Yesterday in Iowa, Sarah Palin announced her endorsement of Donald Trump in a twenty-minute speech that rejected the legacy of President Barack Obama and identified Trump as the agent of change for American conservatives. Mr. Trump, for his part, looked the part of dignified, honored candidate, standing next to former Governor Palin with a large smile as she declared her support.
As a former vice-presidential candidate and tea-party favorite, many see Sarah Palin as one who brings conservative legitimacy to Trump’s candidacy. During her endorsement speech, Palin demonstrated her awareness of both the Trump talking points as well as the reasons why voters have been boosting Trump to the top of the polls, saying, “We need someone new, who has the power … his candidacy is a movement. It’s a force. It’s a strategy.”
Far from parroting the conventional wisdom about the Trump campaign, Palin sums up his appeal to voters right here – lumping Trump and conservative voters together by saying “we” instead of “Republicans” to describe elected officials in Washington. Trump strikes this distinction often, and Palin echoed it throughout her endorsement – coming from her, tea party loyalists may see the possibility that Trump is the executive they’ve been looking for.
On the other hand, Palin appears to selectively listen to her preferred candidate. She consistently bemoans the status quo, saying that “the permanent political class” is kept in power by the “campaign donor class and that’s why you see the borders kept open … It’s for crony capitalists to be able to suck off of them.” A key talking point in Donald Trump’s campaign speeches has been that he understands why people give money to campaigns – so that they can obtain favors from their chosen candidate in the event of a victory. Translation? Donald Trump made crony capitalism a linchpin of his success.
Moving right along, Governor Palin described Trump by saying that, “His power, his passion is the fabric of America and it’s woven by work ethic and dreams and drive and faith in the Almighty.” Mr. Trump has yet to answer a question about faith without referencing poll numbers ahead of actual substance. This past Sunday on “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, Donald Trump answered a question about forgiveness by saying “I have a great relationship with God. I have a great relationship with the evangelicals, in fact nationwide I’m up by a lot.”
In two steps, Trump went from discussing faith to discussing poll numbers, which has been the theme he strikes when talking faith – rather than answer the question, he talks about polls, or his own success. This is not to question his faith, but rather to question what his actual experience is, rather than why poll numbers reflect “faith in the Almighty,” as Palin stated yesterday.
As much as Sarah Palin deserves respect, yesterday’s speech did not reveal why a voter should back Donald Trump – rather, it pointed out that it is possible to support a candidate without actually paying attention to what they say.
Kevin Dawson is Deputy Operations Manager for the American Principles Project.