George W. Bush liked to say he was 'misunderestimated.' Well, when it comes to misunderestimation, Donald Trump puts 43 to shame.
Less than a year ago, lots of usually smart media types and politicians were busy predicting that Trump would never, ever run. Then they assured us that his candidacy would be short-lived, doomed to crash on the rocks of reality.
Very few people not named Cruz or Kasich raise much of a stink when Trump refers to himself as the 'presumptive nominee.'
Statistical guru Nate Silver is a case in point. Renowned for correctly predicting the results in 50 out of 50 states in 2012, he assured his followers that Trump essentially had no chance of winning the Republican primary.
The tarnished Silver now claims that Trump's success is a 'black swan,' an event so rare as to be absolutely unpredictable.
There's one big problem with that self-excusing analysis.
Lots of Americans, especially those oft-ridiculed folks who cling to their guns and religion, looked at Trump and did not see a black swan. They saw a white knight, an avenger who would rescue them from the dark forces of political correctness and elite smugness.
As an aside, an article called 'The Smug Style in American Liberalism,' written by a liberal in the liberal online publication Vox.com, has become one of the year's most-talked-about pieces.
The article lays out how progressive Americans came to view themselves as smarter, wiser, cooler, and far more enlightened than those God-fearing and Trump-loving hicks.
But back to Donald Trump and four issues that enabled him to strike the right chord with many millions of traditional Americans.
First and foremost is illegal immigration.
It's true that recent polls show that immigration is not a top priority for Trump voters. But the issue has been out there ever since he joined the race at that Trump Tower premiere gala.
Self-proclaimed progressives really don't like borders all that much. And the farther left you veer, the more you hear that borders and walls are actually 'racist' roadblocks that hurt the poor.
Donald Trump and his supporters have a far different take. They know that every country has to protect itself from illegal immigrants, especially those who would do harm.
Progressives look at Kate Steinle's murder and see one of those 'black swan' events.
Traditional Americans understand that there are far too many violent illegal aliens among us. They want a president who knows that as well.
A second Trump strength is his ability, despite his billions, to identify with the economic fears of less well-heeled Americans. Right or wrong, he blames much of the dislocation on trade deals with nations that are eating our lunch like John Kasich at a pancake breakfast.
Bernie Sanders took on the same problem from the left and it nearly earned him the Democratic nomination.
Third, Donald Trump has called out the Obama administration on America's weakness, especially the unwillingness to identify evil.
In his foreign policy speech Wednesday, Trump pointedly mentioned 'Islamic terrorism' four separate times. To President Obama and Hillary Clinton, that is a term that must never, ever be uttered.
Everyone knows that crazed Muslim fanatics are on the rampage, and that Christians and other infidels are their targets. Trump says it loud and clear, which resonates with millions of Americans.
Finally, there is political betrayal.
Many Americans are beyond sick and tired of the political correctness that has run roughshod over American institutions, beginning with college campuses.
Universities protect their delicate flowers with safe zones, speech codes, and kangaroo courts. Western civilization is portrayed as racist and sexist and all that other bad stuff, while the perfidies of the Muslim world are overlooked.
There is a common perception that President Obama identifies with the elites who just don't like or understand most Americans. And an equally common perception that Donald Trump understands the anxieties of the masses. Whether he can really fix things is open to question.
But Trump voters, all those millions who have defied the pundits, like the fact that he at least acknowledges their alienation from the Washington/Hollywood/Manhattan crowd.
This has been an election cycle unlike any other. A total newcomer, a guy who has never even been a political apprentice, has soared to the top of a major party. Along the way, Donald Trump defied all expectations and proved pretty much every expert wrong.
The 'black swan theory' holds that some events are so improbable that they can never be predicted, only recognized in hindsight.
Our elites now describe Donald Trump in those terms. But millions and millions of Americans, certainly not as well educated or cultured as those elites, do not need hindsight to understand the rise of Donald Trump.
Those 'low information voters' could have told the pundits many months ago that Donald Trump is the real deal, that they will stick with him to the very end. If only someone had taken the time to ask them.