Will Trump run as an Independent?

Will Trump run as an Independent?
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It’s entirely possible and not nearly as unlikely as you may think. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE was never really a Republican in the first place. He used the Republican Party as a means to an end. He never actually shared their doctrines. He never really shared the doctrines of the Democrats, either. Trump is his own type of political animal. But you know that by now.

He is purely transactional. Every decision he makes is based off a combination of poll numbers, cable news narratives and an obvious need to be loved. In this White House, policy comes second to the roar of the crowd. Such a blatant need for approval is a dangerous character flaw for any White House, but none more so than this one.

Ask the Republicans who have been screwed over by Trump how they feel about his transactional nature. Ask the Republicans who stuck their necks out and signed Trump’s health care bill how they feel about his transactional nature. Ask the Republicans who celebrated the passing of the house version of “TrumpCare” in the rose garden, only to then have the president call the bill “mean,” how they feel about his transactional nature.

Without a moral compass to guide his decisions, Trump has lept from controversy to controversy. Softball controversies like David Duke and racist protesters in Charlottesville have consistently tripped this president up. Trump’s first inclination when dealing with a crisis is to ask what his base would want him to do. Trump’s second inclination is to consider how to dominate the narrative on Twitter. 

I have absolutely no sympathy for the Republicans who choose to stand by Trump time after time, nor do I hope that the impending breakup goes smoothly. In my opinion, nothing that Trump does is smooth. Nothing that he does is peaceful or presidential. Trump is who he has always been, an unapologetic opportunist.

At some point in the near future, Trump’s abusive relationship with the Republican Party will end. If we’re all being honest, the breakup should have happened after any of the president’s many irresponsible and crassly delivered campaign speeches. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanInterior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election MORE and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal MORE made a political calculus that backfired.

After keeping the tea party at arm’s length, they embraced its love child, Donald Trump. They should have walked away from Trump after the comments about John McCainJohn Sidney McCainObama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE. They should have run away from Trump after he verbally attacked the gold star Khan family. They should have burned the bridge to Trump after the Access Hollywood tapes were released and he brought Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMontana governor raises profile ahead of potential 2020 bid Dem senator ties Kavanaugh confirmation vote to Trump-Putin controversy Don't place all your hopes — or fears — on a new Supreme Court justice MORE’s accusers to a presidential debate. They didn’t.

At every point, they waited for his poll numbers to do what they should have done in the first place. At every point, they waited for the media to do what the party leadership should have done without blinking or considering the consequences. At every point, Republican leadership chose their hatred for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Anti-Trump protests outside White House continue into fifth night Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests MORE and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMontana governor raises profile ahead of potential 2020 bid Trump was right to ditch UN’s plan for handling migrants Ex-White House stenographer: Trump is ‘lying to the American people’ MORE over their love for our political institutions. When Republicans needed a leader, they had Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

Now it’s become clear that Republicans and Trump are headed towards a head on collision. Trump no longer has a use for the Republican Party. He has already captured the Breitbart reading, Fox and Friends watching portion of the party. Trump knows that no matter what he does, he’ll never gain the approval the establishment wing.

It seems Trump has realized over the last few months of his presidency that it benefits him more to use Republicans as a foil than it does to use them as a friend. Republicans ability to aid Trump in creating new transactions or new deals is practically nonexistent. Their usefulness is gone. That power now lies with the Democrats.

So as the country spirals towards the 2018 and 2020 elections, it should surprise no one to see Trump leave the Republican Party. As an Independent, Trump could form a coalition of disheartened Republicans and conservative Democrats that could upend our political system.

Imagine a four-way race between Republican John Kasich, Democrat Tim Ryan, and Independents Donald Trump and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Bernie Sanders tells Kansas crowd: This 'sure doesn’t look' like a GOP state The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia MORE? That could be our political reality come 2020. In an odd way, it could be exactly what the country needs, an opportunity for both parties to realign themselves, while simultaneously getting voters comfortable with the idea of “serious” third-party candidates.

We always knew that things would never be the same after Trump won in 2016, but we may not have understood how different things would end up being. We are in the midst of a transformational political shift. Everything we know about political parties, their importance, their influence and their ability to raise money is being challenged.

With the rise of small donor politicians like Sanders, political orthodoxy is being upended. New doors for opportunity are being opened, and I’ve never known Trump to miss out on an opportunity. Get the bumper stickers ready because the president may already be plotting his political survival.

Michael Starr Hopkins is an attorney and former member of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He regularly appears on Fox News and CNN to talk about national politics. You can follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.