2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump has dominated the news cycle, and rightly so: it’s a shocking turnabout from the grassroots conservative darling who slams the Republican establishment. Donald Trump, you see, is far closer to the Republican establishment than he is to conservatism – he’s a populist with big money and government ties, a man who routinely gave money to Democrats, a guy who switched in time for the 2016 election on issues ranging from immigration to abortion.
And Palin just endorsed him.
Why did she do it? There are two possibilities, one more cynical and one less. The more cynical possibility is that Palin hopes her endorsement of Trump will stave off a challenge from Cruz for leadership of the grassroots Tea Party movement – if Cruz wins the nomination, he takes de facto control of the Tea Party. If Trump wins, with Palin as kingmaker, she maintains control.
Then there’s the less cynical and more probable explanation: she buys into Trump’s populist appeal and identifies with him as a candidate because Trump’s enemies are the same folks who generally attack her. In other words, she let her quest for vengeance against the establishment trump her conservative ideals.
In any case, here are four reasons why Palin’s endorsement betrays her conservatism:
Trump Is The Ultimate Crony Capitalist. There was something extraordinarily odd in Palin decrying crony capitalism while standing next to Trump. Here’s what she said about illegal immigration, for example:
The permanent political class has been doing the bidding of their campaign donor class and that’s why you see that the borders are kept open. For them, for their cheap labor that they want to come in. That’s why they’ve been bloating budgets. It’s for crony capitalists to be able to suck off of them.
Speaking of crony capitalists sucking off illegal immigration, Trump allegedly built the original Trump Tower with illegal Polish labor. And Trump has endorsed the seizure of private property from the government for redistribution to other private parties – in fact, he’s used eminent domain to build his empire. He brags openly about hijacking the political process for his own benefit. And he endorsed the ethanol boondoggle – on the same day Palin ripped crony capitalism. Yet Palin said that Trump didn’t get his high off of “opium” or rather “OPM, other people’s money.”
The Establishment Supports Trump Over Ted Cruz. Palin said yesterday, “I want you guys to understand more and more how the system, the establishment, works and has gotten us into the troubles that we are in — in America.” But the establishment despises Cruz. They are merely deeply uncomfortable with Trump, as I pointed out yesterday. Trump himself said yesterday that establishment figures are centralizing around him to stop Cruz. The Hill reported this morning that “Republican donors are quietly coming around to the idea that Donald Trump could be their party’s nominee for president.” National Review reported last week that House Republicans prefer Trump to Cruz because they feel they can control Trump. Trump actually mirrors the establishment on the issues far more than the limited government, Constitutional conservative Cruz.
Trump Won’t Defund The Left. Yesterday, Palin blasted “GOP majorities handing over a blank check to fund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood and illegal immigration that competes for your jobs and turning safety nets into hammocks.” Donald Trump says he’ll repeal Obamacare, but has endorsed nationalized healthcare occasionally; he said he wouldn’t defund Planned Parenthood before swiveling on a dime; and he says he won’t touch Medicare or Social Security. But Palin says he’s the agent of change?
She Says Trump’s Not An Elitist. Yeah, Right. Trump is supposedly blue-collar, but he’s never gotten his hands dirty other than with dirty money. Palin says, “He’s a multi-billionaire…He’s not an elitist.” Really? He said he paid the Clinton Foundation to get the Clintons to come to his wedding. He’s given to all the major Democratic politicians in his state. He has cited his New York upbringing as his original reason for supporting partial-birth abortion. When Palin says that Trump has “spent his life with the workin’ man,” some evidence would be nice.
Palin’s endorsement of Trump is a sell-out of conservatism, but so too is support of Trump generally. Just because the establishment stinks doesn’t mean that replacing the establishment with a man who reflects their values is a win for conservatives. More importantly, the celebration of the establishment over Palin's endorsement springs from their incorrect belief that the Tea Party will embrace populism over conservatism. There's no evidence of that yet. But Palin opened the door to such speculation, and that's a disservice to the grassroots conservatives who have supported her.