I had a most enjoyable meeting with a visiting American election analyst last week, but we could not quite agree which of our two countries had the better chance of surviving their current political crisis. In the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties are trying to pick their respective presidential nominees for the November elections. Here, we are trying to see what would allow us to hold a clean, honest and credible presidential election on May 9, and choose the least undesirable candidate. The chances are dismal for both, but our situation is probably worse than that of the US.
In the US, the billionaire Donald Trump, who is leading the race for the Republican Party nomination, has scandalized both liberals and conservatives by waging a take-no-prisoners war on “political correctness.” He wants to build a $4-billion wall to keep illegal Mexican immigrants from entering the United States and ban all Muslim visitors and immigrants; and now, he wants to penalize women who would contract abortion, if the abortion law were repealed. Hillary Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination, and many other Americans believe abortion is an inviolable human right, so the condemnation was viral and instant.
Trump spontaneously insults anyone he likes, and while he never fails to get a fitting response, a large part of the American audience is entertained by his insults. The media gobbles up everything he says, so while his rivals have to pay for media ads, he does not have to buy any; he gets a free ride. Republican Sen. John McCain and former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, two former presidential nominees, have called him “unfit” to be their presidential nominee; and he has blasted them both, calling Romney a “total lightweight,” and McCain a “war hero,” only because he was captured, but “I like people who were not captured.”
He has called Hillary Clinton “the worst Secretary of State of the United States.” In one tweet, he said, “Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband. What makes her think she can satisfy America?” He quickly disowned this tweet, blaming it on his staff, and had it deleted. On Clinton’s Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, the hitherto unknown socialist who has put up a surprisingly strong showing, Trump said the man knew what’s wrong with America, but could not do anything about it, whereas he could. “He can’t negotiate with China,” he said.
Trump has insulted some of the better known Conservative and other publications and pundits, like Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, George Will of the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer of Fox News, Des Moines Register, Forbes magazine, and Arianna Huffington’s online Huffington Post. In one CNN interview, he told Anderson Cooper, “the people don’t trust you and the people don’t trust the media.”
A train wreck
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Trump’s closest rival, likens the prospect of a Trump Republican nomination to a “train wreck;” it could destroy the Republican Party in the election, and the US itself, should Trump ever get elected. Because of their disdain for Trump, many Conservative analysts think Hillary Clinton, if she finally clinches the Democratic Party nomination, could become the first woman President of the United States. Many Americans do not like Clinton, but many more, including Republicans, are simply frightened of the possibility of Trump becoming the President.
Despite this, many feel Trump could yet overcome Clinton, if he finally gets the Republican Party nomination, if only for historical reasons. Rarely has the Democratic or Republican Party been able to hold on to power for three consecutive terms. Under Barack Obama, the Democrats have been in power for two terms. So power should change hands in this election.
In 1836, the Democratic Vice President Martin Van Buren succeeded President Andrew Jackson after two terms; in 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, succeeded himself for an unprecedented third term. But four times in five attempts the Democrats had failed to win a third consecutive term. These included Ohio Gov. James Cox, who had wanted to succeed Woodrow Wilson after two terms, in 1921; Adlai Stevenson, who had wanted to succeed Harry Truman, President since 1945, in 1953; Hubert Humphrey, who had wanted to succeed John Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose combined presidencies ran from 1961 to 1969; and Al Gore, who had wanted to succeed Bill Clinton in 2001.
The Republicans had been a little more successful in that respect. In 1868, Ulysses S. Grant succeeded Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, whose presidencies ran from 1861 to 1869; Rutherford Hayes succeeded Grant in 1877; in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt succeeded William McKinley and went on to serve until 1909; in 1989, George H.W. Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan at the end of his two terms. But in 1960, Richard Nixon failed to succeed Dwight Eisenhower at the end of his second term; in 1976, Gerald Ford failed to win a term of his own, after serving the unexpired portion of Nixon’s second term; in 2009, McCain failed to succeed George Walker Bush at the end of his second term.
The New Constantine?
Despite the derision heaped upon Trump by political pundits for his colorful language and uncouth behavior, he has managed to maintain his appeal among many American voters, and some outsiders. At least a couple of academics have offered an alternative perspective that tries to rationalize, even glamorize, Trump’s behavior. Blaise Joseph, an assistant dean at Warrane College in the University of South Wales, in an article appearing on Mercatornet, asks the question, “Is Trump the New Constantine?”
At a time when Christians can no longer freely express themselves on the great moral issues of the day without being shouted down by the pillars of “political correctness,” Trump reminds the author of Constantine, who despite his many excesses and character defects found himself fighting the pagan horde under the sign of the Cross (In hoc signo vinces), proclaiming himself the Christian emperor, and ending the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors through the Edict of Milan, 313 AD.
In another article in “Public Discourse,” entitled, “What Trump and Sanders Teach Us About America,” Adam Seagrave, an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, examines the two political outsiders as “twin harbingers of a possible American Apocalypse – signs of the beginning of the end for the American tradition and way of life.” To Seagrave, the “American mind” now lies in the gutter, and can no longer lift itself up to embrace principles that transcend our mere animality. Trump and Sanders are but taking advantage of this fact, says the article.
The Phl scenario
What’s happening to America will still take a few months to fully unravel. But what will happen to the Philippines can be safely and accurately surmised even now. Grave injuries and injustices have been inflicted upon our constitutional and political system during this run-up to the May 9 elections; unless urgent measures are taken to correct these, the country could implode even as some highly inebriated partisans celebrate their “victory” in the polls.
The constitutional wreck
Only the Constitution can fully guarantee the final integrity of the election. But we have already destroyed our Constitution. By proclaiming the false dogma that foundlings are natural-born citizens, on the basis of statistical probability and disputable presumption, some temporarily deranged Justices simultaneously airbrushed the constitutional prohibition on non-natural born citizens running for President, and, in a grave abuse of discretion, declared Mary Grace Poe Lamanzares “qualified” to run for President, even though her first and last known citizenship is that of a naturalized American, who doesn’t even know her real parents.
Supported by powerful corporate, casino and media personalities, who are openly bankrolling her campaign, and with rumors planted by her own camp that she is both Malacanang’s and Washington’s “not-so-secret” candidate, Mrs. Llamanzares has utilized every available propaganda resource to make it appear that people are prepared to vote for her despite her unresolved citizenship and residency status before the Supreme Court, which has provoked trenchant commentaries from the legal profession and the critical sector of the independent press.
The public is bombarded with alleged surveys with unbelievable frequency and even more unbelievable results in favor of Mrs. Llamanzares and her running mate, without any public disclosure of how much they are paying for all these instruments of deceit. Aside from the endorsement of Manila Mayor Erap Estrada, who had helped facilitate Mary Grace’s adoption by the Fernando Poe-Susan Roces couple in San Juan, Rizal in 1974, and who is now fighting for his family’s political survival in Manila and San Juan, we do not hear of big political blocs or leaders expressing support for Mrs. Llamanzares. We read only of the “results” of alleged surveys.
We are expected to swallow these surveys hook, line and sinker, without being told, who paid for the survey, who conducted it, what questions were asked, in what manner and sequence were the questions asked, how many individuals (samples) were asked, how were the samples chosen, what was the margin of error used? The obvious purpose is to create an impression of popular support for Mrs. Llamanzares, regardless of whether she is constitutionally qualified to run or not. She wants everyone to know that “the people want her,” so all constitutional and legal objections are now moot and academic.
Playing the Justices
She apparently wants to prevent the SC Justices from correcting their abominable ruling on her disqualification case, and encourage them instead to simply ratify the propaganda fraudsters’ reading of the “public pulse.” Last weekend, she raised the stakes higher by leaking to the media a supposedly private meeting she had at the Iglesia ni Cristo Central HQ. This was obviously meant to spur speculation that the INC is now considering her.
She has tried to play the same game with Catholics, except that there have been no takers. In Cebu and in La Union, she recently visited the church, ostensibly to pray, but followed by a swarm of photographers. She was then photographed kneeling on a pew, surrounded by photographers. The photos are now on display in the social media, but some young Catholics who referred them to me found them “hypocritical” and “disgusting.”
Worse than Stonehill
However, none of these posturings define the real danger. The real danger comes from the lack of any effort on her part and the part of her funders to avoid making a scandal of their political cabal in the making. It now appears she is in the race, and has won the support of some Justices, because of these arrangements. This is without precedent.
In the past, it was only after Harry Stonehill succeeded in corrupting almost every important politician in office that he could say he “owned” the government. But Stonehill merely latched on to an already functioning government. In the present case, Mrs. Llamanzares seems to be already “wholly-owned” by her mega funders, even before she is reaffirmed as a bona fide candidate by the Supreme Court (if at all), and presides over the government. This kind of treason is unprecedented.
Will they swear?
Now, she apparently hopes to rise upon the wreckage of the Constitution, the rule of law and jurisprudence. What crimes have we committed to deserve this malediction? What exactly do we owe her? Since the SC ruling on her disqualification, which the Justices will now review in Baguio, ultimately involves the life and death of the nation, will they now please have the courage to rule on it like it was the last case they will ever rule upon before they meet their Maker? Will they have the courage to assume all the consequences of their acts, and swear on the lives of their children’s children that their vote on it is in full accord with their true consciences?