I think Trump may be unique in how his supporters saw him. I can’t recall any candidate who’s supporters didn’t believe he would do the things he said, while his detractors believed every word he uttered.
I tried to speak to as many Trump supporters as I could before the election. I’d ask them why they thought a wall would be a good idea, when it’d be way easier to just take a bus rather than cross the desert. I’d ask how climate change could be a Chinese hoax, or how he’d bring back coal jobs when every country in the world, including the US, is phasing out coal. Most of the time, they’d say that they didn’t believe he would actually do those things. Granted, I’m an east coast liberal, so even the conservatives I know are going to be the more liberal ones, but that’s consistent with what I’ve found about how elections work. People don’t vote based on policy, or facts in general. They vote based on how a candidate makes them feel. Trump made people feel that there were simple solutions to all of our problems, and all we need is a strong leader to push them through. That’s the word that kept coming up in why people supported Trump, strength. But strength can only take you so far.
Trump’s connection to his supporters is incredibly strong, and that will let them forgive things they would start an insurrection over if Clinton had won. Right now there is lots of talk that Russia was actively trying to get Trump to win. If even a hint of that occurred with Clinton, I can’t even imagine the threats and actions they would take. Trump is appointing CEO’s and bankers to major cabinet positions. Clinton got grilled for giving a few speeches to them. But this hold he has over them is going to be tested in ways I don’t think anyone will see coming. Right now he is fending off accusations that the Russians helped him win. He is going to keep a partial control over his businesses by giving nominal control to his son. He is appointing Ben Carson to run a housing agency and an Exxon executive to be the nation’s top diplomat. His stated tax plan will raise taxes on the middle class and lower them for the rich. He plans on removing regulations on energy which will lead to more oil spills, methane leaks, and general disasters for the people who have to live nearby.
Right now Trump is in that sweet time where he’s won the election but has no real power. Come January 20th, he’s going to have to start making decisions, and these are decisions we already know will be disasters. The Russian connections, the incompetent cabinet members, and his already broken promises he will easily get through. Someone as persuasive as Trump isn’t worried about accusations that Russia helped him win. I don’t know what he’d have to do to lose support, but the way he’s going, I think we’ll find out sooner than expected.