On the Contradictions of Nikki Haley: Republican02-18-2021
I am not a prognosticator. Take what I am going to say with a large dose of skepticism. It is very likely that in four years the United States will elect a minority woman as its President. The question may be, will that woman be Vice President Kamala Harris or former South Carolin Governor Nikki Haley? And if it is Nikki Haley, or even if the former United Nations Ambassador is simply the Republican nominee, Tim Alberta’s long and probing essay about the contradictions of Nikki Haley will be required reading. Even now, as Haley seeks to balance her friendship with ex-President Donald Trump with her anger and disappointment at the ex-President for how he handled his electoral loss, Alberta’s essay is a must read for insight into how some Republicans are seeking to self-justify their support for the ex-President whom they know to have pushed bold-faced lies and conspiracies that came to threaten the United States democratic and republican form of government.
Hannah Arendt believed strongly in a winner-take all electoral system because both parties had to present themselves as capable of governing. Against a multi-party proportional system of representation that allows parties to craft platforms appealing to small minorities, a winner-take-all approach forces parties to moderate their platforms. In our current era of elite political polarization, the ability of elites to mobilize masses of usually apathetic voters has allowed the parties and especially the Republican Party to appeal almost exclusively to its radicalized voters. One would hope that the exit of ex-President Trump would allow the Republican Party to turn back toward the Center. And yet that may not happen. How the Republican Party navigates this crisis may well determine whether it remains a viable political entity. Haley is clearly trying to appeal to both wings of the Party, leading to contortions in reason. As Alberta writes, Haley’s efforts to unify the Republican Party exposes the dangers and the hopes in the effort to tap and yet control the populist wing of the party.
“We need to acknowledge he let us down,” she said. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”
But do rank-and-file Republicans feel the same way? I told Haley about recent polling shared with me, showing his approval ratings in deep red districts hadn’t flinched.
“Listen, when I walked in that RNC room, I was not expecting a whole bunch of love from that speech,” she said. “I know how much people love Donald Trump. I know it. I feel it. Whether it’s an RNC room or social media or talking to donors, I can tell you that the love they have for him is still very strong. That’s not going to just fall to the wayside.”
She added: “Nor do I think the Republican Party is going to go back to the way it was before Donald Trump. I don’t think it should. I think what we need to do is take the good that he built, leave the bad that he did, and get back to a place where we can be a good, valuable, effective party. But at the same time, it’s bigger than the party. I hope our country can come together and figure out how we pull this back.”
But how can America “come together” without anyone taking responsibility for the events spanning November 4 to January 6, I asked Haley. Did she regret not talking Trump down when she had the chance? Did she regret not speaking out publicly? Did she regret laughing off my questions about how dangerous this campaign of mass deception might prove to be?
“At the time, I didn’t think that was dangerous,” Haley said. “I didn’t think that there was anything to fear about him. There was nothing to fear about him when I worked for him. I mean, he may have been brash. He may have been blunt. But he was someone who cared about the country. … I still stand by that. I don’t think we should ever apologize for the policies that we fought for and the things that we did during his four years. Since the election—” she stopped herself. “I mean, I’m deeply disturbed by what’s happened to him.”
Haley repeated these sentiments over the course of a two-hour conversation: “Never did I think he would spiral out like this. … I don’t feel like I know who he is anymore. … The person that I worked with is not the person that I have watched since the election.”
Was Haley really surprised that Trump, who spent the previous four years inventing claims of mass voter fraud, would try to destabilize the democratic process? If the answer is yes, as she insists, it raises a fundamental question about her discernment. If she so badly misread Trump—a man whose habits and methods she had ample opportunity to study up close—then how can she be trusted to handle the likes of Vladimir Putin?