Monday, February 5, 2024







If Donald Trump, as seems likely after the first few Republican primary elections and caucuses, wins a third consecutive GOP nomination for president and then goes on to a November victory, he will likely consider it a mandate for his announced plans. That’s virtually certain, whether or not he loses the national popular vote by millions, as happened twice before.


        Those plans include revenge on any- and everyone he believes has wronged him in the past, sending military units to police cities run by elected Democrats and “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country…”


        So far, he has not named any names. But his declaration that “I am your retribution” looks like a statement that he will act on the resentments of (mostly white) Americans who feel wronged by the advancement or prosperity of some Blacks, Latinos and immigrants.


        Trump has also questioned American military aid to Ukraine in its two-year battle against Russian invaders, but neither opposed nor supported similar aid to Israel as it fought the Hamas terrorists who killed and kidnapped more than 1,400 Israelis on Oct. 7.


        This did not surprise anyone who watched Trump as president repeatedly kowtow to Russian President Vladimir Putin and express admiration for other strongmen like North Korea’s Kim Jong Il.


        While still president in early 2021, Trump openly floated the idea of unilaterally imposing martial law on the entire nation to keep himself in office despite losing the 2000 election. He did not actually do it then. Might he attempt this tactic if elected now, when his second and (constitutionally) last term in the White House expires? If so, it would be the most serious test ever for military commanders sworn to obey only legal orders.



        Never before has any presidential candidate laid out such a specific plan for his term. Never before has a major party nominee made revenge a major campaign theme.


        With mail ballots for California’s March 5 primary election either already in the hands of millions of voters, or about to arrive in their mailboxes, the fate of Trump’s plans just might be decided by the 26 percent of California voters registered as Republicans.


        Trump’s party allies here set up rules that would give him all California’s Republican National Convention delegates if he gets even one vote more than 50 percent in the primary tally here. By itself, that delegation would make up about 15 percent of what it would take to nominate Trump for a third time.


        But what if California’s GOP voters (Republican primaries are the only publicly staged and financed elections in this state not open to all voters, but only to party members) gave him less than 50 percent?


        Because California’s vote comes relatively early in the primary season this year, there would be time for remaining  rival Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, to capitalize on later-voting states like New York, Pennsylvania and many more. This could throw the GOP convention into chaos and repeated ballots.


        But it won’t happen unless California Republicans change their views on Trump, who has long enjoyed huge polling leads here among his party mates. As the vote neared, there were no signs this was happening on a large scale.


        If that does not change with ballots in the hands of voters, the California primary will likely end any serious GOP campaigning during the spring.


        For with the full California delegation in hand, along with delegates already won in other states and even a minor share of delegates to be elected down the line, Trump effectively would have clinched the nomination.


        It would mark the first time in two generations that a major party nomination went to someone who refused to participate in intra-party debates. It would also be the first time any American party nominated a person openly bent on using the presidency to exact revenge on opponents and explicitly committed to weaponizing the Justice Department against perceived personal enemies.


        And if, as polls suggest they will, California Republicans vote for Trump despite or because of those commitments, what will that say about their views on things like democracy, equal justice and peaceful transfers of power?



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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