From Jonathan Chait writing at New York magazine:
Republicans, and observers of the Republican Party, have concluded that Donald Trump’s gonzo commandeering of their presidential primary has defied their attempts to suppress it because he is crazy. This is broadly true, but not quite in the way Trump’s befuddled critics mean it. What they say is that Trump is winning because he attracts voters with nonsensical ideas. Lindsey Graham calls Trump “a huckster billionaire whose political ideas are gibberish.” Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson tellsEvan Osnos, in Osnos’s paraphrasing, “anyone who runs for office discovers that some portion of the electorate is available to be enraged and manipulated, if a candidate is willing to do it.”
Trump has certainly crafted an appeal to voters who like impractical ideas. But his true threat lies in the fact that Trump himself is crazy — not just ideologically, though he is certainly that as well, but in the sense that he lacks any rational connection between his actions and his goals, to the extent that his goals are discernible at all. That is also his downfall.
For a long time, the political profession believed that Trump would never run for president. A profile by McKay Coppins last year framed Trump’s long history of teasing reporters with campaigns that he would not undertake as an unbreakable pattern of publicity-hounding. “Over the course of 25 years, he’s repeatedly toyed with the idea of running for president and now, maybe, governor of New York,” explained the story’s summary. “With all but his closest apostles finally tired of the charade, even the Donald himself has to ask, what’s the point?”
Trump defied the skeptics by actually announcing a run for office. He then defied the skeptics by surging into the polling lead, and again by maintaining his lead in the face of a withering assault by the Republican Establishment, led by Fox News.
By design or (more likely) by accident, Trump has inhabited a ripe ideological niche. Both parties contain ranges of opinions within them. And both are run by elites who have more socially liberal and economically conservative views than their own voters. (There are plenty of anti-abortion, anti-immigration, anti-same-sex-marriage Democrats not represented by their leaders.) But the tension between base and elite runs deeper in the Republican Party. Conservative leaders tend to care very little about conservative social policy, or even disagree with it altogether. Conservatives care a great deal about cutting the top tax rate, deregulating the financial industry, and, ideally, reducing spending on social insurance — proposals that have virtually no authentic following among the rank and file.
Read the rest of the story at New York magazine.