Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential nominee who became a Tea Party sensation and a favorite of grass-roots conservatives, endorsed Donald J. Trump in Iowa on Tuesday, providing Mr. Trump with a potentially significant boost just 13 days before the state’s caucuses…

”Over the years Palin has actually cultivated a number of relationships in Iowa,” said Craig Robinson, the former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa and publisher of the website The Iowa Republican. ”There are the Tea Party activists who still think she’s great and a breath of fresh air, but she also did a good job of courting Republican donors in the state,” he added…

“Palin’s brand among evangelicals is as gold as the faucets in Trump tower,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

“Endorsements alone don’t guarantee victory, but Palin’s embrace of Trump may turn the fight over the evangelical vote into a war for the soul of the party,” he said.

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Palin has a reputation for being very conservative, but she’s not. OnTheIssues.org, which grades public statements, rates her as a “moderate conservative.” Palin supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. She has described herself as a feminist. Palin is far less conservative than other Republican bigwigs, such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; both rate as “hard-core conservatives.”

Palin’s ideology lines up much better with Trump’s. When you convert Palin’s and Trump’s OnTheIssues grades to a -100 (most liberal) to 100 (most conservative) scale,1 Palin and Trump have nearly identical scores (47.4 for Palin and 47.5 for Trump). Trump has strayed from conservative orthodoxy on abortion, foreign policy, gay marriage, Social Security and a whole host of other issues. Palin is more interested in outsider credentials than conservative bona fides.

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[In Alaska] Palin was a pragmatist and a dealmaker, just like Trump—guided by a fundamentally conservative worldview, but not especially interested in or bound by orthodoxy. (You’re unlikely to find either curled up with the complete works of William F. Buckley.) Like Trump, she was willing to take on big business and call for new taxes where they seemed warranted. Trump, too, has a mixed political past in his closet: On the one hand, years of race-baiting, but on the other, past support for abortion, donations to liberal candidates, registration as a Democrat.

But Trump and Palin were both able to spot, and then position themselves to take advantage of, opportunities of the moment. They understood that if they were able to say the right things to the right groups, it would block those more complicated political pasts from view.

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Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump united two favorites of Republican conservatives, but it’s an open question whether Palin’s nod will help the billionaire front-runner

In addition, voters in Iowa, which holds its caucuses Feb. 1, have expressed doubt over just how helpful Palin’s endorsement is. A month before the 2014 midterm election, 56 percent of likely Iowa voters said that Palin’s endorsement of Joni Ernst would do “more to hurt” than help her chances of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, according to polling from Selzer & Co., which conducts Iowa polls for Bloomberg Politics. Just 30 percent said it would help. Ernst won anyway.

In that same survey, 57 percent of likely Iowa voters, of all affiliations, viewed her unfavorably, although only 16 percent of Ernst supporters said the Palin’s endorsement was a “problem.”

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But the Trump phenomenon also seems global and inevitable. America’s elite class belongs to a truly global class of elites. And everywhere in Europe that global class is being challenged by anti-immigrant, occasionally-protectionist parties who do not parrot free-market economic policies, but instead promise to use the levers of the state to protect native interests. In Russia, Putin’s populist nationalism has taken over a major state apparatus, precisely to avenge itself on the paladins of the free-market.

What is so crucial to Trump’s success, even within the Republican Party, is his almost total ditching of conservatism as a governing philosophy. He is doing the very thing Pat Buchanan could not, and would not do…

What so frightens the conservative movement about Trump’s success is that he reveals just how thin the support for their ideas really is. His campaign is a rebuke to their institutions. It says the Republican Party doesn’t need all these think tanks, all this supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the ones in tassel-loafers and bow ties. Have they made you more free? Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don’t need them, and you’re better off without them.

And the most frightening thing of all — as Francis’ advice shows — is that the underlying trend has been around for at least 20 years, just waiting for the right man to come along and take advantage.

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[T]he Republican Party is not as antigovernment as its elites think it is. Its members no longer fit into the same old ideological categories. Trump grabbed his lead with an ideological grab bag of gestures, some of them quite on the left. He is more Huey Long than Calvin Coolidge.

Given the current strains on middle- and working-class families, many Republican voters want a government that will help the little guy; they just don’t want one that is incompetent, corrupt or infused with liberal social values…

[M]aybe it’s time some Republicans took a stand on what is emerging as the central dispute of our time — not between left and right but between open and closed. As the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams has found, the key trait that identifies Trump followers is authoritarianism. His central image is a wall. With their emphasis on anger and shutting people out, Trump and Cruz are more like European conservatives than American ones.

Governing conservatism has to offer people a secure financial base and a steady hand up so they can welcome global capitalism with hope and a sense of opportunity. That’s the true American tradition, emphasizing future dynamism not tribal walls. There’s a silent majority of hopeful, practical, programmatic Republicans. You know who you are.

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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!…

[B]y 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.

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.

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At the height of the movement’s cultural power, disdainful liberals enjoyed citing the nonsensical “keep your government hands off my Medicare” as a Tea Party rallying cry and arguing that most Tea Party members were in fact comfortable with big government, even if they were too stupid to realize it. Another favorite left-wing line of thinking was that the movement didn’t object to big-government spending in general so much as big-government spending on other people.

The movement has indisputably undergone some uncomfortable ideological contortions over time, as most movements do. Folks who roared with fury about Obama’s big-spending early years showed little appetite for entitlement reform. Those who once fumed about runaway government invading the citizenry’s privacy appear comfortable enough with Big Brother as long as he’s leaving them alone.

In September, Glenn Beck, one of the few big-name tea partiers who has been resolutely opposed to Trump since the beginning, suggested that he doubted any real members of the movement supported Trump — and that any that did were, in fact, driven by the racism that critics carped about…

Maybe the Tea Party isn’t splintered and weak. Maybe it’s dead.

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Since Donald Trump entered the race, one opponent after another has attacked him as not a real conservative. They’ve been right, too! And the same could have been said about Sarah Palin in 2008. Palin knew little and cared less about most of the issues that excited conservative activists and media. She owed her then-sky-high poll numbers in Alaska to an increase in taxes on oil production that she used to fund a $1,200 per person one-time cash payout—a pretty radical deviation from the economic ideology of the Wall Street Journal and the American Enterprise Institute. What defined her was an identity as a “real American”—and her conviction that she was slighted and insulted and persecuted because of this identity.

That’s exactly the same feeling to which Donald Trump speaks, and which has buoyed his campaign. When he’s president, he tells voters, department stores will say “Merry Christmas” again in their advertisements. Probably most of his listeners would know, if they considered it, that the president of the United States does not determine the ad copy for Walmart and Nordstrom’s. They still appreciate the thought: He’s one of us—and he’s standing up for us against all of them—at a time when we feel weak and poor and beleaguered, and they seem more numerous, more dangerous, and more aggressive.

Talk radio uses those feelings, too, of course, and has used them for years. But the more ideological stars of conservative talk—the Limbaughs, the Levins—try to use those feelings in service of a more-or-less coherent set of political ideas. Speaking to the feelings of persecution is only a means; some vision of a revitalized free-enterprise system is the end. For Palin, though, her personal grievances were always what the whole commotion was all about. She was effective, to the extent she was, because millions of people agreed that her personal grievances sometimes also represented theirs…

Ideology versus identity: That’s going to be the ballot question in Iowa on the first of February. A lot more than the Republican presidential nomination may depend on the answer.

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“Palin’s endorsement is massive, because it will definitely get Palin’s vote.”