It is said that if the world were to be destroyed in the aftermath of a nuclear war and every living thing were to be annihilated, one creature will survive. The cockroach.
In a parallel sense, pundits predict that in the aftermath of the current partisan war in Washington D.C. between the Democrats and the Republicans over the impeachment of President Donald Trump, when the smoke of battle has settled and the leaders of both parties will be on their knees, one person will probably remain standing. Trump.
Trump has been called many unflattering things by the media, the Democrats, and some self-respecting Republicans. The Lyin’ King. A megalomaniac. A legend in his own mind. The bankruptcy tycoon. A low blow specialist. Captain Blowhard.
In a recent column, I likened Trump to the indestructible cockroach. He is a survivor.
No insult, no criticism, no sarcasm seems to affect him. He simply insults and criticizes right back. And there is no subtlety in his language. He is vicious, crude, foul, inelegant and (unfortunately for his enemies), he has a talent for attaching memorably ridiculous nicknames to those who cross him.
Worst of all, he also has the exasperating ability for claiming credit for his enemies’ achievements and claiming victory in the wake of defeat — in spite of being figuratively beaten to a pulp (“You should see how their fists are swollen from banging my pretty face!”).
The ability to turn defeat into a victory should, otherwise, be considered a positive trait. But there is nothing admirable about a person who shamefacedly refuses to concede being wrong and lies and foists “alternative truths” in the face of undeniable facts.
Trump is like the kid who wants to prove that he is “the world’s greatest slugger” by swinging his baseball bat many times at a ball — but missing every time. The kid finally gives up and declares that he is “the world’s greatest pitcher.”
Trump is so obsessed with being regarded as “the best,” he simply insists that everyone else is inferior, to the cheers of sycophants, then quickly changes the subject and launches a counter attack against his detractors, concentrating on their vulnerabilities and resorting to lies and dirty tactics.
What is remarkable is that in spite of non-stop pummeling in US media (at least in the leading newspapers and TV networks, with the exception of Fox News and conservative talk shows), Trump continues to hold a tight rein on the Republican Party and the seeming loyalty of its leaders. Even more remarkably, he has kept the support of his voter base.
The support of the GOP leaders may be due to their need for political survival. Thus, it is likely subject to erosion (it is said that politicians have no permanent enemies and no permanent allies, just permanent self-interests). But what has baffled observers is the adamant loyalty of Trump’s voter base.
Trump once bragged that he could shoot a man in the middle of Manhattan and not lose a single supporter.
Even the shadow of Vladimir Putin behind Trump’s bluster — such as his claim that Ukranian operatives and not the Russians meddled in the 2016 US presidential elections (a red herring belied by the entire US intelligence and security apparatus) — has not fazed Trump’s base and the Republican leadership. If former President Barack Obama and the Democrats were the ones similarly beclouded, the GOP and Trump loyalists would be screaming “Treason!”
It could be said that among Trump’s supporters (aside from Russian dirty tricks specialists and paid trolls) are neo-Nazis and white supremacists like the Klu Klux Klan, but not all Trump believers are from the far right. Thousands of them are average Americans who probably felt disaffected by the “socialist leanings” of the past Obama administration and have been carried away by Trump’s Make America Great Again rhetoric. Thousands are average families striving for their share of the American Dream and are encouraged by the economic gains under Trump. And thousands are ordinary folks fearful of the “immigrant invasion” that Trump has been unjustly warning against.
I know of some Filipino-Americans who are prepared to break long-standing friendships in defense of Trump. They claim that Trump has made America “great again” — without specifying how the US became “un-great.” They have also ignored international media feedback that Trump is a pariah among world leaders. Even more baffling is the anti-immigrant attitude of these people who are also immigrants themselves.
Whatever their reasons, the current impeachment hearings initiated by the Democrats do not seem to have eroded Trump’s base.
One possibility is that the basis for the impeachment process may be too esoteric for many Trump supporters to appreciate. Betting on this and taking advantage of the lack of clarity, GOP strategists have resorted to the classic Joseph Goebbles mantra, “a lie repeated often enough will be taken for the truth.”
It is almost certain that the House of Representatives, with its Democratic majority, will vote to impeach Trump. But it is just as certain that a two-thirds vote cannot be mustered in the Republican-controlled Senate and he will be acquitted.
As a consequence, Trump’s supporters are smugly predicting a second term for him, in spite of the scandals. Does that mean that Trump will remain indestructible like the cockroach? Does that mean that there will no retribution for his alleged sins?
Not necessarily, some knowledgeable quarters aver.
The Senate line-up of the Republicans, including reelectionist majority leader Mitch McConnel in Kentucky, is reportedly facing stiff competition in their respective bailiwicks, and the GOP control of the Senate could be snapped in the 2020 elections the way they lost their hold on the House in the last mid-term polls.
If this happens, even if Trump wins a second term, the impeachment posse could still go after him. Recall that President Richard Nixon had won a second term in the November 1972 elections — by the largest margin of victory in a US presidential contest — but the Watergate hounds still went after him relentlessly until he was forced to resign in August 1974.
The harsh reality for politicians is that they cannot stay in power indefinitely and the US president can only serve two terms. Trump will eventually have to step down. Then, as the cliché goes, the Piper must be paid.
The harsh reality is that even cockroaches can be squashed.
Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.