In fact, some Trump supporters actually consider his unethical and opportunistic behavior as desirable. In their minds, Trump isn’t just a bully; he’s their bully. Jerry Useem recently wrote in The Atlantic how uncouth behavior is often viewed as a sign of leadership. He writes, “High-powered people are more likely to take an extra cookie from a common plate, chew with their mouths open, spread crumbs, stereotype, patronize, interrupt, ignore the feelings of others, invade their personal space, and claim credit for their contributions.”
Success makes some leaders less inhibited. The reverse is also true; norm-violating behavior is often interpreted as leadership ability. When study subjects viewed an actor behaving rudely, they were more likely to predict he could lead than when the actor was being polite.
Jerk behavior that advantages a group also boosts prestige. When an actor snuck coffee for himself and the test subject while the researcher was away, he was deemed a leader. Not so when he poured a cup only for himself or acquired the coffee without stealing it. When Trump was just a boorish real estate mogul and entertainer, he was pouring coffee for himself. Now he’s pouring it for others.
The Trump supporters in our listenership see Sen. Ted Cruz, by comparison, as the guy who won’t or can’t steal the coffee. Even before Trump branded his erstwhile ally “nasty,” Trump fans said they were skeptical of Cruz. He wasn’t tough enough to get the job done. Cruz is the widow hen’s brainy son Eggbert to the likes of Foghorn Leghorn.