John McCain naming Sarah Palin as his running mate was just absolutely devastating to the Republican party.
John McCain was widely respected by both the left and the right in 2008, by and large he still is today, but more so back then. He’d been an outspoken critic of Bush’s use of torture at a time when it was labeled as unpatriotic to question the President, and that won him a lot of clout frankly. So when he picked Palin it sent a loud and clear message, what that message was depends on who you ask. If you ask me, a Democrat, it sent the message that John McCain was pandering to the women’s vote, and somehow ended up making the worst decision of his career. If you ask Republicans the message seems to have been: “Well if John McCain thinks someone like Sarah Palin can be trusted to run the free world, then why shouldn’t I vote for people like her?”
McCain outsourced his VP pick, it was a disaster for him, but I think that the bigger damage was what he did to his party, he told the electorate that look, this is fine, people like Palin are fine, they’re good actually!
I honestly think that if McCain had named literally any other running mate besides Palin, that we wouldn’t have ended up electing Donald Trump, I really don’t think that’s (much of) a stretch to say.
Once there’s one turd in the punch bowl what’s to stop the next guy who wants to shit in it, y’know?