…while populism is often associated with grass-roots movements, Trump’s brand of it flows not from the ground up, as did Obama’s campaign in 2008 or even the Tea Party movement in subsequent years. Rather, Trump’s is pure media populism, a cult of personality whose following has been built over decades. The popularity of Trump’s NBC reality franchise, ‘‘The Apprentice,’’ for instance, made him a potent cultural persona; the power of that persona (the frowning, pitiless boss) might actually outweigh the customary strategic imperatives (message discipline, donor bases) that the political wiseguys like to get all aroused about. In large measure, the core of Trump’s phenomenon is his celebrity itself, which, in today’s America, is in fact as populist as it gets.
Mark Leibovich, “Donald Trump is Not Going Anywhere”, The New York Times Magazine (4 October 2015), 32.