GOP Becomes The Party of Bad Ideas: Only Trump Can Save Them

APPLETON, WI - MARCH 30:  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests during a campaign rally at the Radi
APPLETON, WI - MARCH 30: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests during a campaign rally at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel on March 30, 2016 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Wisconsin voters go to the polls for the state's primary on April 5. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The bizarre and entertaining always detract from the important. Blame who you will, the circus and food fight elements of the Trump surge have masked the important truth about his impact on American politics. Trump is the only person who can save the Republican Party. Not his persona, his ideas.

Start with the orthodox views of the Republican Party. On economics it's austerity, tax cuts for the rich and privatizing and reducing entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. These are bad ideas, and failed ideas. They don't work in Europe, or Kansas, or Louisiana, or in America. Economic prosperity is a function of investment and policies that encourage demand. On trade, it's couched as free trade, but it's a transfer of power to multinationals stripped of any policy to soften the blow to American workers. On the environment, it's climate change denial and reduced government oversight of public health: You get earthquakes in Oklahoma, rising water levels on the coasts, and poisoned drinking water. On foreign policy it's aggressive military presence all over the world and boots on the ground in places no one can prevail by force of arms. These are also failed ideas. Republican voters understand that.

Trump, to the extent you can parse ideas from the insults, ethnic attacks and craziness of the campaign he's waged, has separated himself from all this nonsense, either explicitly or with a nod and a wink. He's willing to raise taxes on the super-rich, protect Social Security and Medicare, keep us out of unwinnable proxy wars, re-do trade agreements and more. Movement conservatives are absolutely right to complain he is not one of them.

From a purely political point of view, if you are a Republican, thank Trump for shattering the forced conformance to a hard, right-wing agenda that doesn't work and isn't popular. It turns out that movement conservatism is the catechism of an elite band of intellectuals, hedge fund managers and corporate billionaires. Actual Republican voters are not committed to their agenda. And the insistence of Trump and other Republicans to champion a social agenda that is pro-gun, anti-abortion rights, anti-woman and sexual minorities, anti-immigrant gets the base excited but is no longer enough to cover up for the other, really bad ideas.

Worse than being failed ideas, in the political sense, Republican orthodoxy has done nothing to improve the lives of average folks. They're not stupid. Their quality of life has deteriorated, the political class (of both parties) has neglected them, and they want things different.

There's no need to idealize Trump or his voters. There are dangerous elements of authoritarianism, gender and ethnic hostility and plain nonsense that can be seen on a daily basis. But to shrug him off as a buffoon or maniac, as the Republican establishment does, or as a fascist or racist, as the Democratic establishment does, is wrong and unworkable.

Pay attention to the grievances we are hearing from Trump voters. They're real. Pay attention to his ideas and his break from Republican orthodoxy. They are the only chance Republicans have of attracting voters who aren't narrow ideologues. And if you're a Democrat, or Hillary, or Bernie be sure that your ideas meet the needs of folks who now think they've got no alternative but Trump.