The revenge of Sarah Palin

Twenty-sixteen may turn out to be the year of the woman after all.  The woman of the year is Sarah Palin, who eight years ago was crucified by assorted media and elites in order to usher in the new transformation of America promised by Senator Obama.  Obama upset the heir apparent, Hillary Clinton, in a bruising Democratic primary fight, where establishment party politics succumbed to the youthful populism of Barack Obama.  His old-guard rival, John McCain, appeared an easy mark until the rogue upstart from Alaska electrified the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2008.  Palin’s feminist populism recharged the Republican connection with populism, even in the political headwinds of an economy heading south with each passing week.

Tina Fey, Katie Couric, and a punditry arrayed in the classic left-wing formation acted to annihilate the once popular Alaska governor and seared into the popular imagination something Palin never said: “I can see Russia from my house.”  The sexist trashing of Palin is a hallmark of America’s arrogant ideological culture that puts women, African-Americans, gays, and all identity communities in their proper marginalized social place when they fail to adhere to the left’s ideological doctrines.

One month after Obama’s victory against McCain and Palin, Palin’s Wasilla church was burned around its entire perimeter with women and children inside and temperatures outside at 20 below zero.  It was a political hate crime that got little media coverage.  December 12 is the anniversary of that crime.  Not too long after, Palin quit her position as governor and was roundly mocked as a quitter after being besieged by politicized allegations.  On July 3 of 2009, she explained:

In fact, this decision comes after much consideration, and finally polling the most important people in my life -- my children (where the count was unanimous... well, in response to asking: ‘Want me to make a positive difference and fight for ALL our children's future from OUTSIDE the Governor's office?' It was four "yes's" and one "hell yeah!" The "hell yeah" sealed it -- and someday I'll talk about the details of that... I think much of it had to do with the kids seeing their baby brother Trig mocked by some pretty mean-spirited adults recently.) Um, by the way, sure wish folks could ever, ever understand that we ALL could learn so much from someone like Trig -- I know he needs me, but I need him even more... what a child can offer to set priorities RIGHT -- that time is precious... the world needs more ‘Trigs', not fewer.

Since that time, Palin has played the kingmaker in political races across the American landscape.  The gradual erosion of Democratic Party power in local politics is in large part orchestrated by the political campaign fought by Palin since she stepped down from her post in Alaska.  The decision to endorse Donald Trump over a strong field of conservative Republican presidential candidates in 2016 one year before his inauguration may have been one of the most risky yet decisive actions taken by Palin.  At that point, the field was not clearly committed, and many thought she might endorse Carson, Cruz, or some other better known conservative.  Palin was among Trump’s first and most major endorsements that paved a path almost all pundits denied was possible all the way to election eve.

In many ways, a woman made Donald Trump.  Palin took the arrows and bullying of an elite class.  Her church was destroyed.  Her family was attacked.  She never stepped out of the spotlight or refused to speak up for her populist vision of America.  Had Palin’s endorsement gone another way, Trump might not have taken flight in the broad field of 19 candidates deployed by the RNC.

There has never been any sense of remorse or apology from the left about what happened to Palin.  There has been no celebration of the feminism embodied in the female leaders of Trump today such as Ivanka Trump, Hope Hicks, and Kellyanne Conway.  Palin was a forerunner of the kind of countercultural resistance to identity-based politics played by American Jacobins.  The inauguration of Donald Trump will be Sarah Palin’s revenge, and it will pose a long-term threat to identity politics as we have long known it.

Ben Voth is an associate professor of corporate communication and public affairs and director of debate at Southern Methodist University.  He is the Calvin Coolidge Debate fellow and an adviser to the Bush Institute.

If you experience technical problems, please write to