At the beginning of the Trump campaign, I argued that the phenomenon was best thought of as a breaking of the conformity effect, drawing on a long tradition of social psychology research, in particular the Solomon Asch conformity experiments.
In those experiments, a group of people are seated at a table and are shown a pair of lines, one being clearly longer than the other. An authority figure asks each of them in turn, which line is longer? One after the other, they say that the shorter line is longer -- these people are actually in on the game, and their wrong answers are meant to test the conformity of the final respondent, who is the only true test subject. Most but not all people conform and say the shorter line is longer.
However, if there's even one other person who gives the correct answer, it completely wipes out the conformity effect -- now every test subject says that the longer line is longer. They feel relieved, like "Thank God, I thought I was crazy, but I've found independent confirmation."
Before Trump announced his campaign, large swathes of the American population already held the beliefs and felt the feelings that Trump would soon bring into the public forum. What changed was that, by publicly declaring that the Emperor wasn't wearing any clothes, all of those disconnected thinking-they're-crazy voters bolted upright and said, "Thank God, I thought I was the only one who thought and felt that way!"
Trump did not lead them through a logical, rational, or fact-based argument. He and his audience were already largely in agreement on the facts of our current situation. Nor did he manipulate their emotions, as they already felt more or less the way he did about these facts -- how angry they were at the disgrace of our politicians selling out ordinary people to the wealthy and powerful, how violated and corrupted they felt to see their communities overrun with foreigners.
Sure, he gave them a few new facts -- did you know that President Eisenhower deported over a million illegal Mexican immigrants back in the 1950s? -- and intensified the emotions that folks were already feeling -- growling, "Geeeet 'em outta heeeere" to disrupters as his rallies.
By providing a public example of "someone who thought and felt a certain way," he validated the beliefs and feelings of all those who thought and felt that way, which turned out to be a yuge chunk of the American population. He gave them cover to come out of the woodwork and not only express what policies they wanted, based on their thoughts and feelings, e.g. by attending one of his rallies. He also gave them a way to take overt action in furtherance of those goals -- heading out to the polling station and casting a vote for him in the primaries.
So what Trump really changed was people's social behavior -- from sitting apathetic and isolated on the sidelines, to pumped up and unified while attending rallies, trolling idiots on the internet, and voting in elections. He did this not by rational or even emotional argument, but simply by showing them that they were not alone, and if there's so many of us who already think and feel this way, why don't we do something about it?
That made his campaign impervious to attacks on a rational or emotional level -- his followers' beliefs and feelings were already fairly deep-seated, and Trump's campaign was just giving them an outlet to express and act on them. Indeed polls showed that almost none of them would consider voting for anyone else.
To effectively counteract his campaign, therefore, his opponents would have had to either convince his followers that he didn't really share their positions -- impossible after how ubiquitous he made his views through the media -- or to remove the option of voting for him, which was not possible during the primaries, although the cuckservatives did at one point discuss blocking his nomination at the Convention (even then, most of his supporters probably would have voted for Trump as an independent candidate in the general election).
On the other side of the Atlantic, much the same dynamics were playing out leading up to the British referendum on withdrawing from the EU. Being British, the Leave campaign did wage a more rational and emotional battle than the American Trump campaign, but it seems like that was mostly for keeping up the appearance of being a civilized society founded on healthy, vigorous debate.
In reality, the Leave voters had already held those beliefs and felt those emotions long before the prospect of a referendum on the matter had even been suggested, let alone publicly debated. What the Leave campaign offered them was a way to express that, and to make an overt act to achieve their goals -- heading out to the polling stations to vote Leave.
As with the Trump campaign, there was no effective counter-attack possible because the beliefs were so deeply held, and the emotions so deeply felt. And unlike in America, they were voting for a single proposition rather than the full suite of positions held by a candidate, so the opponents could not convince the Leave voters that their choice at the polling station would not be what it was made out to be (leave means leave). The only thing they could have done would have been to cancel the vote and not allow people to act in furtherance of their goals.
But now we have an even higher level of conformity shattering -- Americans have just witnessed Britain acting on behalf of their populist and nationalist goals, in a nationwide election of citizens, in defiance of unrelenting pressures to conform with the policies of their betters. So now we have not only other individuals in America who have validated our goals, we have an entire other nation (perceived as a whole nation rather than individual Britons) that has validated the goals that we want America, as a whole nation, to pursue.
Britain as a nation will also provide an "Emperor is wearing no clothes" example to other entire nations within the EU, such as France and Italy. Much of the population of those countries are already becoming aware that they are not alone in wanting a populist and nationalist set of policies, but until now they only felt that arising among the other individuals within their own nation. Now they see an entire nation acting the way they would like to see their entire nation act.
As in the within-nation case of the Trump campaign or the Leave campaign, the between-nation shattering of conformity is not relying on rational or emotional appeals from one nation to another. The winners of the Brexit vote surely feel similar to the Trump supporters over here, but they aren't appealing to us directly. All they are doing is providing a highly visible example of breaking with the wrong-headed status quo, which -- without intending to do so -- sends the signal to other nations that they can do it, too, if they want.
In the Asch experiments, the only way to prevent the conformity shattering effect would have been to simply not ask the test subject for his response. He hears all of the incorrect answers being given, then he is relieved to hear that sole exception who gives the right answer, but then he is not asked by the authority figure and therefore does not get a chance to make an overt act in defiance of the conformist pressures. He just sits there thinking, "At least I'm not the only one," but still unable express or act on that conviction.
In the political referendum, the analogy would be to simply deny the newly awakened citizens a chance to vote on the matter at hand by canceling the elections -- and plunge their nations into bloody revolution.
Our rulers are not that anti-democratic, so as it stands the populist and nationalist genie has been let out of the bottle, and no amount of rational or emotional argument will put him back in ("fact-checking," calling us xenophobes, etc.). What has changed over the past year is not our understanding of the facts, or our emotional reaction to them, but rather the sense that we were alone, and are now aware of how many others want the same thing as we do.
Our opponents cannot reverse this basic perceptual awareness, without hopelessly trying to convince us that we didn't really see what we have seen. The displays of populist and nationalist sentiment are too public, too widespread, and therefore too unforgettable for the globalist Establishment to shame us back into disaffected isolation.