What happens when the messenger is a jerk, but the message makes sense? Or some of the message?
It is a very hard thing to do, to listen to Trump and try to parse the sense from the nonsense. But it has got to be done. If not, the only explanation for his astounding electoral success is that we are a nation of racists and morons. That's not the case. Racists and morons we have aplenty, as does every other nation on earth. And the Republican Party has made itself a welcoming home for overt and covert bigotry.
Listen to Trump on the loss of manufacturing jobs. On the impact of trade deals. On drug prices and how we don't competitively bid them. Sounds like Mother Jones, Bernie Sanders and Paul Krugman all in one.
And listen to the in-your-face anger about it. If you were a man or woman whose manufacturing job and economic future got exported from Indiana to Mexico, would you be measured and dispassionate? Trump not only has figured out what those folks are thinking, he's figured out that they want some individual identified, held accountable and reamed out. You know, accountability.
It's just too damn bad that such transformative politics comes in the package it does. It is perfectly fair to say that his acts, views and words on immigrants, the disabled, Obama's birth certificate, torture, health care, you name it, are disqualifying. And, eventually, folks will consider deeply about his temperament, and who they want making decisions about war and peace. Also disqualifying with respect to Trump.
He's right about what's happened to a broad swath of our countrymen and women.
But can he force a real debate about how presidents of both parties presided over the flight of decent jobs and the plight of the middle class? Wouldn't that shake up the system precisely as the left wants?
The real target of the decent parts of the Trump agenda is the Democratic Party. Democrats proudly and rightly stand for the civil and human rights of all, protection of the vulnerable, economic fairness and judicious use of military power. How then did it take so long for Democrats to pay real political attention to the abandoned industrial base?
Listen to the AFL-CIO's Tom Lawandowski:
Here's Trump talking about trade, in a ham-handed way, but at least he's representing emotionally. We've had all the political establishment standing behind every trade deal, and then we've had to fight them to get them to represent us.
Or the AFL-CIO's Karen Nussbaum:
"People are much more frightened than they are bigoted, people are fed up, people are hurting, they are very distressed about the fact that their kids don't have a future," and that, "There still hasn't been a recovery from the recession, that every family still suffers from it in one way or another."
When Trump finally forces a long-overdue debate about this, it's not enough to point to awfulness of his views on identity, poverty and justice issues. Awful they are, but it's possible to do two things at once. Fight what's wrong, and embrace what's right. Or else, perhaps, President Trump.