I spent most of the summer with Crazy Buts.
From Detroit, where my family lives, to northern Michigan, where my family vacations, I heard Republicans, independents, and even Democrats begin sentences this way: "Donald Trump is crazy, but..."
"Crazy, but he's a winner, and I'm tired of America losing."
"Crazy, but he can't be worse than what we got."
"Crazy, but he's punishing the establishment."
"Crazy, but he's driving the media nuts."
"Crazy, but he says what I can't say."
Most don't mean “crazy” in a clinical sense. “Crazy as in crass,” a landscaper from rural Michigan told me in mid-July. “I’m not sure he has the temperament to be president, but I like how he’s messing with your minds in Washington. Crazy like a crash-test dummy.”
Crazy successful. Trump defied political conventions and conventional wisdom all summer, seizing support of one-third of registered Republicans and GOP-leaning independents in today's Washington Post/ABC News poll. Combined with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson's 20 percent, two political outsiders are favored by a majority of GOP voters.
That's astonishing—to anybody who hasn't been paying attention.
For more than a generation, the public's trust in social institutions has steadily declined, as virtually every foundation of American life—churches, charities, schools, police, courts, small businesses, big businesses, the medial system, and the media—failed to adapt to immense economic and technological change, a phenomena I wrote about in a 2012 essay called "In Nothing We Trust." The trend is most pronounced in politics and government: Less than a quarter of Americans trust government in Washington always or most of the time; the Democratic and Republican parties' approval ratings are less than 40 percent; and only 14 percent of Americans think well of Congress. Those are all-time lows.