He has a particular mindset we see all the time in business -- he's "the disrupter."
The disrupter is someone whose entire "brand" is to break the mold, to turn the way we do things on its head. Amazon did this with retail, Uber did it with taxi services, Airbnb did it with travel, Tinder did it with dating, Slack is doing it with email, Spotify is doing it with music, peer-to-peer lending is changing banking.
And Trump is disrupting politics.
Disrupters don't fix what's broken because they don't innovate from inside the system. They break the mold, change our thinking about the mold and then hand us the new rules for how things work.
Just look at the Big Five companies that drive the Internet economy -- all disrupters -- Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook. They were early movers, they played by their own rules. First they disrupted how we do business online, and now they define it. And they control it. Apple just reported its highest earnings ever. Looks like disruption is working.
Today every taxi company in America could band together, and they still would not stop the power of Uber. That is because when you gain enough momentum, you dominate the market and the conversation.
In his effect on everything from Fox News to the Koch Brothers to the newspapers that endorse candidates, Trump has disrupted every single aspect of the game of politics and created new rules -- and based on the polls, what he's done is working.
And so far, most of the political establishment has been wrong about what this all means. They said he wouldn't last and now he's leading in the polls. They said he wouldn't disclose his financial information or quit reality TV and he did both. They said that every insulting, ridiculous, inaccurate and offensive thing that Trump has said would hurt him. No sign of this. They said no network would bow to his demands for shorter debates -- but they did.
Who knows what will happen when the Republican National Committee has to officially pick its candidate for president, but -- holy cow -- it sure will be interesting to watch. And who will we be watching? Trump.
We can call Trump the carnival barker or the political side show, but discrediting the one who is wielding new power is what we do when we lose control of the negotiation. It's not politics, it's business -- as usual. This is why Trump understands that he can ignore it.
He also understands something powerful: leverage. He is above Fox News, because he IS the news. And he knows that what he says AND where he goes is the story and therefore it is the business asset. So he is keeping control of that asset.
The psychological term for the way he plays the game is psychological reactance
. The more he denies Fox access, the more they will talk about him. Fox took the bait and released a snarky, juvenile response to Trump's decision to skip the debate.
The establishment can't play by the disrupter's rules, because the rules are designed to destroy it.
The Republican establishment has already lost. Trump will be the party's next nominee no matter how many times he says he won't call Megyn Kelly a bimbo. It doesn't matter how many backroom meetings the Koch brothers organize or what Reince Priebus does to rally RNC delegates. It's over.
The newspaper endorsements are also irrelevant, as are the fringe politicians and reality stars who are lining up to endorse Trump. They are all too late.
The only thing that can beat Donald Trump now is the one thing he doesn't control: Americans who don't want his services as president of the United States.
And the only way they will make a difference if there are enough of them -- enough liberals, Democrats, independents, and yes, even some Republicans and conservatives -- who can appreciate the appeal of a disrupter, but don't want one to lead the country.