Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for the Republican nomination today, but before that cataclysm came to pass, Jezebel managed to work in this doozy of a headline: Ted Cruz Is Deeply Afraid That Trump Might Land Coveted Sarah Palin Endorsement. As are we all, because we live in a world where said headline exists.
The article quoted the Cruz campaign’s communications director Rick Tyler, who told CNN: “I think it would be a blow to Sarah Palin, because Sarah Palin has been a champion of the conservative cause and if she was going to endorse Donald Trump, sadly she would be endorsing someone who’s held progressive views all their life on the sanctity of life, on marriage, on partial-birth abortion, he supported [the] TARP bailout — it goes on and on and on.”
I’m sure Sarah Palin wouldn’t quite put her decision in those terms. But after reading Tyler’s statement, I would argue that Sarah isn’t the only character in this story who could be marked a closet progressive. More specifically, please turn your attention to Tyler’s reference to Donald Trump as “their” (“someone who’s held progressive views all their life on the sanctity of life”). It’s certainly possible he meant to imply that, like Walt Whitman, the current Republican frontrunner is large and contains multitudes. But that’s unlikely. After all, such an observation would amount to a potential justification for Trump’s alleged contradictions.
Instead, I would argue that it appears Tyler accidentally employed the so-called “singular they” in describing the Donald. Said singular they was recently named the Word of the Year by a crowd of over 200 linguists at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. (narrowly beating out Donald Trump’s “schlong“). According to the Washington Post, which began allowing its employees to to use ‘they’ to refer to ‘people who identify as neither male nor female’ late last year, “what gave this word new prominence was its usefulness as a way to refer to people who don’t want to be called ‘he’ or ‘she'”:
“We know about singular they already — we use it everyday without thinking about it, so this is bringing it to the fore in a more conscious way, and also playing into emerging ideas about gender identity,” said linguist Ben Zimmer, language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.
“Emerging ideas about gender identity” sounds like precisely the sort of progressive view Tyler sought to assign Donald Trump and Sarah Palin — and instead managed to unwittingly express himself. Like Sarah Palin’s inadvertent endorsement of supposedly New York values, progressive views aren’t always something you consciously choose to adopt. Indeed, as Hillary has been learning the hard way, they sometimes manage to catch up with you just when you least expect them (#feelthebern). And so — and in light of Trump’s own insistence on calling even Caitlyn Jenner a “he” — who’s full of those New York values now? Bonus points for anyone who mentions this to Tyler and records their reaction.