In my previous post, I discussed Sarah Palin’s use of “affective politics” in her endorsement of Republican candidate Donald Trump. Rather than present a coherent argument, Palin instead offers a series of riffs that express a populist conservative narrative about America’s identity, one that is characterized by hard-working families falling behind because of a Washington “establishment,” a potentially-tough military than has been prevented from exerting its influence by an emasculating Barack Obama, and a coalition of family-values voters whose views have been marginalized by a dominant political correctness that banishes unwanted viewpoints. Trump’s campaign narrative is a restoration narrative (“Make America Great Again!”), and Palin’s rural hockey mom branding fits neatly into that, and I argue, makes her endorsement much more powerful than many liberal opponents would acknowledge.
Because her speech did not conform to the normative standards of political speech (much less the conventions of grammar and syntax), it was ripe for parody by both late-night comedians and by snarky remix artists. As many of my readers will know, there has been tons of scholarship on the effects of political parody (and I’ve contributed my share of it), including articles focusing specifically on Palin parodies, and as this research suggests, the effects are somewhat inconclusive. Certainly liberals and progressives can enjoy seeing Palin get mocked (I certainly do), but I would argue that many of these parodies actually help to reinforce populist-conservative perceptions of the “lamestream media.”
Notably, most of these parodies fall into relatively similar critiques, focusing on Palin’s syntax and her (lack of) political knowledge. Stephen Colbert’s parody takes this approach, with Colbert–now freed from his role as a faux-conservative pundit–describing her speech as a “reunion tour” in which Palin “plays all the hits.”
Colbert later went into an extended sequence in which he imitated Palin endorsing other political candidates, babbling seemingly disconnected (and often irrelevant) catchphrases in something approaching Palin-ese, but not before pausing to “taze the part of my brain that understands sentence structure.” It’s a clever bit, one that is all the more enjoyable given Colbert’s undeniable excitement about having Palin back in the public eye.
Like Colbert, Trevor Noah, as host of The Daily Show, also happily “endorses” Palin’s return to the public eye and all of the new comedy material it will generate. And like Colbert, Noah mocks Palin’s seemingly incoherent ramblings. Reacting to one of comments, Noah laughs, “What? That is amazing. It’s like the only thing that Palin hates more than Obama is punctuation.”
Finally, one of the most widely circulated remixes has been the “Sarah Palin & Donald Trump–Country EDM Remix,” which mixes key phrases from Palin’s speech with an electronic country beat punctuated by the line “hee haw” (taken from the old country variety show). It’s a fun and goofy take that isolates some of Palin’s funnier lines, but again, is unlikely to do much other than provide catharsis for those of us who are disturbed to see Trumpism becoming an increasingly dominant force in American politics. Still, it’s a lot of fun: