About the first thing Donald Trump did after debarking from Air Force One near his new Elba (the island of Napoleon’s first exile) in Florida was float the idea of starting a political party of his very own.
He has copious seed money for such a startup with more than $200 million he gathered in donations while boosting fake claims of rampant election fraud last November. The large and raucous crowds he drew even after losing the last presidential election by more than 7 million votes gave some indication of his ability to draw masses to any party he starts.
Meanwhile, the idea has Democrats drooling across America, but nowhere more than in California.
Third party efforts stoked by the rich and famous are not new to the nation or this state. They generally damage the party from which the founder defected.
The late Ross Perot was the last billionaire to start his own party, running against Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. Mr. Clinton won that time with a mere plurality, not a majority, taking just 46% of the California vote, for one example. Mr. Perot, a data processing mogul whose company General Motors bought for more than $2 billion, drew 20%, indicating President Bush might have won re-election had Mr. Perot not interfered.
Now comes Mr. Trump, who appears to know at least some of this history. His stated purpose in starting a new party — if he goes through with it — would be to “punish” Republicans he claims betrayed him by not backing his bogus claims of having actually won in a landslide last year.
Plenty of Republicans allowed Mr. Trump’s 30,000-odd documentable lies while in the White House to slide. They often let his prevarications become the basis for national policy, fearing what the ex-president could do to their political futures. Namely, destroy them by running some of his minions against them in primary elections.
One consequence has been the repeated shortages of COVID-19 vaccines and the chaotic distribution of what supplies there were when Mr. Trump left office. No one will ever know how many lives that cost, but most likely they number at least in the thousands.
If Mr. Trump ever founded his own faction, he has said he would call it the Patriot Party, seemingly oblivious to Samuel Johnson’s famous observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Such a party would work hardest to undermine and defeat several GOP senators who decried his incitement of the crowd that went straight from a rally behind the White House to breaking into the Capitol building. He’d also go after the 10 Republicans in Congress who voted to impeach him a second time.
These included one Californian, David Valadao of Hanford, who was never so independent while Mr. Trump held office. For sure, Mr. Trump would not attack the likes of his sycophantic golf partner Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, also the GOP leader in the House and the likely replacement for Speaker Nancy Pelosi if Republicans regain control there.
Mr. Trump might work against Kevin Faulconer when the former San Diego mayor, who never was much of a Trumper, runs to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in this year’s possible recall election or for a full term in 2022.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump attacks Young Kim and Michelle Steel, new Republican representatives from Orange County who avoided voting on impeachment, never taking a stand.
For Mr. Trump, the alternative to a new party would be working within the GOP, running primary candidates against his would-be victims. That would not work well in California, where Democrats and independents could bail out Trump targets in the state’s June 2022 non-partisan primary.
There is, therefore, little reason for any politician in California to fear anything the ex-president does. No one planned it this way, but the state’s very open primary makes it difficult for outsiders to dictate outcomes.
Which means Mr. Trump, who had severe negative impacts on California air and water quality, wildfire aftermaths, policing policy, immigration, infrastructure and more, probably can’t greatly influence any more elections here unless and until he runs again for president.
Email Thomas Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more of Mr. Elias’ columns, go to www.californiafocus.net
THOMAS D. ELIAS