The disgraceful presidential candidates coughed up by America's two great political parties, each one repulsive in his or her distinctive way, leaves many conservatives in a dilemma. We cannot vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Nor, try as we might, do we warm to Gary Johnson's Libertarian Party.
What to do? Here's my solution:
Should Trump again beat the bookmakers and pull off a victory on Nov. 8, two things are likely: First, he will not metamorphose into a "presidential" president but will, justifiably, conclude that winning the presidency endorsed his personality, style, and policies. Accordingly, he will continue unabated with his boorish, amateurish, rude, and narcissistic ways. Expect Trump to be more Trumpian than ever.
Were Trump elected, expect him to be more Trumpian than ever.
Expect him to treat the U.S. government as his personal property, as a grander version of the Trump Organization. He will disdain precedent and customs while challenging laws and authority. He will treat senators, justices, generals, and governors as personal staff who must fulfill his wishes – or else. He will challenge the separation of powers as never before.
Second prediction: Many elected Republicans will remain critical of Trump and keep their distance from him. Viewing him as an interloper, they neither like or trust him. With few exceptions, they resent his hijacking the Republican agenda. Their extremely negative response to the 2005 "locker room" sex tape had great importance, suggesting that they will come down hard on him as president if he deviates from accepted practices. Should he ignore Congress or pursue policies they find anathema, the Republican establishment has signaled it will abandon him in a New York minute.
The House has twice impeached a president, but the Senate has never convicted.
This scenario is the more plausible because Trump would be succeeded by his vice president, the formidable conservative Mike Pence.
Having worked briefly but directly with Pence in 2007 during his time on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I can vouch for his sound personality and views. He fits what conservatives seek in a president, from consistency to courtesy, from cultural grounding to foreign policy expertise. He's got the right range of experience and he has a shot at being Ronald Reagan's elusive worthy successor.
That a number of ranking Republicans, including John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking senator, called on Trump to quit the race and open the way for Pence, has little practical effect before the election but enormous implications should Trump be elected. So does the fact other Republican leaders, like Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, said they plan to write in Pence's name when voting for president on Nov. 8. That's also what I plan to do.
Mike Pence at a recent campaign event in Iowa.
These moves point to Republican members of congress potentially voting to impeach Trump. Accordingly, though I personally could not possibly vote for Trump, I will root for him to win – and then to be removed, replaced by President Pence.
Oct. 18, 2016 addendum: I follow up today on the possibility of impeachment in a new blog today, "Trump Impeachment Watch."