It might seem difficult to imagine now, but once upon a time it was possible to feel shocked by political developments. We’ve become so desensitized, especially in the last few years. Yet in 2016, there was a profound sense of disbelief over the results of the American presidential election. How could Donald Trump, a complete political outsider who’d never before held office, defeat an opponent who seemed to hold every office except for the presidency she sought? How could someone with Trump’s particular brand of politics, of nationalist tendencies and unabashed populist appeals, experience unprecedented success? Upon closer examination, an explanation emerges. I trace the history of conservatism and the Republican Party in the United States, along with its many evolutions, and contrast it with the stories of the populist and demagogic politicians who paved a path Trump so expertly followed. What becomes clear is that Trump does not represent something entirely new, but rather something newly successful.