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Opinion Palin’s Trump endorsement may have lacked coherence, but not meaning

Perhaps it's best we set aside the unanswerable question of "What was Sarah Palin saying?" with regard to the political glossolalia she spouted as she stood onstage in Ames, Iowa, this Tuesday and endorsed Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, and ask instead "What does Sarah Palin mean?" in a larger sense.

It was a bit like witnessing the opening of a phantom "Where are they now now?" file. The file those two should, by rights, be in, but that we don't really have any more, in part because the Internet keeps anyone from ever entirely going "where," especially if the enterprising "they" work it hard enough – like some sort of public attention mine.

In many ways, it's bizarre enough that we think of businessman, 1980s icon, reality-TV star Donald Trump at all these days, let alone that we think of him as a potential president of the United States.

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And there are so many reasons why Sarah Palin, who abruptly resigned from her last elected position and isn't running for anything now, should not have been "breaking news" for describing herself as "in it to win it, because we believe in America and we love our freedom and if you love your freedom, thank a vet …"

And you'll have to take that ellipsis as the hardest-working ellipsis in journalism because that sentence just kept going. It kept rambling on. It knew no peace. It found no rest.

No one watching quite knew where that sentence had come from, and certainly no one could tell where it was going, and it travelled through many strange lands.

"And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighbourhood tea, well, he deciding that, 'No, America would apologize,' and, as part of the deal, as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, 'Thank you, enemy …" she said, and now back to work, little ellipsis fellow.

Hers was the Odysseus of sentences, desperately struggling onward, crisscrossing the oratory globe without ever getting closer to a point.

Yet, no helpful Phaeacians ever stepped in to see it home and, for a long time that afternoon, that sentence's voyage captivated many of us, and perhaps in the end it did bring us closer to one universal truth; Saturday Night Live never did know when to end a sketch.

In a reasonable world, I'd be explaining to my appropriately wide-eyed children just who these two people, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, were, the way one explains the Dutch "tulip mania" of the 1600s or Bananarama.

Back in 2008, Sarah Palin had a fairly random lucky break when John McCain chose her, then the largely unknown governor of Alaska, as his running mate. It did not go well for anyone involved in the decision but, paradoxically, her subsequent success – a reality-TV show, books, lucrative speaking engagements – has been fuelled largely by that failure.

Ms. Palin, who cannot be said to have campaigned well, markets herself as a woman robbed, mostly by the media – the hand that feeds her, of her rightful place in politics, the vocation she quickly abandoned.

Her shtick relies on her audience believing she has endured great and unjust hardship. She seems to delight in sarcastically repeating anything negative said about her, and then noting, as she did on Tuesday, that, "like you all, I'm still standing …" as if some miracle had brought her to the stage.

"Testify!" the crowd she had just described as "hard-working" all but called out.

How politicians always know the people before them are "hard-working" I'll never understand. Are they splitting wood in the stands or something?

"So those of us who've kind of gone through the ringer, as Mr. Trump has," Ms. Palin continued, boy did she continue, her speech all but cried for fresh horses, "makes me respect you even more."

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It should be noted that Mr Trump did not look pleased to be included among the masses who have gone through the wringer. That is not how he self-mythologizes. He is a winner among losers, as he's only too happy to explain.

Donald Trump is the person the audience would like to be. Sarah Palin, with her calculated "like you," is the person they imagine they are.

Sarah Palin, we are to understand, is innately entitled to greatness, but thwarted by a nebulous, villainous "campaign-donor class" of those who wear "political correctness kind of like a suicide vest" and turn "safety nets into hammocks" and allow "illegal immigration that competes for your jobs."

That she so willingly, if incoherently, depicted the Republicans, whom she accused of being complicit in "that tragic ramifications of that betrayal of the transformation of our country," and that it is so well received should spook conservatives.

"Both sides of the aisle" and "crony capitalists" are the enemies in Sarah Palin's world, a place where cheap labour and the free market are threats to the American way of life, and all your personal woes are best laid at the feet of the government. Move over, society.

It's odd how anti-establishment is quickly becoming the territory of the right. That, the GOP, now with raised rabble, is realizing, is difficult terrain to govern.

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Yes, watching Sarah Palin's Trump speech was like watching some sort of political endorsement having a computer malfunction onstage. Short of breaking into a mournful "Daisy, Daisy…" it could not have been more surreal, but it's too easy to dismiss her presence at the event as a stunt, a photo op somewhat like having a bouncy castle.

However, while Sarah Palin, a career non-politician did not, in fact because she did not, articulate a coherent political ideology, she said something, something quite ominous, about the state of American politics.

Her presence on that stage and the fact that other candidates, certainly Ted Cruz, would have welcomed her on their own stages, means something beyond whatever it is that "we, you, a diverse dynamic, needed support base that they would attack and …" means.

Over to you, my Little Ellipsis That Could.

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