For years, former President Donald Trump has spoken and acted as if loyalty to him is more important to the national well-being than loyalty to laws and the U.S. Constitution.
So it came as no great surprise when he threatened “big trouble” if the U.S. Supreme Court does not overturn a Colorado state Supreme Court decision to knock his name off that state’s primary election ballot.
Oral arguments on Trump’s appeal of that order are set for Feb. 8.
“I just hope we get fair treatment,” Trump said to a rally during the heated Iowa caucus campaign this month. “Because if we don’t, our country’s in big, big trouble. Does everybody understand what I’m saying?”
Yes, most folks did understand. He clearly meant that if he doesn’t get his way with the three U.S. Supreme Court justices he appointed and others, he might try to sic his loyal followers on the court system or state election officials who might follow Colorado in keeping his name off their ballots.
Trump critics contend his actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the national Capitol building amounted to participation in an insurrection against the government and render him ineligible to be president again, under terms of the 14th Amendment.
Trump also allowed to a podcaster that if returned to office, he would become a “dictator, “but just for Day 1.” He called convicted Jan. 6 rioters “hostages,” promising a blanket pardon for them all if he’s elected.
He vocally hoped for an economic collapse before November, on grounds it might help his election chances, and he gloated about “killing” Roe v. Wade and abortion rights for most women.
So far, polls indicate none of this incendiary rhetoric dented Trump’s base of support any more than the multiple indictments against him.
The biggest test of the conventional wisdom that all this actually helps Trump will come March 5, when he appears on the primary ballot in California.
Although currently charged, Trump has yet to be convicted of being an insurrectionist, so California Secretary of State Shirley Weber wasn’t ready to exclude him, even though the 14th Amendment does not require a conviction.
Another 14 states will join California in voting on the March 5 “Super Tuesday,” but, like Iowa, New Hampshire and other small, early primary and caucus states, none provides the same test as California.
Republicans in states like Texas, North Carolina and Massachusetts are less diverse than here, where voters come closer than any others to matching the nation’s demographics.
Trump has enjoyed support from well over 50% of the state’s Republicans in every poll taken so far, the latest indicating nothing that’s happened changed many Republican minds here.
Meanwhile, the California Republican Party shows no sign of deviating from its course of trying to clinch the GOP nomination for Trump.
Last spring, the state party convention voted to give all California’s 169 GOP convention delegates to any candidate who gets 50% plus one vote among party voters March 5. That meant Trump.
Only registered Republicans can vote in the GOP primary, the sole California election where party registration factors into whom a voter can choose.
The Democratic presidential primary and all others here are conducted as open elections, with all voters eligible to back any candidate of any party.
That’s why a drive began in early January encouraging registered Democrats to switch to the GOP for a short while to vote against Trump.
Organizers encourage votes for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as an alternative who might deprive Trump of many California delegates.
With a 50%-plus vote, Trump would most likely be assured after March 5 of having the 1,215 convention delegates needed to win his third Republican nomination.
This could make the California primary the most interesting of Super Tuesday and perhaps the entire spring season.
If California — which has never come close to backing Trump in a general election — ices the nomination for him, it would also mark the first time since 1972 that any presidential primary here has counted for much.
Email Thomas Elias at [email protected].