Sarah Palin on Tuesday announced she is backing Donald Trump for president
Tim Stanley: They fuse those two things that Americans love the most: God and money
Editor’s Note: Timothy Stanley is a historian and columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Noticing what was not said is a good antidote for the nostalgia. Individual historical documents read in isolation rarely give the full sense of an era. Context is missing. The 1990s were great in some ways, miserable in others. I, for one, broke my nose in an accident. It’s never looked the same way since.
In fact, the endorsement is a smarter move than it might first appear. Sure, Palin has been near-invisible this campaign season and, sure, she is toxic to many liberal commentators and moderate voters. But Trump doesn’t need their votes right now. He needs to win Iowa.
The downside to being endorsed by Palin is association with a loser veep candidate who was widely mocked for her lack of understanding of economics, foreign policy and basic geography. Looking ahead to November, any Republican nominee would be wise to disassociate themselves from the Palin clan and their snowmobile racing shtick.
Indeed, pundits on left and right have had a jamboree over this particular pairing. “They are both reality-TV personalities with distinctive syntaxes and hairstyles,” wrote Alexandra Petri. SE Cupp asked “where have you gone, Sarah Palin?” chiding the Alaska maverick for siding with a “liberal.” And the most interesting take was by David Frum, who argued that Palin/Trump vs. Cruz was a contest between conservatism as identity and conservatism as ideology.
Palin and Trump are no more familiar with conservative economist Friedrich Hayek than a kangaroo is with the music of Beethoven. For them, conservatism is about identifying with outsiders and marginalized white Americans.
But there is some biography behind this pairing, as the Washington Post notes. Trump endorsed Palin in 2008. Palin endorsed Trump’s crusade to see Obama’s birth certificate. The two had pizza in 2011. Last year, the former Alaska governor appeared on Saturday Night Live to make some gags about a Trump/Palin ticket. “Sarah, you’re teasing us,” said Jerry Seinfeld, “That’s not nice.”
The idea would be enough to make some people leave the country – and Trump/Palin would doubtless consider that a victory. Aside from being outspoken, unapologetic citizen politicians who have never backed down from a position – no matter how appalling or inaccurate – you sense they share a delight in offending the politically correct. They probably read articles like this one and enjoy it enormously.
Moreover, they fuse those two things that Americans love the most: God and money. The Bible was wrong: Sarah and Donald prove that you can serve both.
In her speech endorsing Trump, Palin opened with this extraordinary declaration: “He’s from the private sector. Can I get a hallelujah?!” According to this Puritan-descended tradition, one’s moral virtue is reflected in one’s material worth.
And while The Donald has collected buildings, casinos and golf courses, The Sarah has collected TV shows, book deals and a loyal following of activists/investors who she now passes on to Trump in a corporate-style merger that must be worth millions on the vote market.
The mainstream media really ought to stop saying that Palin is dumb. She’s not. She’s a brilliant businesswoman, and she beautifully articulates the feelings of her impoverished clientele.
For all these reasons, the endorsement is God’s gift to Trump before Iowa. Elections in the Hawkeye State are swung by grass-roots activism and the enthusiasm of evangelical activists. Palin may not have exactly handed these over to Trump, but she has surely distracted them from the allure of Ted Cruz and his campaign to be – as The Donald would have us believe – America’s first Canadian president.
Cruz must be shaking in his Mountie boots.