based hipsters, it is time to reflect.
There are many hypotheses regarding cat fancy. The popular theory of those I interviewed for my Internet-breaking San Francisco Bay Guardian cover story held that, bereft of public gathering spots like dog parks, cat lovers need forums to bond over feline love — hence, Lolcats. Hence Wasabi-chan.
Like any upwardly mobile segment of society, the next step for cats is to seek public office. It should come as little surprise that, in the capital of the Mexican state of Veracruz, a pair of enterprising people with a Facebook page and an axe to grind found a way to connect our mass apathy for anything un-cat-related, to politics.
Morris, as shot by a Reuters photographer who visited the Cruz-Chamorro homestead
This spring, in the 400,000-some person town of Xalapa, Daniel Cruz and Sergio Chamorro mounted a campaign to replace current municipal president Elizabeth Morales Garcia with their black-and-white cat named Morris.
On July 7th, 7,500 people actually voted for the kitteh.
Morris’ success is not without precedent – I’m looking at you, Mayor Stubbs of Talkeetna, Alaska. But his is the first major feline campaign since the advent of the Internet cat era. Like his fellow web-savvy politico President Obama, Morris benefited wildly through the power of social media. Though 158,000 Facebook hardly qualifies Morris as an Internet kitty A-lister, few of the Cat Pack have mustered actual Election Day support for their antics.
Morris supporters sent in photos of their ballots by the litter to prove their support for the Candigato
Rise to fame the black-and-white shelter cat did, through the same mechanisms as Princess Monster Truck and Grumpy Cat (both represented by the same agent nowadays). Adorable photos, winning anthromorphism, and a dedicated community of fans who produce an endless supply of memes that echo our hero’s original fame across the World Wide Web — these are the keys to success.
“We never imagined this,” said Chamorro when I spoke to him on the phone as he was emerging from his 9-5 office job. “But they say that the combination of cats and the Internet is explosive.”
Various political factions have accused Chamorro, Cruz, and the small group of friends who spend their free time running Morris’ campaign of being distractions meant to divert votes from this candidate or that.
They are perhaps missing the point. Morris’ crusade to rid the town of ratas (the campaign’s euphemism for self-promoting politicians) may be harbinger of a greater political party bounded only by the four sides of your web browser. Old boys aren’t doing it for you? Put a cat in charge, at least they’ll look good doing it.
Chamorro was good enough to arrange a direct line between Morris and I for this article prior to his impressive electoral showing. What follows is a transcript of our emailed conversation. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only interview Morris has ever conducted.
AHDM4U: How has your life changed as a result of this campaign?
Morris El Candigato: In general it’s stayed normal, I’ve kept the same sleep schedule, am eating normally, playing, and scratching the furniture. The only thing that’s changed is that sometimes people show up at my house and some of them insist on taking photos of me. I like it when my humans take photos of me, not strangers, but they say that they work for Reuters or the Associated Press or other agencies. I don’t know what that means.
AHDM4U: How are you getting ready to take office?
MEC: I’m not doing anything, nor do I know what that means. What I do know is that my humans are recieving a lot of attnetion for using my image. I hope they’ll be compensated for it after this.
AHDM4U: We all know that you’re going to rid Xalapa of the rats, but what else? Do you have plans for the town’s education system? To lower crime rates?
MEC: I’m only planning on sleeping, romping around, playing, and eating a lot. Basically, what I do already, and what most politicians do. During campaigns they appear to be very worried on behalf of the people, but once they’re elected the claws come out and they try to benefit personal and partisan interests. At least I’m being honest about it. Nonetheless, it seems to me that my campaign has gotten people’s attention not just in my city, but in the country, and I hope that the people begin to react and participate in politics.
AHDM4U: What’s your opinion of Daniel and Sergio? Are they managing your campaign well?
MEC: They do what they can. They have to go to work every day to live, they run my campaign in their free time. But since it’s turned into a phenomenon it doesn’t give them time to do many things. Some friends help them, but they also have their own obligations.
AHDM4U: Would you like to meet the other famous cats?
MEC: I’d like to meet Grumpy Cat. I think she’d do a good job as part of my cabinet. As for the rest, I know the fans like them but I’m not sure they go with my package.
AHDM4U: Your campaign has inspired other animals to start their political careers in Mexico — inspiring some amount of head-scratching in the blogosphere. Are they part of the same movement?
MEC: I don’t have a movement per se, but the other candidates are definitely reflections of the citizens having had their fill of the politicians, so if social discontent towards the political class can be considered a movement, yes we’re part of the same movement.
AHDM4U: How are you going to spend July 7th? Can cats vote?
MEC: Cats can’t vote, but many parties send their cats to vote… I won’t be doing anything. I’ll prepare a speech for that day and sleep afterward. My humans will take care of the rest.