In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. In today’s politics, it’s one strike and you’re out.

Just ask Richard Burr. Our senior senator listened to all the evidence in the Trump impeachment trial and voted the courage of his convictions, declaring the former president guilty. The North Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee wasted no time. They couldn’t kick Burr out of the party, but they did vote to censure him.

Make no mistake: Republicans in Congress weren’t sending Donald Trump an early valentine. Many, more than enough to convict him, are fed up with Trump. If they had truly voted their consciences, they would have joined Burr and convicted Trump. Instead, all but seven Republican senators voted to keep their jobs instead of doing their jobs.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said as much in excoriating Trump after the vote. McConnell cast a not guilty vote because he believed he would lose his position as caucus leader if he voted “guilty.”

Burr responded to the censure vote saying it was “truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans. My party’s leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation.”

For a party already torn asunder and in need of unity, those leaders made the schism even worse. Since November, North Carolina’s State Board of Elections reports 16,435 registered Republicans have changed their registrations to some other party, evidence that many traditional members can no longer stomach the MAGA/Trump faction obviously in control.

Former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr is one of them. He was recently part of a nationwide conference call that discussed forming a new political party. Attractive as that may be, it is a difficult, risky proposition and likely won’t happen. Whether it does or doesn’t, Democrats will gain. An offshoot party splits the Republican vote; if one doesn’t form, disenchanted Republicans vote Democratic. Either way the D’s are in for better times. Center-right Republicans will ultimately retake control.

North Carolina will get two early tests next year, first with redistricting and also with Burr’s U.S. Senate seat.

Days ago, we learned that the 2020 census will not be reporting complete data on our state until September. This means that our legislature, charged with drawing new congressional, legislative and judicial districts, will likely be later this year doing so. Many had been hopeful this might be the year we see a non-partisan independent redistricting process initiated. Don’t count on it. Republicans are quite good at drawing districts that favor their party. We saw witness to that in 2020. Legislative leadership knows what’s at stake, and they aren’t about to willingly give up control. Look for more gerrymandered maps.

The second test will concern who will take the senate seat. Burr has announced he won’t run for another six-year term. Given the state of politics today, who can blame him? Already speculation has begun as to who will capture the Republican nomination. MAGA/Trump people believe Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of the former president and North Carolina native, is the future of the party. We will be eager to see who challenges her. The primary winner will tell us about her future as well as the party’s.

Will Rogers, the cowboy humorist, once said he didn’t belong to any organized political party. He was a Democrat. Wonder if he would say the same about today’s Republicans.

Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. Contact him at tomcamp@carolinabroadcasting.com.