Trump is whomever you want him to be

Every successful politician succeeds by acting, to some degree, by allowing themselves to look like a blank screen on which a wide range of voters can project their own hopes and dreams. The clumsier politicians risk the appearance of pandering. Smoother ones manage to simply stay vague enough to convince voters they’re with them, although that can cause problems later: Barack Obama campaigned as an inspirational liberal in 2008, only to disappoint many of his more progressive backers with an essentially moderate governing approach.

The Trump candidacy is a more unusual case, though. Seldom has a candidate run on such a clear set of policies, delivered so bluntly: He’s gonna build a wall. He’s gonna rip up trade agreements. He’s gonna stop Muslim immigration. He’s gonna beat China. Yet in spite of the directness of these promises—or perhaps because of them—quite a few of Trump’s supporters in the Republican Party insist that he doesn’t really mean what he says…

For voters who are drawn primarily to Trump’s rhetorical stance, these variances may be irrelevant. But for voters who are supporting him largely because of his promises, or for citizens who want to know what a Trump administration might be like, they make it hard to know who to trust. Should you believe Trump? Or should you believe the people who say Trump doesn’t really mean it, like Rick Perry, Chris Collins, and, well, Donald Trump?