In fact, Trump has succeeded — and will likely continue to succeed — not in spite of the media campaign against him, but, at least in part, because of it. Voters have grown wise to the media agenda, and recognize stories crafted to fit a certain mold rather than to follow the facts. They know what a smear looks like, and they don’t like it. At the same time, the ceaseless onslaught has made Trump a permanent underdog. And Americans identify with and cheer for underdogs — an aspect of the national psyche that media and political elites, detached as they are, forget.

Understood in this light, one can see why negative Trump coverage may boomerang, including recent “bombshells” from The Atlantic magazine and Bob Woodward. Citing unnamed sources, The Atlantic claimed that Trump ridiculed American soldiers killed in war. The story, however, was soon undermined by reality. None of its sources came forward. Officials who did come forward — including Former National Security Adviser John Bolton, a noted Trump critic — contradicted the account. Voters were left to wonder: Is The Atlantic more interested in harming Trump, particularly with his military supporters, than it is in the truth?