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Homelessness can take various forms. The form that I suspect has now become most common among Americans is the political, defined as the inability to find refuge in either Donald Trump's zombie-like personality cult on the one side or the hair-on-fire resistance to him on the other.

The vast majority of people I've talked to about the 2016 presidential election are emphatic that they voted against, rather than for, either of the candidates; a logical response to having perhaps the two most unpopular nominees in our electoral history nominated just a few weeks apart at the Democratic and Republican conventions.

The question of which was the lesser evil was answered in different ways by different people, but there was little doubt that that was the kind of calculus being engaged in.

Within this context, the hope on the part of many conservatives who held their noses and voted for Trump in order to avoid a Hillary Clinton presidency (the "Flight 93" rationale) was that, once installed in office, he might recognize that his victory was due less to any political genius on his part and more to the ineptitude and awfulness of his opponent (and even then that it was an exceedingly close-run thing, with just an 80,000-vote margin in three Rust Belt states).

Trump would simply be content, so the theory went, to fly around on Air Force One, congratulate himself on being a "winner," and act the big shot amid the pomp and trappings of the imperial presidency while leaving the serious business of governing to the grownups. Conservatives would, in a transactional sense, get mostly conservative policies and judges with a minimum of Trump-induced embarrassment.

Once it became clear (rather quickly) that there would be no Trump pivot toward alignment with traditional presidential norms and etiquette and that, convinced of his own incapacity for error, he was incapable of being guided or constrained, the conservative search for solutions to the Trump problem intensified.

Included among the wishful thinking was the possibility that Trump, profoundly ignorant of concepts like separation of powers and the rule of law, would so quickly do so many illegal and unconstitutional things that Republican congressional leaders, perhaps fearing wipeout in the 2018 midterms and lasting damage to the GOP brand, would end up making a special visit to the White House to recommend a certain voluntary course of action lest constitutional mechanisms be invoked (much as a delegation of Republican congressmen did in the summer of 1974 with respect to a previous Republican presidential liability).

Ironically, the Russian collusion story ultimately served to undercut such hopes. With all the eggs somehow having come to be piled into that single basket, there wasn't much point in starting over on other impeachment grounds once it had been emptied by the arrival of the dud that was the Mueller Report, and with another referendum in the form of another election on the horizon.

There were, of course, other fallback options, scenarios whereby conservatives could find some way out of the Trump morass in time for 2020, including the possibility that Trump would simply get tired of living in "a dump" (the White House) and, frustrated by realizing he couldn't fire FBI directors and members of Congress as easily as reality TV show contestants, would join Richard Nixon in the exclusive club of presidents who had resigned from the presidency, passing the remainder of his term on to an obsequious but relatively innocuous Mike Pence (perhaps on the condition Pence didn't then seek one of his own). Republicans could then, relieved of Trump, enjoy a "return to normalcy," begin to repair the damage, and take their time picking from an array of reasonably attractive 2020 options (Marco Rubio? Nikki Haley? Ben Sasse?).

Or, in a slightly revised version, Trump could declare that he'd completed his mission to make an America that was always great "great again" and do what no president since Calvin Coolidge has done--eschew interest in a second term, perhaps coupled with an adamant pledge to not later change his mind and pull a Grover Cleveland; that maybe the prospect of cashing in on his post-presidency sooner rather than later and refilling his coffers would prove too tempting.

But Trump hasn't been content to be a figurehead president, he won't be successfully impeached (whatever noises Democratic House backbenchers make) and he hasn't resigned the presidency out of boredom and frustration. He is seeking a second term, driven, as always, by sheer ego and psychological insecurities, and will almost certainly be the Republican nominee in 2020.

We are told that the primary reason Senate Republicans would vote against impeachment and why no significant Republican is likely to step forward and challenge Trump in the primary is that he enjoys remarkable levels of support in the polls among Republican voters.

But what if that remarkable support reflects not so much support for Trump per se as the same kind of revulsion with the alternatives as in 2016? That Flight 93 logic will prevail again?

And for those of us who were charter members of the "Never Trump" club? Do we have any options other than to remain homeless?

------------v------------

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Editorial on 09/09/2019

Print Headline: BRADLEY R. GITZ: Without a home, Part I

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