When people lose faith in institutions (political parties, organized religion, etc.) they don’t become cynics or nihilists, they simply transfer their faith to people. Specifically, two kinds of people: themselves and charismatic celebrities.
The first category seems rather obvious to me. There’s always been an acute independent streak in Americans. “You’re not the boss of me,” “Go with your gut,” and “Who are you to judge (me)?” could be national mottos.
But it seems to me that we’ve passed some kind of tipping point.
I don’t know when it happened, but the trend stretches back a long way. Some might want to start the timeline in the radicalism of the 1960s or the selfishness of the “Me Decade” 1970s. Others might lay blame on the alleged greed of the 1980s. The point is that Americans, regardless of ideology, are more inclined to go with their own moral or political instincts than to rely on experts or defer to institutions.