While the United States is a republic, the current administration is a griftocracy—that is, the state is ruled by grifters and for grifters. While there are many varieties of con people and scammers, the hallmarks of the grifter are that they engage in schemes to gain the confidence of their victims and then defraud them. While there are many scammers, grifters can be regarded as being especially shoddy, unskilled and petty in their scams—or at least the term has that feel to it. That is, they lack the artistry of the true con artist and are mere fraudsters without the wicked brilliance of a master of deceit.
Trump and most of his fellows are, obviously enough, grifters. They engage in fraud but are not particularly clever about it—their grifting is often easily recognized and they are often quite petty in their misdeeds. This is not to say they do not try for big scores—sometimes they do. To be fair, they really do not have to be very clever—the Republican party (which seems largely composed of those who grift for power rather than primarily for money) actively protects them from the consequences of their actions. Given that Trump and his lot are so very bad at what they do, the obvious question is why they still enjoy a shocking level of approval and support.
In the case of those who benefit from what Trump does, such as his pushing of tax cuts for the wealthy and creating safe spaces for white nationalists and other racists, they have excellent reasons to support him. After all, while they might not be grifters, they reap these benefits. As such, it is rational for them to back Trump. What is far less obvious is why people support him who do not benefit in these direct ways and might even be harmed by Trump’s policies.
One obvious answer is that they are deceived by Trump—they have been taken in by his lies and accept them as true. In this case, they are being fully grifted. One problem is that Trump, as Trevor Noah has argued, can be weirdly honest about his lying. Perhaps his supporters still do not get that he is telling them that he has been lying or they think that he is kidding that he is lying. An alternative explanation is that they realize he is lying, but do not care.
They might think that they are in on the grift. That is, they believe that he is conning those other people, but he and his special people know what is really going on. Roughly put, Trump is lying with them and for them, but not to them. In this case, it makes sense they would support him—they are part of his group and they are pulling things over on the media, the liberals and others.
They might also simply enjoy the grift. To use an obvious analogy, people persist in playing the rigged carnival games even though most people know they are rigged. In part, this could be wishful thinking—some people might think that they can beat the rig. It is also likely that people enjoy the theatre of the scam—a social activity in which they agree to be scammed in return for having some fun. So, being a Trump supporter of this sort is like being perpetually at the carnival—they are being scammed, but enjoying it.
It might be objected that most politicians engage in grifting—they are in it to enrich themselves or are at least grifting for power if not money. On the one hand, this is a fair point. For example, the Clintons used their public service to amass impressive wealth. Members of Congress also do quite well; although some are wealthy before they are elected. On the other hand, to regard profiting off influence as grifting is to treat profiting from influence as being the same as fraud, which it is not. This is not to say that engaging in such self-service from public service is good, just that it need not be fraud. For example, if Obama or Bush gets a large check for a speaking engagement, they are profiting from public service, but not defrauding anyone.