Give Sarah Palin her due.
No matter how you feel about Alaska’s former half-term governor or President-elect Donald Trump, there is no denying the former showed the latter the road to the White House.
Go back for a minute to 2008 when the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain wrote off Michigan, a state Trump turned into a battle-ground. Vice-presidential candidate Palin said then retreat was a mistake. She could sense the anger in the Rust Belt.
It was the same anger that helped carry Trump to victory on Tuesday and left all the pundits scratching their heads and trying to figure out what the hell happened. Palin understood the feelings of the people who live in what the big-shot media types call “fly-over country.”
She tried to get the message across to McCain in 2008.
“We’d be so happy to get to speak with the people there in Michigan, who are hurting because the economy is hurting,” CNN reported her telling the McCain camp. “Whatever we can do and whatever Todd and I can do in realizing what their challenges in that state are, as we can relate to them and connect with them and promise them that we won’t let them down in the administration.”
McCain didn’t listen and lost the election to Barack Obama. And what happened after that?
Palin bailed on the job of governor in the outpost state of Alaska in order to build herself a financially lucrative career as a pol-ebrity by channeling the anger of Middle America. She became a one-woman road show traveling the country to rail against a Washington, D.C. establishment she cursed for “crony capitalism.”
Crony, crony, crony
“Plain Assails ‘Crony Capitalism’ – A 2012 theme for the GOP?” the Weekly Standard headlined on Sept. 26 2011 above a long take out from a Palin speech that started this way:
“Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars.”
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, pretty much ignored Palin and the theme, and went the way of McCain. Trump did something else. He picked up the Palin blueprint this year and ran with it.
Trump tweaked the theme only slightly in order to attack Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Her is what Real Clear Politics reported Trump saying on the stump in New Hampshire in August:
“The veil was pulled back on a vast criminal enterprise run out of the State Department by Hillary Clinton. As the Associated Press documented, more than half of the meetings Hillary Clinton took as Secretary of State with people outside government were Clinton Foundation donors.
“Hillary’s Chief of Staff (Huma Abedin) received more messages from the Clinton’s Foundation Chief Operating Officer than just about anybody else. Eighty-five donors alone that she met with as Secretary gave the Foundation $156 million. I know many of these people. These are not people that are going up to pay their respects and say, ‘Madam Secretary, how are you feeling, isn’t it a beautiful day? The weather is so beautiful.’ These are people that want things for their donation. These are people that expect things for their donation. And when you follow it out and you see the people that left her office, you take a look at what those people, those companies and those countries got. Believe me, you will find out, it is plenty.”
The theme of entrenched politicians using their offices to make themselves rich resonated. It made working Americans angry. It was enough to get Trump elected.
Palin spotted this anger in Middle America long before the rest of the political class, and she played to it. She did the targeting for Trump and outlined the plan of attack.
Go after the ruling elite.
“The political and media elites on both left and right are rising up in anger at former Governor Sarah Palin. Stories abound, all negative, about this American citizen whose message resonates with ordinary citizens yet doesn’t conform to the current political and media template.
“By all rights, Palin should be kowtowing to the media. Doesn’t she know that? Instead, this upstart dares to ignore the unwritten rules governing political behavior. Palin is playing by her own rules and that just isn’t done.
“In the elite world of the old media, any contender for public office must give due deference to the unwritten and ever-changing rules of political correctness. The sacred cows of diversity, multiculturalism and social justice cannot be ignored. And the media is the only one allowed to define the issues.”
Trump ignored media efforts to define the issues. And those sacred cows of diversity, multiculturalism and social justice?
“Trump reveals how he would force Mexico to pay for border wall” – Washington Post
“Donald Trump: Ban all Muslim travel to U.S.” – CNN.com
“Donald Trump says it’s worse than ‘ever, ever, ever’ for black people in the United States.” – Los Angeles Times
Trump used sacred cows for target practice. The media loathed him for it. The New York Times actually pondered the responsibility of journalists who believed Trump “a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that…cozies up to anti-American dictators and that…would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes….”
Should they try to report on Trump objectively or use their platforms to sink his campaign? More than a few leaned toward the latter. They attacked; Trump, like Palin, counter-attacked.
That was supposed to be Trump’s undoing.
One of America’s greatest writers, Mark Twain, was long ago credited with offering the advice to “never pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrel.” Politicians, with few exceptions, hued to that advice for generations. Rather than battle the media, they tried to make nice.
Trump absolutely and totally ignored the advice, and today he is President elect.