President Donald Trump may not be in the White House had former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin not blazed the trail for him.
This week, Bernie Quigley observed that Palin “was prelude and harbinger” to Trump’s arrival. He wrote in The Hill that he was reading William Strauss and Neil Howe’s The Fourth Turning when Palin appeared on the national stage. And he said then that “it was possible to see the rise of new political archetypes and forms and they are now upon us.”
“It was not President Donald Trump that brought the age, although he turned the key. It was Palin. And it was she who brought the reawakened spirit of Andrew Jackson, today associated with the rise of Trump,” Quigley wrote.
In 2010, Quigley wrote that the “change that is rising now with Palin” and the Tea Party movement “resembles the rise of Andrew Jackson and the free people of the western regions demanding their place and coming into the country politically.”
“No wonder the New York press was afraid of her then. No wonder they are still,” Quigley wrote while discussing Palin’s defamation lawsuit against the New York Times.
While others have foolishly and inaccurately written about how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who never appealed to conservatives, was “Trump before Trump,” it was actually Palin who paved Trump’s road to the GOP presidential nomination and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
As someone who has followed Palin’s political career as closely as anyone, I immediately saw in Trump’s campaign many similarities to Palin. They shared the same enemies who loathed them because Palin and Trump did not need political hacks in the permanent political class to get their message to the voters. In 2016, it was indeed quite telling that Trump made the same enemies Palin did on the right while the legacy media underestimated him like they did Palin while, at the same time, doing all they could to destroy him just like they attempted to do with the former Alaska governor.
Here are the top nine ways Palin was a prelude to Trump:
1. The Great CommuniTweeter
On April 29, 2009, Alaska Governor Palin joined Twitter and promptly called out a distorted story—in today’s parlance, a “fake news” story—in the establishment press about her administration. The politician I dubbed “The Great CommuniTweeter” would be immediately mocked and ridiculed by the legacy media and the political establishment for communicating with voters on Twitter and Facebook instead of on their networks and with the help of overpriced consultants. Years later, the same media figures and establishment operatives, who are always light years behind the curve and initially mocked Palin, would be addicted to Twitter and Facebook and use those platforms on a daily basis just like Palin the pioneer had in 2009.
During the 2016 election, Trump, like Palin had figured out years before, used Twitter to influence the news cycle, create headlines, and, most importantly, go around the mainstream media’s and the political establishment’s filters to get information and opinions directly to voters.
And as Trump has demonstrated with his CNN-WWE Tweet that went around the world, he is more than willing to use Twitter to get his message directly to the people, challenge and distract the “fake news” media, and make the establishment media look foolish and out of touch when they inevitably overreact and make the story all about them. In fact, Trump has said that his use of “social media” is “MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.”
He recently told the New York Times’ Mark Leibovich that he will not stop communicating to voters via Twitter.
“It’s my voice. They want to take away my voice,’’ Trump told the reporter. ‘‘They’re not going to take away my social media.’’
My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
2. Social Desirability Bias
When Fox News and other outlets released unfavorable polls about Palin leading up the 2012 election cycle, Palin famously dismissed them, saying that “polls are for strippers and cross-country skiers.”
She was right.
What inside-the-box consultants and equally incurious legacy media dunces have never realized is the importance of “social desirability bias” when unconventional, controversial, or historical candidates are polled.
To put it simply, voters may be reluctant to tell pollsters that they actually support someone like Palin or Trump when they actually do because they think such support will render them socially undesirable.
Breitbart News—based on interviews with voters around the country and this writer’s personal “focus group” of sorts of working-class friends and their family members whose opinions and impressions of candidates have been over the years uncannily representative of the Reagan Democrat swing voters who voted for Obama and then switched to Trump—wrote extensively about the potential for a “reverse-Bradley effect” during the 2016 election cycle when national polls had Hillary Clinton out in front. Trump even alluded to Breitbart News’ stories on the reverse-Bradley effect multiple times on the stump.
Thomas Edsall actually wrote about social desirability bias— “the desire of respondents to avoid embarrassment and project a favorable image to others”—in the New York Times last year as well, concluding that “the simple fact that Trump has beaten the odds so far means that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he could beat them again.”
“If he does take the White House, much, if not all, of his margin of victory will come from voters too ashamed to acknowledge publicly how they intend to cast their vote,” Edsall wrote.
And that is exactly what happened.
Polls have underestimated the actual support for politicians like Barack Obama, Palin, and Trump, and it seems like their spouses were actually among the few who understood the importance of social desirability bias in polling.
Michelle Obama, for instance, knew that black voters who may not have felt comfortable telling pollsters they supported his candidacy would come home to Obama even when polls had him massively trailing Hillary Clinton in South Carolina in the early stages of the 2008 election cycle. Todd Palin also knew that if Palin had run, voters who did not want to tell properly-sounding pollsters that they supported Palin for fear that they would get ridiculed and ostracized would also swarm voting booths to support her. And Melania Trump also knew that Trump’s low poll numbers with the GOP base would rocket up as soon as he actually announced his candidacy.
3. Indianola, Iowa (domestic policy) and Lakewood, Colorado (America-first foreign policy)
While the mainstream media were mocking Palin, she delivered two of the most important and substantive speeches of the 2012 election cycle that pushed the GOP away from the cronyism and foreign policy interventionism associated with the Bush era.
In Iowa, Palin threw down against the corporatism and cronyism associated with the likes of Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, and the infamous “K-Street” project that contributed significantly to the GOP losing control of all three branches of government last decade. Palin injected ideas like “crony capitalism” and fighting the “permanent political class” into the political bloodstream in a way other reformers who lacked her wattage and star power could never do. In Indianola, Iowa, in August of 2011, Palin, explaining the important difference between being pro-free markets and pro-big business, said:
This is 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, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe’s economies. It’s the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest – to the little guys. It’s a slap in the face to our small business owners – the true entrepreneurs, the job creators accounting for 70% of the jobs in America, it’s you who own these small businesses, you’re the economic engine, but you don’t grease the wheels of government power.
So, 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? 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.
Three months before, in May of 2011, Palin went to Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado, and moved the GOP away from neoconservatism to realism. In Colorado, Palin outlined her five-point plan that included: committing forces only when “vital American interests” are at stake; fighting to win with overwhelming force if America has to go to war; having clearly defined goals and objectives before sending troops into war zones; making sure American soldiers are never put under foreign command; and ensuring that sending Americans soldiers is always the last resort.
“We are not indifferent to the cause of human rights or the desire for freedom. We are always on the side of both,” Palin said after laying out her doctrine. “But we can’t fight every war. We can’t undo every injustice around the world. But with strength and clarity in those five points, we’ll make for a safer, more prosperous, more peaceful world because as the U.S. leads by example, as we support freedom across the globe, we’re going to prove that free and healthy countries don’t wage war on other free and healthy countries. The stronger we are, the stronger and more peaceful the world will be under our example.”
In 2016, Trump ran as a candidate who opposed George W. Bush’s Iraq war and nonsensical interventions abroad. Even Foreign Policy acknowledged Trump’s coherent realism:
Trump has little time for either neoconservatives or liberal interventionists; he thinks they allow their belief in American virtue to blind them to both America’s core interests and the limits of American power. He has even less time for multilateralist diplomats: They’re too willing to compromise, trading away American interests in exchange for platitudes about friendship and cooperation. And he has no time at all for those who consider long-standing U.S. alliances sacrosanct. To Trump, U.S. alliances, like potential business partners in a real-estate transaction, should always be asked: “What have you done for me lately?”
In his inimitable way, Trump is offering a powerful challenge to many of the core assumptions of Washington’s bipartisan foreign-policy elite. And if mainstream Democrats and Republicans want to counter Trump’s appeal, they need to get serious about explaining why his vision of the world isn’t appropriate — and they need to do so without merely falling back on tired clichés.
Trump also self-funded his campaign during the primary to show voters that he would not be beholden to lobbyists and big-money influencers who got the better of many GOP lawmakers in the Bush era when Washington, D.C. officially became the country’s “Boomtown.”
Americans who were fed up with cronyism in D.C. and ill-advised adventures abroad that cost too many American lives gave Trump the benefit of the doubt and gave the outsider businessman a chance in 2016. But had the legacy media been paying attention to how much Palin’s words were resonating, they would not have been so surprised and blindsided by Trump’s popularity.
4. Drain the Jacuzzi/Swamp
Before Trump ran against the D.C. “swamp,” Palin eviscerated the permanent political class and politicians who came to D.C. looking to change it and instead saw the “cesspool of corruption” as a big “hot tub.”
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2012, Palin said:
Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars. They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It’s called corporate crony capitalism.
John Hayward wrote at the time that after “denouncing the cesspool of corruption” in D.C., Palin said it becomes “more like a hot tub” for elected officials after a year or two.
“And they’re hopping in and enjoying the Jacuzzi!,” Palin said, adding that it was “time we drain the jacuzzi and throw the bums out with the bath water.”
Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” was one of his most effective catchphrases during the 2016 election cycle that earned him the trust of voters who for decades have distrusted establishment politicians from both political parties.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2016
5. Palin Haters Become ‘Never Trump’ Loons
Establishment Republicans immediately saw Palin as a threat right after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) lost the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama. Here’s video of a jealous and threatened then-Texas Governor Rick Perry cutting off Palin’s press conference at a November 2008 Republican Governors Association event when it was obvious Palin was outshining all of them.
It took the “professional conservatives” a bit longer (May, 2010) to know that Palin was a threat to them and their ability to influence elections. For months, Erick Erickson and Red State plodded along to help Nikki Haley win South Carolina’s GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010. But Haley was stuck in third until Palin endorsed her in May of 2010. Haley then rocketed to the top of the field, won the nomination, and went on to be South Carolina’s governor. A Republican operative who worked on a rival campaign told Peter Hamby, who was then at CNN and is now directing news for Snapchat, that Palin’s event alone generated “over a million dollars” in media coverage and “there was absolutely no way when that endorsement came down to break through the news cycle.”
“It was an earned media blowtorch,” the GOP operative later had to admit to Hamby.
And just like that, the professional conservatives were both jealous and threatened and started to undermine Palin going forward. Palin needed neither them nor the establishment to influence primary elections and raise money. As establishment Republican Haley Barbour told Hamby, Palin could have raised enough money to “burn a wet mule” without the help of consultants had she chosen to enter the 2012 presidential contest.
Of course, as always, the GOP establishment and the legacy media were more than thrilled, just like they would be when nearly the exact same group of people who hated Palin became the “Never Trump” movement, when professional “conservatives” who, for various self-serving reasons, wanted Rick Perry to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination did all they could to needlessly trash Palin and her supporters.
When Trump entered the presidential field, the very same establishment Republicans and professional conservatives, proving how clueless they were about GOP voters they demeaned as “low-information” rubes because they were not versed in obscure D.C. minutiae, said Trump would not even get enough support to make the main debate stage. When Trump started to lead in every poll, they collectively lost their minds.
Erickson and many of his “Red State” allies in the “professional conservative industrial complex,” many of whom apparently had no issues shilling for Malaysia while not disclosing the payments they received to their readers until they were caught red-handed, joined Glenn Beck and his minions to oppose Trump. Establishment Republican hacks like Ana Navarro and Rick Wilson made common cause with them to form the “Never Trump” movement. The “Never Trump” movement was more about the “Never Trumpers” scratching and clawing to find excuses to get on television and be quoted in legacy media outlets in order for the legacy media to use them as their useful idiots against Trump and his working-class supporters, whom these professional so-called “influencers” have treated with nothing but disdain. It is fitting that National Review, which was essentially the outlet of choice for Paul Ryan’s and Eric Cantor’s brand of establishment Republicanism, published its foolish “Never Trump” issue, which diminished whatever influence the publication had left with working-class voters after Trump got elected.
For many of these professional operatives and “influencers,” many of whom try to relive their junior-high and high-school years in the political world among other dweebs and pipsqueaks, Trump’s rise meant they would not matter as much anymore.
And they were not going to lose whatever influence they may have had without a fight.
Trump, like Palin, did not need overpriced lemmings and “grundoons” to help him get “liked” by voters. He did not need them to help him get on television or get his message to voters. All Trump had to was hit the “send” button on Twitter. Trump did not even need them for attack ads since Trump neutered his rivals all by himself by naming them “Low-energy Jeb,” “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted.”
The Hoover Institution’s Alvin Rabushka explained why the professional “influencers” and operatives detested Trump so much. To put it simply, Trump’s rise to the top of the polls without much campaign spending represented an “existential threat” to the “political election industry.”
“You see, it’s not so much that he is running as a Republican that frightens the political establishment,” Rabuska wrote. “It fears that if he wins, others could seek office in the same way. A Trump victory threatens to put the political industry out of business as it is now.”
As Breitbart News noted at the time, Rabushka pointed out that “the political election industry is a multibillion dollar enterprise” and “its ranks include the following”:
He added that “the industry is used to dominating presidential elections” and “it is the go-to crowd that determines who deserves to be a candidate, win each party’s nomination and ultimately secure the presidency. The industry regards itself as uniquely qualified to determine who is qualified to participate in the political process.”
Rabushka said they were particularly livid at Trump because he bypassed this exclusive “club”:
How dare he intrude in the “club?” How dare he campaign for the presidency without the blessing of the “club?”…How dare he expose his critics? How dare he use social media to bypass the political industry? How dare he draw large, enthusiastic crowds? How dare he speak the language of the American people instead of the prepped, canned language of the political class?
How did Claudius become emperor of Rome? After the assassination of Caligula, the Praetorian Guard anointed Claudius emperor. “Why,” asked Claudius? “Because,” said the head of the Guard,” without an emperor, there is no need for the Praetorian Guard.
Without traditional candidates like Clinton, Bush, Kasich, Huckabee, Christie, Santorum, Pataki and others, there is no need for the Political Establishment’s Praetorian Guard. Trump threatens to undermine the political establishment order of things.
To show that “Never Trumpers” are hardly oh-so-principled, it is worth noting that the disastrous vehicle they used (the milquetoast Evan McMullin) to get on television, consultant fees, and quotes in legacy media outlets during the 2016 general election is still in debt. As of May of 2017, McMullin’s campaign owed nearly $700,000 to various political professionals.
6. Lamestream Media and Fake News
Before Trump started attacking the “fake news” media, Palin effectively branded the legacy media as the “lamestream media.” The “lamestream media” tried to blame Palin for the assassination attempt on then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), mock her supporters, delegitimize her, harass her family, and work with the usual band of usual idiots in the GOP establishment to falsely try to create a narrative that she was losing her influence. Never mind that every Republican who wanted to run for office was begging for her endorsement behind the scenes while Republicans in elected officer were pleading with her camp behind the scenes to not criticize them.
No wonder working-class Americans who supported Palin– the most “box office” figure on the right before Trump–began to see the media as even more of a joke as purportedly “objective” hosts and anchors could not even pretend to hold back the disdain they had for Palin and her supporters.
As mentioned above, Palin even used one of her first tweets in 2009 to correct a story in the legacy media that mischaracterized her administration in Alaska. And she ramped up her criticisms against the media as they became more vicious.
Palin gave Trump the baton, and Trump has taken it to another level.
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon told the New York Times earlier this year. “I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
Trump, in addition to tweeting the WWE-CNN meme that went around the world, has routinely called out the “fake and fraudulent” media who nitpick at everything and try to find anything they can to delegitimize him.
“Their agenda is not your agenda,” Trump recently said of the “fake news” media. “The fake media is trying to silence us but we will not let them. The people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I’m president and they’re not.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media – but remember, I won….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
….the 2016 election with interviews, speeches and social media. I had to beat #FakeNews, and did. We will continue to WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
7. Palin & Trump vs. Fox News
Before Trump waged his war against Fox News and Megyn Kelly, Palin clashed with the late Roger Ailes and “Bush’s Brain” Karl Rove.
Though Palin was a Fox News contributor, Ailes, who favored candidates like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Mitt Romney in the 2012 election cycle, strangely went out of his way to undercut his network’s own star while Palin was deciding whether to enter the 2012 presidential contest.
Ailes tried to diminish Palin, publicly saying that he hired her solely because Palin was “hot and got ratings.” And according to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, Ailes reportedly said behind the scenes that Palin was an “idiot” and “stupid” and did nothing to “elevate” the conservative movement even though she had been actively moving the movement away from the corporatism and neoconservatism associated with the Bush dynasty.
When Palin decided not to run for president, she returned the favor to Ailes, effectively giving him the middle finger and making her much-anticipated announcement in October of 2011 on Mark Levin’s radio show, royally pissing off Ailes in the process.
During the 2016 election cycle, Ailes was just as threatened by Trump. Ailes, according to Sherman, thought Trump was “unelectable” and felt as if he had a duty to “save the country” from Trump. When Megyn Kelly, the talent whom Ailes had inexplicably tried to promote as the network’s face, tried to sandbag Trump during the first GOP presidential debate, all hell broke loose. And it was as if Fox News’ viewers who reluctantly gave the network the benefit of the doubt when it attacked Palin, supported amnesty, and hired CNN retreads said, “ENOUGH!”
As Sherman reported, “virtually 100 percent of the emails were against Megyn Kelly” after the debate, and Ailes was “not happy” that “most of the Fox viewers were taking Trump’s side.”
Fox News’ battle with Trump showed how out of touch the network’s complacent executives were with their core viewers, many of whom watched the network because it was simply the least offensive channel on television where they could get news. As some have semi-jested, Fox News viewers even kept their televisions on after Bill O’Reilly’s show and before Sean Hannity’s while they were doing laundry, dishes, housework, or taking out the trash.
And in an age when more Americans were getting news from online outlets, Trump showed that Fox News was nowhere near as influential as it had been during the last decade before new and social media gave voters more ways to get their news
8. The End of Bushism
In 2010, when the GOP establishment feared Palin would run away with the nomination without having to kowtow to any of them, Barbara Bush threw shade at Palin when she said she hoped Palin would stay in Alaska.
“I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful and I think she’s very happy in Alaska — and I hope she’ll stay there,” Barbara Bush said.
Palin, never afraid to take on the party’s sacred cows, slammed the Bushes for being “blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition to pick and choose the winners.” Radio host Laura Ingraham pointed out then that the “elites” like the Bushes were trying to kneecap Palin.
Palin also immediately clashed with “Bush’s Brain” Karl Rove, Bushism’s top public advocate who reportedly had not “been very nice” to Palin “from day one” at Fox News, according to Sherman.
Make no mistake about it. The Bushes saw Palin as a threat because they knew she would do exactly what Trump ended up doing–eviscerating Bushism. In 2016, “low energy” and pro-amnesty Jeb Bush’s $100 million war chest could not get him any traction against Trump, who symbolically pummeled him while eviscerating any notion that Bushism would be the future of the GOP.
While some “Never Trumpers” who never understood Ronald Reagan’s true appeal want to convince people that Trump moved the GOP away from Reaganism, what Trump’s 2016 GOP primary victory and White House victory effectively did was finish what Palin started by driving a stake straight through the heart of Bushism.
Dummy @KarlRove continues to make and write false statements. He still thinks Romney won–he should get a life!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2015
.@KarlRove is a failed Jeb Bushy. Never says anything good & never will, even after I beat Hillary. Shouldn't be on the air!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2016
9. Illegal Immigration: ‘No Mas’
After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election because Reagan Democrats who voted for Obama in 2008 but were disillusioned with Obama four years later could not get themselves to even vote for Romney while holding their noses, the geniuses at Reince Priebus’ and Sean Spicer’s Republican National Committee commissioned a terribly-named “autopsy” report in which the only policy recommendation was amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Palin, like Breitbart News, fiercely opposed this nonsense. And she slammed the Gang of Eight’s efforts to pass comprehensive amnesty legislation. She was fiercely critical of Obama’s executive amnesties as well.
Palin was so lived that she penned an exclusive column for Breitbart News in July of 2014 in which she called for Obama’s impeachment.
“No mas,” she said of Obama’s executive amnesties.
On the pages of Breitbart News, Palin blasted Obama’s friendly wealthy bipartisan elite, who she said want “cheap foreign labor and can afford for themselves the best ‘border security’ money can buy in their own exclusive communities,” for not caring about working-class Americans.
“It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of American workers and legal immigrants of all backgrounds, we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment,” Palin declared.
Palin also said in that Breitbart News column that “without borders, there is no nation” and mentioned that many in America now “feel like strangers in their own land.”
As Breitbart News Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak has pointed out, not only did Trump highlight illegal immigration during his presidential launch, Trump rocketed to the top of the GOP field nearly a week after Trump met with the victims of illegal immigrant families after an illegal immigrant murdered Kate Steinle in San Francisco, a city the murderer sought out because it was a sanctuary city. Trump never looked back and his promise to build the wall helped him win over working-class voters in the Rust Belt.
In 2015, Breitbart News reported on polling that found that a majority of Americans felt like “strangers in their own country.” And a post-election study published in the Atlantic magazine found that nearly half of white working-class voters feel like “strangers in their own land.” Repeatedly on the stump, Trump says that America will not be a country if it does not have borders.
Trump won the election while not compromising on illegal immigration, and he even did better among minorities than Romney. In addition, he galvanized working-class white voters, many of whom had either voted for Obama or had not voted in a long time. In fact, a post-election Atlantic/Public Religion Research Institute study found that that these voters who felt like “strangers in their own land,” who also felt the “U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence,” were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns.
A nation without borders is no nation at all. We must build a wall. Let’s Make America Great Again! https://t.co/u25yI5T7E8
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2015
Trump’s celebrity made him a much more powerful candidate than Palin and allowed him to get his message across more effectively and to a wider audience than Palin could have had. It also insulated him better from attacks and criticism while allowing him to more ruthlessly attack the legacy media.
But make no mistake about it, opposing illegal immigration allowed Palin and Trump to galvanize voters who wanted to send a loud and clear message about the importance of melting-pot Americanism (instead of salad-bowl separatism). By supporting Palin and voting for Trump, they were loudly–or silently–voting for E Pluribus Unum (“Out of many, one) instead of Al Gore’s Ex Uno Plures (“Out of one, many”).