Donald Trump’s critics focus on Donald Trump the man so much because they cannot afford to admit that they themselves are more than half the reason that Trump is president today. Trump was a celebrity, and he’s an instinctively gifted campaigner. He spoke political truths, however crudely, that the public longed to hear. But that’s the point: they longed to hear what Trump had to say about America’s raw deals and the wars we don’t win any more because no one in the political establishment of either party dared to voice such thoughts. Execrable leadership by respectable Republicans and Democrats created the conditions that led to Trump. A challenge to Trump would have to come from a sector that is as untainted as he is by the failures of the last decade. That’s precisely what the old Republican Party—the party of the Bushes and John McCain—is not.
Whether Trump can deliver on his promises is partly beside the point: it may be enough simply that he is not promising the old policies that voters in most states have grown sick of. In the abstract, as well as when he’s concretely faced with an opponent like Hillary Clinton or the Republican Congress, all Trump needs to win is a foe who is more widely unpopular than he is. Trump is the effect, more than the cause, of the crisis in American government.