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Trump: "I have a mandate from the people"

Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Charleston, WV
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Donald Trump thinks he has "a mandate from the people" to be a divider, not a uniter.

Trump told the New York Times in an interview that he doesn't plan to change his style now that he's the nominee:

"You win the pennant and now you’re in the World Series — you gonna change?" Mr. Trump said. "People like the way I’m doing."

He argued that he stood a better chance of inspiring voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania if he was his authentic self, rather than shifting from populist outsider to political insider to please a relative handful of Republican elites who are part of the establishment he has railed against for months. He said his huge rallies, where outbursts of violence and racist taunts have vexed many Republican leaders, and his attacks against adversaries on Twitter and in television interviews would continue because he believes Americans admire his aggressive, take-charge style.

"I think I have a mandate from the people," Mr. Trump continued, referring to his victories in 29 states, including Nebraska and West Virginia on Tuesday night.

So much for Trump's earlier boast that he can be "more presidential than anybody." But his decision to change nothing about his style isn't surprising. A traditional politician would move to the center after getting the nomination. (In 2012, an adviser to Mitt Romney infamously compared this process to an Etch-a-Sketch.) Trump's campaign is based on being an anti-politician.

Trump gleefully jumps up and down on top of political norms

Trump's campaign in part is driven by the sense that he's willing to go where traditional politicians don't — calling Ted Cruz a pussy, insulting Cruz's wife's physical appearance, retweeting accounts run by white supremacists, calling for violence against protesters and war crimes against the families of terrorists, and so forth.

Trump just doesn't care about the norms of a presidential campaign. To supporters, that means he's bucking the norms of "political correctness." To establishment Republicans, it's horrifying.

But one partial explanation for Trump's rise is that even the establishment has been willing to trample on the norms of American politics over the past few years — risking a default on the national debt, for example — and it's fed a hunger for that sort of violation among Republican voters. As Political scientist Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute told Vox's Andrew Prokop:

When you basically move dramatically away from what we call the regular order, when you almost debase your own institutions — you’re gonna find an opening for somebody who’s never been a part of it and who can offer you very, very simplistic answers.

Trump's willingness to ignore political norms is what makes his candidacy so unusual and risky. But he's not wrong that it's also a core part of his appeal.

Donald Trump's ideology of violence