Jim Geraghty wrote this morning that the tea-party era began on Tax Day 2009, the day conservatives protested in cities across the country, but plenty of Palin fans will tell you that it actually began eight months earlier, when Palin flew into Dayton to accept John McCain’s offer to be his VP. That wasn’t a tea-party campaign by any stretch — it was pro-TARP, pro-amnesty, pro-cap-and-trade, and all McCain — but it made Palin a national figure. And she was, unquestionably, the biggest Republican name associated with the tea party for years afterward. Cruz has a passionate cheering section among grassroots conservatives but he’s never been beloved the way Palin was. She was “one of us.” The nerd from Harvard and Princeton never will be, no matter how many “Duck Dynasty” ads he puts out. Only Trump has built a cult of personality on the right during the Obama era as passionate as the one Palin enjoyed from 2009 through 2012. In that sense, today’s endorsement is appropriate. Cruz is the better conservative. Trump is the better populist. Palin’s made her choice.
If the Dayton speech was the beginning of the tea party, today’s speech in Ames is the end. Drop the curtain.
“I’m proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for president,” Ms. Palin said in a statement provided by his campaign…
“I am greatly honored to receive Sarah’s endorsement,” Mr. Trump said in a statement trumpeting Mrs. Palin’s decision. “She is a friend, and a high-quality person whom I have great respect for. I am proud to have her support.”…
Mrs. Palin, who despite her waning visibility within the Republican Party retains a sizable following, provides Mr. Trump with valuable new currency at a moment when he is being attacked over his conservative bona fides by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, with whom Mr. Trump is neck-and-neck in the Iowa polls.
As Mr. Trump fends off questions about his “New York values” from Mr. Cruz, Mrs. Palin could help vouch for Mr. Trump’s credentials with skeptical conservatives.
Charles Cooke is reminding people on Twitter of this passage from one of his columns written a year ago, five months before Trump announced his candidacy:
For a long while now, Palin has not so much contributed arguments and ideas as she has thrown together a one-woman variety show for a band of traveling fans. One part free verse, one part Dada-laden ressentiment, and one part primal scream therapy, Palin’s appearances seem to be designed less to advance the ball for the Right and more to ensure that her name remains in the news, that her business opportunities are not entirely foreclosed, and that her hand remains strong enough to justify her role as kingmaker without portfolio. Ultimately, she isn’t really trying to change politics; she’s trying to be politics — the system and its complexities be damned. Want to find a figure to which Palin can be reasonably compared? It’s not Ronald Reagan. It’s Donald Trump.
You can hate that the tea party has deteriorated into Trumpism and you can curse Palin for enabling it, but you can’t say she and Cruz are a better match politically than she and Trump are. I agree with this from Ross Douthat:
Seriously, this is who Palin was meant to be. Her neocon + movement phases were opportunism/osmosis. This is closer to where she started.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) January 19, 2016
Right. I criticize Trump relentlessly but I’ll never tell you that it was a bad thing that he ran this year. Trump is the great clarifier: He took a coalition of right-wingers uneasily assembled under the banner of “movement conservatism” and gave the ones who don’t really believe in conservatism the courage to declare their principles. Some are nationalists and Jacksonians; some, as David French said, are cultural conservatives who can do without the free-market mumbo jumbo; some are alt-righters. It’s better to know where everyone really stands than to pretend that we’re all on the same page, which went on for decades after Reagan. That’s not to say that Trump will win or that Palin’s endorsement will help, but that’s beside the point. I joked with a fellow “Twilight Zone” nerd the other day that to understand the Republican coalition after Trump, you need to watch the episode “The Shelter.” Even if Trump loses, even if this has all been an elaborate false alarm, there’s no going back to what the right was. The illusions are gone now.
Here’s your thread to follow Trump’s event, which is set to start at 6 p.m. ET.
Update: Trump rubs it in.