People voted for him because they didn't believe him. They wanted change but they also had confidence in the basic durability and decency of America's political institutions to protect them from the worst effects of that change. They wanted Trump to shake up a system that they also expected to shield them from the recklessness of a man like Trump.
Runciman writes believing himself that more radical change, presumably in a leftward direction, may be required than either Trump or his fans desire, but that it will require a degree of risk few Americans seem to want. "The understandable desire to keep the tanks off the streets and the cashpoints open gets in the way of tackling the long-term threats we face," he argues. Anyone who thinks Trump will bring radical change is mistaken, he claims, because Trump is not the "disruptor" they hope for. The distinction between taking Trump literally and taking him seriously extends to basic perceptions of what the man is or represents. If some see Trump as a disruptor, Runciman sees him as "a spiteful mischief-maker." If others see him as another "authoritarian father figure" in the Republican presidential mode, Runciman sees "a child, the most childish politician I have encountered in my lifetime." Here I think Runciman's own notions of what makes a "father figure" may get in the way of seeing Trump clearly, since my gut feeling is that many do see him as a Big Daddy figure, and an authoritative if not authoritarian one, even in the absence of whatever gravitas or responsibility Runciman deems paternal. On some level, however, Runciman believes that American voters share his perception. "The people who voted for him did not believe they were taking a huge gamble," he reiterates, assuming that "they believed that [the political system] was still capable of protecting them from the consequences of their choice." He assumes that Trump's election is no more than a "tantrum," but this assumption seems to be based more on his perception of Trump than on any deep perception of Trump voters. From his safe distance he may not be taking them either literally or seriously. Time will tell whether that is wise.