Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump has generated a lot of salacious talk from pundits over-eager for election-crushing political gossip. The theories range- some believe she is no longer relevant, some believe Palin’s action was a calculated political bid for the VP nod. But most seem to believe this is an attempt to bring conservatives over from grassroots darling Ted Cruz to Trump, as if the activist right will just shuffle after Palin bleating contently like mindless sheep.
But American conservatism is not supposed to be about figureheads or public figures dictating ideas and actions to the base. This is an attitude that is infuriating, denigrating and a whole host of other pejoratives. It is precisely the kind of know-better elitist attitude that has infuriated the right for the past eight years as politicians on both side of the political spectrum have clambered upon their dais and deigned to lecture their simple-minded constituents about how they need to put their petty, short-term needs below the good of the whole.
It is a dehumanizing rationale, one that grafts special insight and intellect into government officials simply because they have access to specialized information. It is the barbarous morality belonging to dictators and authoritarians, who amalgamate state and personal powers and create a hideous chimerical form of government whose superior consciousness is considered sufficient justification enough to take from some for the benefit of others.
American conservatism, or so the soaring rhetoric of stumping personalities has said, is anathema to such thinking.
That’s the real sting of Palin’s endorsement. It is a betrayal of conservative ideas- of free markets, of limited government, of localism and self-sovereignty- but far worse than that, it is a complete repudiation of the ideas at the heart of these things.
Conservatives are often accused of being too cerebral, overly focused on complex policy matters which are not easily articulated to the general public. And from the standpoint of bolstering the movement’s popularity, that may be true. But popularity and electability are often not the primary concern for real conservatives. True conservatives do not believe in capitalism simply because it’s an efficient system. The principles at the heart of capitalism, identical to those of federalism and self-sovereignty, are the real catalyst for conservative thought. And these are held at the core of the being, inextricably tied up with the survival of the soul, making adherence to ideas an exigent issue of the highest priority. Adherence to ideas, because they represent the just and the good, far outweighs any concern with political popularity.
In a country where conservatism exposes believers to denigration aimed at their humanity, their compassion, knowing that others think and feel the same is important. Navigating a society that ridicules conservative at academic, professional and cultural levels is often a gauntlet of doubt, frustration and despair. Daily, conservatives encounter entrenched biases about what they think and feel and they fight back, even often at the price of friendship and position.
So how are conservatives to feel when they see figures who are supposedly champions of their cause, whose voice spreads their message at a higher, wider level than they can hope to achieve, not only abandon those principles but speak in an unhinged manner of savaging the system they though they’d been fighting together to restore?
It is a soul-crushing betrayal, the kind that makes one wonder if every prejudice about conservatives they’ve encountered is actually true.
Regardless of whether Sarah Palin’s endorsement helps or hurts Trump, her actions have betrayed everything she claimed to stand for, hurt everyone who has defended her and ushered in a dark day for conservatives who now have to wonder if the movement they believe deeply in is nothing more than political posturing of the same kind they so deeply despise.