Trump’s 2016 campaign was a populist insurgency. In 2024 it is a quest for retribution

(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Trump’s 2016 campaign was a populist insurgency. In 2024 it is a quest for retribution

Doyle McManus

Dec. 10, 2023

The question to former President Trump last week was a softball and served as an opportunity to rebut his critics.

They want to call you a dictator, Sean Hannity told him in a Fox News town hall. Do you have plans in any way?


if he is re-elected as president


abuse power, break the law, use the government to go after people?

Most candidates would have assured voters they would not do that. Not Trump.

You mean like they use [it] straight away? he replied, referring to the Biden administration. I was dictated to four times.

Hannity gave him another opening

. :

I want to go back to this one issue because the media is focused on this and attacking you. You promise America tonight under no circumstances that you would never abuse power in retaliation against anyone?

Except on Day 1, Trump said. I want to close the border, and I want to drill, drill, drill, he added, without answering the question.

Put aside for a moment whether Trump has tacitly admitted that he hopes to rule as a dictator, although every time he expresses admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping he certainly sounds like

although if

He would like to.

By day


of a second Trump administration, it is clear that he would try to unleash the powers of the federal government against his critics. He said that himself.

Even during his first term, Trump wanted the Justice Department to take action against his political opponents. Where are all the arrests? he demanded in 2020.

Now that he has been impeached twice and indicted four times, his thirst for revenge has only increased.

If you were president again, would you lock people up? Glenn Beck asked him in August.

The answer is you have no choice, because they’re doing it to us, Trump responded.

“If I happen to be president and I see someone who is doing well and beating me really badly, I say, go down and sue him,” he told Univision in November.

Trump has called for investigations, indictments or jail time for a long list of critics, including President Biden and his family; former President Obama; Democrats and some Republicans in Congress;

his former chief of staff,

retired General John F. Kelly

his former chief of staff

; his former national security advisor




John Bolton; officials at the Justice Department, FBI and CIA; And

members of

the news media.

I will appoint a real Special Prosecutor to go after the most corrupt President in US history, Joe Biden, the entire Biden crime family and everyone else involved in the destruction of our elections, borders and the country itself! he wrote in a social media post last year.

When Trump first ran for president in 2016, his campaign focused, as it sounds now, largely on populist-conservative policy ideas. He promised to stop illegal immigration by building a wall on the border with Mexico. He promised to end terrorism by banning Muslims from entering the United States. He promised to revive manufacturing jobs by cutting taxes and restricting trade. He promised to repeal and replace Obamacare.

This time he is recycling most of those promises, having failed to make them in his first term. But they are not the heart of his campaign.

In speeches in Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump has ridiculed Biden as cognitively impaired, denounced Democrats as radical left thugs living like vermin in our country’s borders, and vowed to root out anyone who gets in his way .

He unveiled his central theme in March, cloaking his quest for retribution as a crusade on behalf of oppressed supporters.

I am your warrior. I am your righteousness, he said. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your recompense, he said.

The prospect of a president who has pledged to use federal law enforcement against his critics is not just worrying Democrats. Anti-Trump Republicans know they would be in the cross

her too.

Donald Trump has told us exactly what he’s going to do, former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said last week. If you have a president who is unwilling to abide by the rulings of the courts, who is unwilling to uphold the Constitution, then there are no guardrails


can stop him.”

[Yes, she said guardrails who, not that.]

Senator Mitt Romney

of Utah (R-Utah)

One of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict the former president after he was impeached for trying to block the certification of Biden’s election said there is a political logic behind Trump’s theme.

His supporters like the authoritarian character, Romney told the Washington Post. I think they love the idea that he may use the military in domestic affairs and that he will seek revenge and retaliation.

A recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute shows Romney is right. When voters were asked if they think the country is so far off track [that] We need a leader who is willing to break some rules, most Trump supporters



Former Atty. General William Barr warned of a second Trump term

would like

be even less reserved than before.

I discovered during his first term that the only way to really talk sense into him was to say, ‘This is going to hurt your re-election chances,'” said Barr, a Trump appointee

[in a PBS interview]

. I’m afraid he’ll be off the hook in the second term. There will be no way to control him, and he will also surround himself with yes men.

Trump dodged his girlfriend Hannity’s softball question last week. But in doing so he only made it clearer that he will abuse his power if we give him a chance. He told us that himself.


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