Well, so much for getting through the year without writing about Sarah Palin again.

Courtesy of The Atlantic

The threats to American democracy—and to the broader cause of freedom—are many, he said. He was withering on the subject of Donald Trump, but acknowledged that Trump himself is not the root of the issue. “I’m not surprised that somebody like Trump could get traction in our political life,” he said. “He’s a symptom as much as an accelerant. But if we were going to have a right-wing populist in this country, I would have expected somebody a little more appealing.”

Trump, Obama noted, is not exactly an exemplar of traditional American manhood. “I think about the classic male hero in American culture when you and I were growing up: the John Waynes, the Gary Coopers, the Jimmy Stewarts, the Clint Eastwoods, for that matter. There was a code … the code of masculinity that I grew up with that harkens back to the ’30s and ’40s and before that. There’s a notion that a man is true to his word, that he takes responsibility, that he doesn’t complain, that he isn’t a bully—in fact he defends the vulnerable against bullies. And so even if you are someone who is annoyed by wokeness and political correctness and wants men to be men again and is tired about everyone complaining about the patriarchy, I thought that the model wouldn’t be Richie Rich—the complaining, lying, doesn’t-take-responsibility-for-anything type of figure.”

Two issues that run deeper for Obama than Trump’s personal deficiencies concern the changes he sees in the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement. “I did not believe how easily the Republican establishment, people who had been in Washington for a long time and had professed a belief in certain institutional values and norms, would just cave” to Trumpian populism, he said.

He traces the populist shift inside the Republican Party to the election that made him president. It was Sarah Palin, John McCain’s 2008 running mate, he said, who helped unleash the populist wave: “The power of Palin’s rallies compared with McCain’s rallies—just contrast the excitement you would see in the Republican base. I think this hinted at the degree to which appeals around identity politics, around nativism, conspiracies, were gaining traction.”

The populist wave was abetted by Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, he said, and encouraged to spread by social-media companies uninterested in exploring their impact on democracy.

He went on to say, “If we do not have the capacity to distinguish what’s true from what’s false, then by definition the marketplace of ideas doesn’t work. And by definition our democracy doesn’t work. We are entering into an epistemological crisis.”

Essentially this is just confirmation of what we have been saying here on IM for years.

Sarah Palin cleared the path for Donald Trump to follow. 

She inflamed the racists and inspired the xenophobes, and then when she handed the torch to Trump during her endorsement speech all he had to do was point them in a direction and watch as they left a path of destruction in their wake. 

The reason that we investigated Sarah Palin so aggressively is that we recognized the danger she represented.

What we were not prepared for was that she would hand the baton off to an even more dangerous autocrat and that he would use that power to undermine our very democracy. 

And keep in mind that those Trump supporters are not going to simply disappear, which means their bitterness and resentment could still be tapped by a future politician who has watched Trump and Palin harness their rage and then use it themselves for their own power grab.