Two of the institutions that could play a major role in Pres. Donald Trump’s future are the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

Depending on developments in coming weeks two of California’s most prominent political figures could have star turns in each chamber—Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Judiciary Committee member in the Senate, and Kevin McCarthy, a putative heir-apparent to retiring House Speaker, Paul Ryan.

Both are facing challenges from different sides of the political spectrum—hers from the Left, his from the Right.

Each is on very different trajectories which may or may not collide depending on their personal circumstances, the results of the Speakership battle, the outcome of the November mid-term elections, and the results of investigations on multiple fronts into criminal wrongdoing by Trump and his administration.

The House is charged with bringing Articles of Impeachment and if successful a trial which can result conviction is conducted by the Senate.

Feinstein, a San Franciscan first elected in 1992, is seeking an unprecedented 5th term both as a Democrat and as a woman Senator from California. Her history of ideological moderation would make her judgment especially significant if the proceedings were to go forward.

Feinstein is currently leading in the polls against her closest opponent, State Senate leader, Kevin de Leon, but is facing questions because of her age and a growing eagerness in the liberal and progressive wings of her party for fresh faces.

GOP House Majority Leader, McCarthy, who is looking at a 7th term if re-elected which most observers consider assured, must overcome resistance from conservatives who thwarted his efforts to become Speaker four years ago.

McCarthy who has made no secret of his ambitions did an abrupt turnaround pulling out of the race after making remarks raising questions about the depth of his loyalties that rankled many on the Right.

McCarthy was Ryan’s hand-picked lieutenant and the sudden retirement of the House’s foremost tax hawk and chief architect of its economic agenda with whom McCarthy walked in lockstep raises further doubts about the solidity of his leadership if he were chosen.

Another stumbling block could be McCarthy’s stance on immigration—the ultimate litmus test for party support.

Ryan did him no favors when he asked McCarthy to lead the negotiations on the issue in a nationally televised meeting January 9th at the White House where the so-called “Dreamers” legislation (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA) was taken up.

Realizing that he was in the spotlight, McCarthy made a strong pitch for tougher border security as the bigger priority. The DACA program expired on March 5th with no bi-partisan resolution and Congress kicking the can down the road.

Ironically with the president looking like he was about to agree with Sen. Feinstein who was also at the meeting urging Trump to authorize the legislation, it was McCarthy who interjected, “When we talk about just DACA, we don’t want to be back here two years later. We have to have security?

While this may have temporarily muted some of the criticism emanating from the intractable House Freedom Caucus who have become the self-appointed police over all House actions, it will not put McCarthy in good stead with the farm industry who fiercely oppose any dilution of guest worker laws and are crucial to his support.

Feinstein, on the other hand, has been a strong advocate of farmworker protection and passage of the Dream Act—both of which draw widespread public approval.

A bigger question for McCarthy should be why he would want the job?

If the GOP suffers a resounding defeat in November large enough to return majority control to the Democrats at least in the House, minority status is not second prize.

And at the moment it is not clear what exactly will be remain of the GOP once Trump has finished his version of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Ryan will be gone. But his successor could be looking at a landscape decimated beyond recognition with little fruit worth harvesting.

On top of that, if the inquiries into Trump’s wholesale decimation of the rule of law culminates in his firing of special prosecutor, Robert Mueller (a development which GOP Senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says would signal, “the beginning of the end of his presidency,” the House would become preoccupied with something more than the fate of the budget deficit or choosing its next leader.

However regardless of who ends up in control in November, some expert observers are seeing Ryan’s departure as the perfect opportunity for the GOP to build a more “hopeful, inclusive conservative movement.

That is the case being made by Dan Schnur, a former communications director for the McCain presidential campaign in 2000 and more recently Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute at USC.

Schnur’s reimagining of a “new Right-of-Center” emerging from the ashes rests however on a basic fallacy—namely that a majority of the new-age American electorate resides there and that the GOP has the best chance of corralling it.

And it will be the party deserters who he labels the “never Trumpers”—Ryan joined by Kasich, Corker, Flake and others) who will stand ready to reap the reward—fellow “insurgents, objectors and iconoclasts.’

This misses one essential fact.

Trump has no and never really claimed any partisan mooring. The voters didn’t really buy Trump—they bought into Trumpism—a message brilliantly (or perhaps inadvertently) crafted by a self-styled, made-for-media messenger.

But it was a devil’s bargain where he won over the voters and in exchange was able to rebuild the party in his own image!

Former House Speaker, John Boehner and Paul Ryan tried to take it back and resurrect it. They failed. McCarthy, should he get the job, will also fail unless he and the Democrats can find ways to work together.

The Democrats, for their part, had no answer for Trump and are now torn between giving a new generation full voice and abandoning those perceived as losing relevance or sticking with failed slogans meant to appeal to the blue collars and hard working families or lavish social promises that obviously have not worked well.

Those seeking high and lower offices across the country need to be aware of those schisms and act accordingly.

If Feinstein can steer a middle-course leaving no side perfectly happy yet alienating the few, but following a principled road as she has done throughout her career she will win again.

The American polity remains where it has always been—close to the center with periodically strong pulls Left and Right (the Neo-Populist strains), searching for leaders that can unify not totally disrupt.

Successful politicians including presidents eventually figure that out and govern accordingly, or they risk losing their jobs. Trump is now at high risk. He got lucky but that is running out quickly

Lawless demagogues bent only on accumulating more power even if it means trampling on the Constitution itself cannot survive long—and our history has never been kind to any who tried.

Trump—if he even understands the term—makes little effort to discern between clashing ideologies.

He did not have to as those in the Center or left of it either held their nose when they voted for Clinton or quit altogether as enough disgruntled voters to the Right swallowed the bait with a helpful assist from the obsolete Electoral College.

Old-fashioned Republicanism much as its Democratic counterpart was at least grounded with some aberrations in the rule of law.

Trump’s systematic decimation of all the rules has obliterated the normal dividing lines between those who cannot tolerate excessive misconduct and those who have become so angered with their lot that they are prepared to overlook it.

The next leader will have to understand that moral challenge or we could be consigned to years of creeping despotism that might gradually unravel our constitutional underpinnings.

That person has yet to surface and if none does in the next few years—it could very well result in a third party making a very strong run. It might not be enough to capture the Oval Office. But greater fragmentation and civil erosion is inevitable if neither major party is able to fill the vacuum.

Until then, Ryan and his fellow GOP deserters might better spend their time reining in the rouge president to whom they at first unwillingly and then cravenly genuflected—and for whom the Democrats are incapable of finding an antidote unless the November elections change the political math dramatically.

Ryan will be eventually replaced.

But if Ryan’s departure liberates him as “the boldest conservative thinker of his generation,” in advancing the special alchemy that made him Speaker, it is unclear that the Old Guard Republicans who still control the party are prepared to walk away lockstep with someone who has repaid the favor by deserting them.

McCarthy will have to set his own course, realizing however that Ryan’s departure does not discredit the potency of the nationwide fervor that brought Trump to power. In fact it only confirms it.

And the GOP cannot be taken back by McCarthy or anyone else until Trump is removed.

That’s a goal which both parties should want to share.