Trump and Palin

Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump. Rather than groan in disgust, Ross Douthat offers this thoughtful piece:

First, Palin is not a Reganite wonk, and never was. She has always been a populist like Trump:

… her record way up north was reformist in a distinctly nonideological way: She was best known for fighting a corrupt nexus of politicians and the oil-and-gas industry, tackling crony capitalism on behalf of ordinary Alaskans.

… given Palin’s Alaskan past, the endorsement makes perfect sense. Her real roots are not in Reaganism or libertarianism or the orthodoxies of the donor class. They’re in the same kind of blue-collar, Jacksonian, “who’s looking out for you?” populism that has carried Trump to the top of the Republican polls.

Second, the appeal of Trump is rooted in the abject failures of Republicans to launch any meaningful reform. People have simply tuned out the Republican message:

…at a certain point disillusionment with the system becomes so strong that no wonkish policy proposal is likely to resonate anymore. So you can talk all you want about improving vocational education or increasing the child-tax credit, and people will tune you out: They want someone who will arm-wrestle the Chinese, make Mexico pay for the wall, smite our enemies and generally stand in solidarity with their resentments, regardless of the policy results.

Of course the same thing is happening on the left. Rank and file Democrats liked Obama over Clinton, and like Bernie Sanders over Clinton, for the same reasons.

The problem of course, as Douthat points out, is that the populist options of Sanders and Trump are shallow and not really all that populist.


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