Republicans begin their biennial state convention on Mackinac Island today, absent the distraction of Donald Trump. The GOP frontrunner has chosen to pass up the Michigan gathering, focusing instead on the earlier primary states of Iowa and South Carolina.

That means there’s a chance at least of some substantive discussion of the serious issues facing our nation, and how the candidates plan to address them, could top the agenda. The GOP presidential race so far has been mostly about theatrics and ego, with Trump standing at center stage. The billionaire is building a campaign on straight talk, which mostly means he says whatever goofy and offensive thought pops into his head.

Meanwhile, another outsider, Dr. Ben Carson, a Detroit native and retired brain surgeon, is moving up fast in the polls to challenge Trump, again, with nothing to recommend him in terms of political experience or hands-on leadership. Yet another non-politician, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, is getting strong looks from voters as well, fortified by a strong debate presence on Wednesday night.

Obviously, voters aren’t enamored right now with so-called establishment candidates.

The belief apparently is that someone not tainted by Washington will also not be infected with its dysfunction. A fresh voice, the thinking goes, could cut through the double-talk and double-dealing that marks today’s political environment and solve America’s problems with no-nonsense, non-beholden decision making.

It’s a nice thought. And would be that it could become reality.

But a candidate whose primary assets are that he or she has never held political office, disdains political correctness and tells the people whatever they want to hear might not be the best choice to lead America in this dangerous and disruptive era.

Before turning to someone whose last job was a reality TV host, voters, particularly Republican voters, should consider what’s a stake in this election.

For eight years, the nation has suffered while an inexperienced president has pursued his personal agenda. The health care system, which wasn’t perfect, but worked for the vast majority of Americans, has been torn apart and reassembled in a way that covers a few more people in exchange for higher costs and less choice for most consumers.

Misjudgments in foreign policy have the world in turmoil, with refugees fleeing from places ravaged, in part, by the White House’s poor calculations.

Choking regulations imposed on business by executive order have slowed the recovery and left the economy ill-prepared to weather the next downturn.

These are the byproducts of ignoring resumes and placing a fine talker in the White House.

Cleaning up this mess will take a president with a clear vision of how government should work and in making it work. Someone with the maturity and temperament to reestablish America’s leadership on the world stage. Someone who is not a clown.

Before Republicans can fix anything of course, they have to get their candidate elected. Nominating someone whose appeal is limited to the party’s disturbingly wide fringe is not a winning strategy.

At some point, the fascination with bombast and simplistic promises will end, and voters will be looking for a candidate of substance and experience.

This is an opportune year for Republicans, with the Democrats still betting on the increasingly vulnerable Hillary Clinton. As they gather on Mackinac, members of the state GOP should be thinking hard about how they avoid squandering the opportunity.

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