If you listen to the most ardent critics of Donald Trump, they describe him like a raging monster from an old Japanese movie; rising to pulverize the political establishment, eviscerate the electoral process and decimate the institutions of power — all while mainstream politicos run screaming through the streets.
And if you listen to his fans, um, you’ll hear the same thing.
I believe this is why the efforts to stop Trump’s march on the White House have so far proven impotent. His foes have not yet realized that the way they are attacking is making him stronger, not weaker. Just like one of those movie menaces, he is absorbing every missile aimed at him and turning it into energy for his rampaging campaign.
How is he pulling this off? How has a new poll emerged showing him not merely rising against Hillary Clinton but potentially beating her in the general election? Certainly the answers seem to be eluding most experienced political analysts. After all a great many candidates have been wiped out for far fewer flip flops, questionable statements and apparent stumbles. Trump’s command of facts is often shaky. His policies can seem flimsy to fantastical.
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But his core appeal, like Barack Obama’s hope and change in 2008, is not built on specifics. It is constructed around the simple premise that D.C. treats the American people with contempt and serves them poorly; that “politics as usual” promises nothing more than a continuation of gridlock and childish legislative tantrums. So whenever he is disparaged as someone who doesn’t understand how government works, his fans effectively shout back “But government does not work, that’s why we want Trump!”
Put even more simply: when protestors shout that his speeches should not be heard, when pundits paint him as a buffoon, when tweeters chortle about his hair and newspapers scream he must be stopped — it all reinforces the idea that Trump threatens the existence of all the political elites, power brokers and insiders.
And yeah, that does not hurt him. Indeed, his fans—like Godzilla wading into Tokyo—are eating it up.
(CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of "My Year of Running Dangerously")