Where there are open flames, there will always be curious moths. Tonight, at a little after six o’clock, Sarah Palin will succumb at last to overwhelming temptation and sign up for Donald Trump’s ever-glistering light show. And in that remarkable moment, the mask will fall off completely.
If you are surprised by this development, you shouldn’t be. Ours is an age in which politics and entertainment are melted together without opposition or disfavor; a silly, self-indulgent, shallow age in which Kanye West thinks he can be the president of the United States and the president of the United States thinks he can be Kanye West. That Palin and Trump are together at last is no accident of ideology or timing; rather, it is the inevitable and rational confluence of two ghastly cults of personality — a fat-cutting, cash-saving merger that will serve to increase overall market share. Under their own steam, both figures have convinced a significant portion of the American population that their personal advancement is the key to the country’s success. Together, just think how great America can be!
Talk to a Palin fan and you will be told in a matter of moments that to oppose her is to oppose “real America.” Talk to a Trump fan, and you will be told that to knock him is to knock “We the people” — of which, it is made abundantly clear, you are no longer a valued part. All told, this symmetry makes sense, for the pair have of late become mirror images. Sarah Palin started in politics and moved seamlessly into television and entrepreneurship; Donald Trump started in business and, after a quick foray onto the small screen, readied himself for the ballot box. Now their most effective cudgels can be wielded as one: You’re not so effete that you’re against the both of them, are you?
#share#They will pretend otherwise, of course — and their screaming acolytes will mewl their way into acquiescence — but, by uniting, the pair has shown the way toward a new sort of conservative establishment. Last year, long before Trump made his ambitions clear, I submitted that if one “wanted to find a figure to which Palin can be reasonably compared . . . it’s not Ronald Reagan. . . . It’s Donald Trump.” And so it has come to pass. Like Palin, Trump has mastered the art of the interminable ramble, the purpose of which is not to convey meaning or to advance a useful argument but to stun the audience into dumb submission. Like Palin, Trump has embraced his ignorance and wielded it as a sign of strength and normality against the ever-protean “elite.” And, like Palin, Trump has betrayed his desire to fix the political system not by mastering or replacing it, but by becoming it. This isn’t an insurgency, it’s a shakedown. And the conmen are moving in packs.
There is nothing here but opportunism and ego.
Alas, there is no grand principle on display here. There is nothing but opportunism and ego. For a long time now, Sarah Palin has been apt to say anything and everything to keep the cameras buzzing around her hive. This rotten endorsement completes the decline. What, we might ask, has become of Palin’s beloved Tea Party? What, too, of her purported admiration for limited government, and of her ostensible hatred of heretics and fakers? The prospect of a mass movement that was earnestly committed to libertarianism was always a little too good to be true, but even I didn’t imagine it ending like this. All that talk of the Constitution and the Declaration; all that energy expended against the cronies and the rent-seekers; all those purifying voter drives — and for what? So that Sarah Palin could add a few zeroes to her bank balance and Donald Trump could go from the purchaser to the bought? Today was the day that Rick Santelli’s famous yelp finally melted into populism and avarice. Today, at about ten minutes past six, P. T. Barnum beat out Hayek for the soul of the insurgent Right. Today, the rebels became the charlatans they had set out to depose. What comes next will be anybody’s guess.