There is a certain prosperity-theology aspect to Trump’s appeal, the idea that you follow a minister because he is rich and has his own plane and implicitly and sometimes explicitly promises that you, too, will be rich.
Yes! Trump is, for many people, the realization of the American Dream: A guy who got rich off of making good deals, married a beautiful woman, became a reality TV star, has his own plane and can (and does) tell pretty much everyone exactly what he thinks of them. The Trump brand represents success to people -- whether it's on a building, a hat, a golf course or in the man himself.
Everything Trump has done in the campaign has been aimed at forwarding this basic idea: Elect me, and you can be more like me. Implicit in that is that people do want to be more like him. While many in the D.C. political class would roll their eyes at that notion, there's considerable truth in it -- especially among Republican voters. They feel like America isn't great anymore and that the American Dream is dead or dying. What better way to revive it than to elect a guy who embodies it and won't apologize for his success?
(It's worth noting that the idea of Trump as an up-from-his-bootstraps, self-made man isn't, well, accurate. His father, Fred, was a real-estate developer of considerable means in New York City; Donald built on and vastly expanded that empire but he did not build it himself.)
Remember that we live in a culture in which celebrity -- no matter how that celebrity is attained -- is widely seen as the goal of life. Kim Kardashian, one of the most recognizable people in the country or maybe even the world, is famous for being famous. If you are on TV or if you have 1 million followers on Instagram, you have "made" it. Young people -- and even some not-so-young people -- aspire to being rich and famous. They don't know what that really means, but man do they want it.
Trump gets that. "Our country needs to be glamorized," Trump told Leibovich at one point in the piece. At another, he recalled that "Jimmy Carter used to get off Air Force One carrying his luggage. I used to say, ‘I don’t want a president carrying his luggage.’ "
The idea of a president who represents our best self is nothing new. Every person who runs for president does their version of a riff about how our combined strength is greater than any one individual and so on and so forth. But those appeals are usually to altruistic values. Trump's image of the country's best self is a rich and muscular one that avoids conflicts by might and, when conflicts do happen, always wins them. That's Donald Trump's vision of the American Dream. And at least as of today, lots of people see it the same way.