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In Palin, Trump Finds His Political Trophy Wife

Steve Almond: Sarah Palin isn’t a pioneer or a progenitor to Donald Trump. Her job is to put on her makeup and fancy outfits and laugh at his jokes. In this photo, the former Alaska Gov., left, endorses Republican presidential candidate Trump during a rally at the Iowa State University, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (Mary Altaffer/ AP)
Steve Almond: Sarah Palin isn’t a pioneer or a progenitor to Donald Trump. Her job is to put on her makeup and fancy outfits and laugh at his jokes. In this photo, the former Alaska Gov., left, endorses Republican presidential candidate Trump during a rally at the Iowa State University, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (Mary Altaffer/ AP)

It should surprise precisely no one that Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for president. Palin is precisely the kind of “high quality” lady who Trump loves: easy on the eyes, not too bright and deeply committed to her own profit motive.

In a characterological sense, Sarah Palin more or less is Donald Trump. Both of them have a worldview that is essentially adolescent: at once self-aggrandizing and self-pitying. Neither one has any coherent political ideology.

What they represent — and tap into — is the desperate American lust for fame, the projection of power as a necessary sedative to the most frightened and thwarted precincts of our electorate.

Sarah Palin more or less <em>is</em> Donald Trump. Both of them have a worldview that is essentially adolescent ... Neither one has any coherent political ideology.

To call either of them “candidates” is to give them far too much credit. They are opportunists, pure and simple, working the new frontier of politics as a lucrative adjunct to America’s ever-expanding entertainment complex.

It would be more accurate to regard both of them “brandidates,” the term I coined in 2013, when former presidential candidate and lawmaker Michele Bachmann decided to leave politics to pursue private sector opportunities.

Back then, I had this to say about Trump, who had flirted with a run for the presidency in 2012 before returning to his full-time career as a reality TV star/bankruptcy mogul/anti-hair model:

Of course, Donald Trump was smart enough to understand the potential revenue streams associated with becoming a brandidate, and thus, with no political experience whatsoever he tried to convince Americans that he was maybe going to run for the Republican nomination.

Trump wasn’t really interested in elected office.    

In fact, none of these brandidates are particularly interested in the boring task of governing…That stuff is for suckers.

No, all things considered, it’s much easier and much more lucrative to become a brandidate. No dull legislative duties. No fact checkers. No pesky ethics investigators. Just an endless parade of dazzled partisan consumers eager to hear you articulate their misty dreams and grievances.

This is still true of Trump. He loves running for president. (The cheering crowds! The beckoning mics!) But he has absolutely no interest in the complex tasks of governing. He just wants to be able to sit on his throne and issue proclamations and build imaginary walls and make America great again. He doesn’t want to be president. He wants to be king.

For better or worse, Trump now has his queen, a fellow shallow narcissist who fled public office — midway through her first term as Alaska’s governor — to pursue the glories of paid speaking gigs and (you guessed it) reality TV.

If Trump is the Republican nominee, he will come to realize that Palin’s language-challenged belligerence is more of a liability with voters than an asset. Just ask John McCain.

But Trump isn’t running for president. He’s running to be the nominee, which means he’s courting a self-selected group of voters, many of them conservatives largely motivated by wedge issues and anger. Palin may well help him with such voters, especially in Iowa.

Some observers have suggested that Candidate Trump is a kind of revamped version of Candidate Palin, a straight-talking-maverick-outsider-blah-blah-blah.

That’s nonsense.

Try to imagine, if you will, what Trump and Palin might talk about in private. Do you think it’s income inequality? Or equal pay for women? Or the potential tolls of climate change?

Because one of the central features of Trump’s campaign is that he’s an unreconstructed male chauvinist pig, the kind of guy who loudly insults the ugly chick at the party and gets disgusted at the very notion that women have bodily functions.

Palin isn’t a pioneer or a progenitor to Trump. She’s a kind of political trophy wife. Her job is to put on her makeup and fancy outfits and laugh at his jokes.

Try to imagine, if you will, what Trump and Palin might talk about in private. Do you think it’s income inequality? Or equal pay for women? Or the potential tolls of climate change? My guess is that they swap a few bumper sticker slogans (just in case there’s a stray microphone about) before proceeding to the subjects that galvanize them: appearance fees and Arbitrons, TV cameos, the NFL playoffs and the struggle to find good domestic help.

Now please imagine what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton might discuss in private.

The question for all of us is which conversation we want to represent American democracy.

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