Last week, President Donald Trump flew to Britain, our closest ally.

But before Air Force One's wheels touched the tarmac, Trump had called the mayor of London a "stone cold loser." And he called a royal-in-law and fellow American, Meghan Markle, "nasty."

Name-calling is rude and generally counterproductive. What could Trump gain by insulting his hosts? Wouldn't millions, on both sides of the Atlantic, have cheered if the queen had scolded Trump like a schoolboy and sent him home until he could behave?

But my always-Trump friends are not put off by his name-calling and blustering pettiness. Indeed, they've managed not only to accept it, they've grown fond of it. They are part of the 40% who manage to accommodate themselves to anything Trump says or does.

They have not read the Mueller report. They do not mind that Trump cultivates relationships with the globe's worst autocrats and undermines the institutions and values that have helped stabilize the world since World War II.

They do not mind having a man as president from whom, if he lived next door, you would probably want to move away.

But what about more ordinary Republicans, who still are reportedly supporting the president at levels close to 90%?

As Democrats appear to move closer to impeachment, might some Republicans be swayed as well, after the example of U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan? Might some begin to realize Trump is bad for the nation, as well as for their party?

Republicans often encourage us to ignore what Trump says and to look, instead, at what he does. It's a meaningless distinction. Really, to speak is also to act.

And certainly Trump has acted to give Republicans several things they deeply desire: a significant shift to the right in the judicial branch, deregulation that makes it easier for businesses to make more money and a tax cut, even though most of the benefits have gone to those who don't need them.

Of course, Trump also said he would do other things that he hasn't accomplished: no provisions for health care, no lowered drug prices, no infrastructure, no wall.

Nevertheless, most Republicans remain loyal to Trump. Having already crossed half the river riding on his back, they are reluctant to change in midstream.

But it's interesting to consider how different the circumstances would be today if Republicans had begun to question their commitment to Trump a year ago, when it was clear he would never achieve the hoped-for transition to "presidential."

By that time it was obvious how bad a president Trump was going to be. Apart from his policies - which he seems to improvise in unpredictable, impulsive ways - no one can be a good president whose personality depends so much on bluster, bragging, lying, narcissism and petty name-calling.

If Republicans had held their party's standard-bearer to a higher standard, Mike Pence might be our president by now. Pence represents his own sort of nightmare for progressives, but he is at least a more-or-less normal politician who could have delivered the same right-wing judicial nominees and perhaps accomplished more of a conservative agenda than Trump has.

And it's impossible to imagine Pence harboring the sort of mean-spirited grudge against John McCain that prompted Trump aides to attempt to shield him from seeing the USS John S. McCain during his visit to Japan, a minor incident among many more that reflect poorly on our nation and the president's character.

Alas for Republicans, that ship has sailed. Democrats may or may not undertake impeachment, but if they do, the timing is unlikely to produce a President Pence. It's probably too late for them to help their party by installing a functional leader.

Which gives Republicans a different kind of choice, if it comes to impeachment: They've lost their party's best chance in Pence, but it's not too late to choose patriotism over party.

Someday history will evaluate the Trump era. Republicans still have a chance to cast down a marker for where they stood when their country was in trouble.

John M. Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, can be reached at jcrispcolumns@gmail.com.

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