Jeb Bush was right to call him the chaos candidate early on in the 2016 primary season. Bush meant that Trump sowed chaos. He did, and he does. But it was also true in another sense. Trump thrives on chaos, even that which he doesn’t create. The more American democracy degrades, becomes a circus, and gets permeated by a miasma of bad faith and bad blood, the more politicians like Trump will flourish and succeed in their efforts to act as ringmasters of a carnival freak show at the core of our public life.

But there’s another reason why the Iowa imbroglio benefits Trump. Democrats are dying to do things with government. That’s even truer this cycle than others, when candidates of a newly energized left are proposing litanies of stupefyingly complex and expensive policies. But voters are only going to endorse agendas like that if they feel they can trust America’s institutions and elites to enact them with competence.

Levels of institutional trust are at record lows, creating a significant headwind for ambitious Democrats. But that doesn’t mean it can’t get worse. Every time a political institution falters or flubs its appointed task, those numbers drift lower, laying the groundwork for greater cynicism about what government can and should be doing. That’s the atmosphere in which Republicans — yes, Trumpian as well as Reaganite Republicans — prosper.