Palin remains critical: to a faction of the Republican Party, and to understanding the emergence of Donald Trump and Trumpism — the ideology created by the president’s most ardent supporters, though not necessarily by the president himself.
.. From the moment Palin entered the national scene, the praise for her on the right was heavily tied to her image.
.. Kathleen Parker said of her initial interest in Palin: “She was the antithesis and nemesis of the hirsute, Birkenstock-wearing sisterhood — a refreshing feminist of a different order who personified the modern successful working mother.”
Nowhere in the piece were Palin’s conservative viewpoints referenced; her views on, say, health care or school choice, or even abortion, went unmentioned. Palin’s problem, in Parker’s view, wasn’t her beliefs but her tendency to ramble. What mattered about the governor was what she could reflect back to a hungry Republican base: an “attractive, earnest [and] confident” woman in a position of power.
.. Palin said what the base was thinking.
- She accused Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”
- She praised those willing to “screw the political correctness.” She cheered the birther movement promoted by one Donald Trump.
- As the keynote speaker at the first-ever National Tea Party Convention in February 2010, she taunted Democrats, “How’s that hopey-changey stuff working out?”
.. Palin was an avatar for how her supporters felt about themselves and the world they wanted to see, one they saw rapidly slipping away from them. Sure, she might be wrong, they seemed to say, but she’s like us. She is us.
.. her departure left an opening that was filled by Trump
.. Trump campaigned on the Palin model. In fact, he improved upon it. His identity was his trademark, rendering the constant shifts in policy goals and promises almost meaningless. His base saw in Trump what they wanted to see.
- .. Some saw a fighter who would stand up for them,
- others saw a vaunted truth-teller,
- and a few, truth be told, likely saw a potential white-nationalist hero.
And he gave it to them: the image, the veneer, the blank slate upon which their deeply held dreams
.. his base will not leave him, because to abandon Trump would not be to abandon the current president but to leave behind deeply held beliefs of their own... His popularity is cultural, not political, resilient to the notions of truth and fiction and to Trump’s own failures.