Wall Street’s Darling Nikki

Although Nikki Haley is an articulate and attractive politician, the announcement of her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination left me totally uninspired. Haley’s ambition is glaringly obvious. In fact, she’s been throwing around hints for months that she intends to enter the presidential sweepstakes. She even called her former boss Donald Trump and discussed with him her hardly surprising decision to run against him for the nomination. The former president, according to Haley, responded to the news with this entirely benign statement: “Look, if you know, go by your heart, if you want to run.”

Let’s see if we can figure out why Trump reacted at least initially as he did upon learning that his former cabinet official was running against him. In a two-way race against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump would lose by at least 10 points. But if other candidates get into the mix, then his chances of winning the Republican nomination would be greatly enhanced. According to a Yahoo poll taken last week, DeSantis would beat Trump in a two-way race by 45 to 41 percent, but he would fall behind Trump by three points if Haley entered the race.

Haley’s candidacy offers the hope of a return to what the GOP rejected when it nominated Trump in 2016. She represents, for want of a better word, what may be called RINOism. She will end our “vulnerability” to Russia and China but will simultaneously combat “the socialist Left.” What exactly is Haley’s conception of the “socialist Left”? Is she referring to those who are hostile to all those billionaires who have already donated to her campaign? Her war chest is so heavily loaded with Wall Street donors that one has to wonder why these well-wishers with deep pockets have flocked to her.

I’d like to know more about Haley’s views on LGBT indoctrination in our schools and the indoctrination of critical race theory in the military. She is still trying to get mileage out of her decision to remove a Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, while she was governor in 2015. Haley made that decision after a white supremacist had killed nine black parishioners in a Charleston church and after he was photographed holding the Stars and Bars. Although Haley’s widely publicized act improved her standing with the press, I see no reason why it qualifies her for the presidency.

This brings me to a final reservation about her candidacy. Haley is perpetually positioning herself as a not too “right-wing” Republican candidate, who periodically changes her narratives to fit public tastes. When she ran for South Carolina governor, she positioned herself as a Southern Evangelical who hoped to resonate with largely rural white voters. She also took strong stands as a right-to-life Christian candidate. When she appeared as a speaker at the Republican National Convention in 2020, her pivoting was already apparent. In her speech, she described herself as someone who had been “a little brown girl” in a bigoted Southern environment, and as someone whose father was a Sikh who wore a beard and turban. Haley described herself in a recent interview as neither white nor black “but different.” Perhaps this candidate can define for us her skin color once and for all. The first time I saw her on television I assumed she had some Indian ancestry. It seems, however, that her pigmentation continues to change in response to electoral considerations.

The Israeli left-of-center newspaper Haaretz extols Haley as Israel’s “favorite establishment candidate” for the presidency and contrasts her to her former “polarizing” boss. This puff piece gives the impression that Haley deserves the nomination because she has devoted her life to fighting racial bigotry while representing Israeli interests. I’ve noticed that every left-of-center, but pro-Israeli Democrat of my acquaintance is eager to vote for Haley for president. They seem to view her as an establishment liberal who mysteriously ended up in the GOP but who is reliable on Israel. Of course it is hard to think of any Republican who has been more popular in Israel than the “polarizing” Donald Trump. But since Haley has been attacking Trump from the left, she offers pro-Zionist Democrats the best of all worlds, someone who will avoid cultural wars at home but who will also cooperate with the Israeli government.  

Perhaps her fans recall her immaculately P.C. response to the killing of George Floyd, an event that left her “heartbroken.” It also led to Haley’s memorable remark that “in order to heal, it [Floyd’s death] needs to be personal and painful for everyone.” That caused Tucker Carlson to ask why this killing should be “personally painful” for him. After all, unlike Floyd’s killer, Tucker had not personally pressed down the neck of someone who was high on drugs, resulting in his death. But then Tucker is not running for the presidency with Haley’s donors or base of support.

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images