Most politicians avoid unnecessary fights, not wanting to call upon their supporters to rally to their defense too often. But Trump brought with him a different set of rules: the rules of celebrity gossip, reality TV, and Twitter—not to mention professional wrestling—where constant conflict is necessary to keep your fans engaged. The more they are required to defend you, the more readily they will do it, making it a hobby or even part of their identity. Notice the number of Republican candidates now running for office who list “defending President Trump” as their main qualification and even as a “conservative value.”
Seen this way, the constant trolling isn’t a regrettable byproduct of the Trump presidency—it’s central to Trump’s political brand and the main benefit he delivers to his most hard-core supporters. Even some of his policy proposals are beginning to seem like an adjunct to trolling, as with the draft executive order mandating “classical” architecture for federal buildings, which mostly seems calculated to provoke sputtering outrage from big-city elites who like Modern architecture.