Sarah Palin's decision to let populism trump principle is a fatal flaw

Sarah Palin is no fool when it comes to playing to her audience and getting conservatives and libertarians riled up. There’s no doubt Palin is someone who loves her country, and believes in freedom and liberty, free markets, and smaller government. These are very admirable traits, which is why she was involved in the Tea Party when it first started in 2009. But Palin has a very fatal flaw when it comes to the allure of populism. Her endorsement of Donald Trump shows her willingness to sacrifice principles for “the will of the people.” Palin’s affair with populism was in full force when she told Iowa how Trump was for them.

“He is beholden to no one, but we the people, how refreshing. He is perfectly positioned to let YOU make American great again…Trump’s candidacy it has exposed…the complicity on both sides of the aisle which has enabled [ Obama’s transformation of America ]…He’s been able to tear the veil off this idea of the system, the way that the system really works…The permanent political class has been doing the bidding of their campaign donor class…that’s why they’ve been blowing budget. It’s for crony capitalists to be able to suck off of them.”

The similarities between Palin’s comments and parts of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 Bull Moose speech are striking because they both rail against the “ruling political class.”

“When…the bosses in control of the Republican party, the Barneses and Penroses, last June stole the nomination and wrecked the Republican party for good and all – I want to point out to you that nominally they stole that nomination from me, but it was really from you. They did not like me, and the longer they live the less cause they will have to like me. But while they don’t like me, they dread you. You are the people that they dread. They dread the people themselves, and those bosses and the big special interests behind them made up their mind that they would rather see the Republican party wrecked than see it come under the control of the people themselves.”

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are also ones who use Populist Rhetoric 101 when they talk about the Washington Machine or #StandwithRand because it can be effective marketing when the messenger knows how to get the crowd engaged. There’s also a bit of truth to what populists and quasi-populists espouse, because there IS a permanent political class which is only interested in handing out favors to their buddies. But one of the dangers of populism is that it can install leaders who aren’t interested in freedom and liberty at all. This was something Thomas Jefferson recalled in his autobiography when writing how the populism of the French Revolution gave way to Napoleon Bonaparte:

“Of those who judged the king, many thought him wilfully criminal…that it were better that one should die than all. I should not have voted with this portion of the legislature…In this way no void would have been created, courting the usurpation of a military adventurer, nor occasion given for those enormities which demoralized the nations of the world, and destroyed, and is yet to destroy millions and millions of it’s inhabitants.”

This isn’t saying Trump is going to turn into Napoleon and start taking over the globe. What it is saying is Palin’s love of populism has blinded her to some of the dangers of candidates when their beliefs don’t match her own. Palin’s endorsement of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is another example of the ex-governor simply allowing populism to take over her brain without giving more than a cursory glance at the one she was supporting. Maréchal-Le Pen’s party supports nationalizing French industry, higher taxes, and a “strong state,” all of which Palin is against. Her support of Trump comes the same day he suggested raising the ethanol mandate (which is cronyism) despite the fact Palin has made it a habit to point out why cronyism needs to be expunged. She damned cronyism in 2011 calling it,”not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts…” Trump’s endorsement of ethanol mandates is the very definition of what Palin complained about, so the only explanation is Palin is so “in the tank” on populism it doesn’t matter what a candidate’s beliefs really are. Ben Shapiro at noted the issues with going all populist for the sake of populism.

 I’m a conservative before a disestablishmentarian. So call me a devotee of antidisestablishmentarianism – I’m not for dumping the establishment over just for its own sake. It’s only worthwhile replacing our dictators if we can replace them with something better. And, thankfully, we do have that choice, with Cruz – or even with Marco Rubio, to an extent (remember, the establishment supported Crist over Rubio in his Senate Race).

Shapiro is absolutely right, and kudos to him for being willing to write it. The populist twinge to the original Tea Party was fine because it was promoting freedom and liberty, smaller government, and sound fiscal policy. But the populism running rampant today, which Sarah Palin is supporting, isn’t promoting what the original Tea Party stood for. It’s here where Palin is abandoning the values she claims to stand for, all in the name of populism and strong man syndrome. She should know better, and it’s disappointing she’s gone down this road. It isn’t surprising, but it’s still disappointing.