After absorbing the aggressive debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Sunday night, not to mention the week of wild news that preceded it, I awoke Monday morning thinking of the honey badger, of all things.
The debate reminded me of a nature video I had seen that documented an encounter between a foraging honey badger and a porcupine.
The honey badger is a tenacious carnivore. A member of the weasel family, it has a thick, coarse, dark fur coat with a wide white stripe that stretches from head to tail. Its heavy coat and thick, loose skin serves as its main source of defense.
Even if a predator has it by the neck, the elasticity in its skin allows the honey badger to twist around and bite its opponent. The animal also has an irrational fight reflex that intimidates most of its potential opponents just on principal. Sound familiar?
Certainly, if Donald Trump were to be any animal, he would be the honey badger, especially in light of the release of his crude “locker room” chat, which in a normal political cycle would have been enough to sink any candidate.
The honey badger earned its name for his determined yet unnecessary foraging of bees. Bees are not an important part of its diet -- just something on which it likes to nosh. Yet it will destroy a carefully constructed hive just to get a few in its stomach, just as Trump has upended his own party to satisfy his desire to be president.
The badger might get stung in the process, but early and frequent exposure make it immune to the effects. In fact, bee stings are nothing compared with what this critter tackles with seemingly reckless abandon.
It hunts poisonous snakes like the cobra, even though there is a good chance it will get bitten. And even if it kills the snake, the venom will nearly kill the badger as well, causing it to go belly-up and motionless for several hours before coming to and finishing its meal. The drama is just means to an end, and it moves on.
This critter has few, if any, friends. It is a solitary and nocturnal animal, and most of its activities, or tweets as in Trump’s case, are done under the cover of darkness.
But if Trump is the honey badger, Hillary Clinton is for sure is the porcupine, an adaptable, prickly and also nocturnal animal that can be seen taking on the honey badger in the video.
Not many can or want to tangle with this spiky animal. Even lions who encounter it have been observed walking away with barbs in their face. The porcupine’s quills lie flat until it is threatened, but then it puffs them up, shakes them and stomps its feet as a warning. When warnings are not enough, it will charge backward into the threat and release its needle-like quills -- hoping to land a few as a sharp reminder not to tangle with her in the future.
Clinton was certainly trying to keep her quills in check Sunday, but she did prick Trump a few times, especially as he lurked and circled behind her as she spoke.
A confident and cunning animal, the porcupine doesn’t mind losing a few quills to help its cause. It can always grow more, just as a seasoned politician like Clinton always seems to have ambition and strategies in reserve.
It takes a determined opponent to take on a porcupine. It can be done, but most challengers aren’t going to come away unscathed from the interaction. Unless their skin is as thick as that of the honey badger.
The honey badger just doesn’t care how the porcupine threatens it. It wants what it wants at all costs.
In the animal video, the porcupine tries to land a few barbs, but they fail to stick in the thick skin of the honey badger, which just keeps on foraging, snuffling around with its nose in the ground. Finally the porcupine walks away, saving itself to fight another day and leaving the badger to continue its single-minded pursuit.
And even though the two candidates shook hands at the end of Sunday's meeting, they are scheduled to wander into each other’s territory once more in the final debate set for Wednesday, Oct. 19 and then for a final survival of the fittest challenge on Election Day.