How Sarah Palin created Donald Trump

At the time of Palin’s operatic rise and fall, she seemed like a one-off—an odd figure who would fade into justified obscurity. But seen through the lens of Trump’s rise, she appears shockingly prescient.

Like no one else before Trump, Palin saw a constituency on the right for a politics of resentment that sought as its champion a pure agent of chaos, unfettered by positive or substantive views. As David Frum has noted, Trump, like Palin, is playing to a populist, antiestablishment politics of white working-class cultural resentment. Like Palin, he’s insistent that conservatism is whatever he says it is. Like Palin, he’s less concerned with the abstraction of small government than with taking down the fat cats—the corrupt alliance of politicians, donors, and lobbyists.

Palin doesn’t get enough credit for pioneering this particular approach. She was railing against “crony capitalism”—“the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest, the little guys”—before practically anybody else on the right. “Do you want to know why the permanent political class doesn’t really want to cut any spending? Do you want to know why nothing ever really gets done?” she said in 2011. “It’s because there’s nothing in it for them. They’ve got a lot of mouths to feed—a lot of corporate lobbyists and a lot of special interests that are counting on them to keep the good times and the money rolling along.”

You can hear the echoes of this today from countless candidates.