My friend, a progressive, widely read white male, was looking for a logical answer, and I struggled to provide a response that might make sense in a crazy world.
I began with the anti-Obama white working-class men, especially, and some in the financial field who overlook Trump's apparent association with Stormy Daniels and his loose association with the truth. These voters seem to value, I suggested, Trump's spontaneity and lack of political correctness. As for evangelicals who should be turned off by the White House resident (I refuse to call him the President) and his corruption, his foul mouth, etc., I suggested that anyone for these right-wing voters is better than a progressive Democrat because of the right-wing agenda.
In the final analysis, though, I suggested that the reason is more emotional than rational: Trump appeals to those who feel threatened---fearful--of change, of immigration, of minority advances (gays, women, blacks, Hispanics). This fear leads to anger and hatred, and no number of inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and outright lies, no amount of incompetence can shake their devotion to the GOP leader.
It's hard to explain to explain to my friend and others the various factors involved, especially the deep-seated resentment that built up, first during the Clinton years, then surged during the Obama years, blinding many on the right to the dangerous character who's now in charge, a man recently called by former CIA director John Brennan "a disgraced demagogue [whose place is] in the dustbin of history."
In several studies by experts in the American presidency, Trump was ranked last, beating even Warren Harding and James Buchanan as the worst inhabitants of the White House. They now look like saints compared to this crooked, lazy, ill-informed, impulsive, incoherent, inarticulate scum-bag, whose tenure so far has put the U.S. on a dangerous course.
Trump, as several foreign policy experts have said, keeps creating problems in the world rather than solving those we already have. Why? He says he like conflict and chaos; he really likes attention and will do and say anything, however reckless, to put himself upfront in the media. He alarms knowledgeable, sensible people like David Miliband, former British Foreign Secretary, who says we are now at a "most dangerous moment" in world affairs because of the Trump administration. Trump has made the U.S. something of a rogue state, as unpredictable and dangerous as Russia, sowing discord with friends with policies on trade that change as fast as you can tweet. Richard Haass calls it a government in disarray.
As Peter Baker of the NYTimes points out (3-18-18), full-time fact-checkers struggle to keep up with Trump's distorted claims. Polls indicate that most Americans see him as dishonest. "While most presidents lie at times, Mr. Trump’s speeches and Twitter posts are embedded with so many false, distorted, misleading or unsubstantiated claims that he has tested even the normally low standards of American politics."
As the media work overtime trying to keep up with the ongoing catastrophe being daily created by Donald Trump, people like my friend, looking for a rational explanation for what support he has, come up short. The answers, as much psychological as political, are rooted in the recent history of this country and in its worship of the entertainment media as a source of power. Where, after all, would Trump be without Fox News to beat the drum for mendacity and madness at the center of our government?