A preference cascade is essentially like that story about the Emperor’s New Clothes. It is a sudden realization that instead of going along with something, you have accepted a wrong thing as fact. With that knowledge and the sudden realization of a large group, your acceptance can suddenly reverse itself.
In 1992, Bill Clinton ran a campaign mired in scandal as early as the primary contests began. Instead of dropping out like a Gary Hart would have, the story was so juicy that he got a post-Superbowl interview to talk about it. Clinton became infamous and his name recognition shot through the roof. That coupled with a weak Democratic candidate field got him the nomination. A third party candidate helped him win with 43% of the popular vote.
Barack Obama lied about his intentions, his world view and worked to conceal aspects of his biography. He benefited from an unlikable opponent in the primaries and a candidate in the general election who wanted to prove he could run a campaign without counterattacks he deemed unethical. Obama won handily.
The Trump campaign is led by a man with high name recognition, a recent conversion to conservatism and a disdain for virtually everything the Republican Party has done for the last 25 years. Most of those 25 years he spent as a liberal Democrat. Most of his speeches consist of “I’m going to make (some impressive goal) so great, you won’t even believe it.” An increasing amount of primary voters seem to believe the impossible.
If Donald Trump isn’t offering fantasy over reality, he’s offering the unknowable over the present. There are no external forces that will easily “stop” the momentum. You can’t imply offer to build a wall, make Mexico pay for it AND cover it in delicious candy to one-up him.
The power is more in the hands of the people than ever. Now that Trump is the front runner and is in a position to win the necessary delegates, he is no longer a protest candidate. In the last week, I’ve seen more people get close to that “oh shit” moment where they realize that voting for Trump doesn’t just sends a message, but sends a guy who’s more personality than policy against a political machine that’s won 16 out of the last 24 years in the White House.