Is Nikki Haley the Divider-In-Chief?

Holli Holliday |Feb 22
     Nikki Haley, Republican Candidate for President

“I have a message for my fellow Republicans, we have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections…We have failed to win the confidence of the majority of Americans. That ends today,” proclaims Nikki Haley, a newly minted presidential candidate.

Her assertion seems like an accurate and factual airing of Republicans’ dirty laundry. But it is a statement worth unpacking to understand Haley’s pitch for the White House as divider-in-chief — even if she is running for the vice president slot.

For the past 30 years — going back to President George H. W. Bush, all but one of the Republican presidential tickets have lost the popular vote. Put another way, Democratic nominees — Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton — won the most votes. Most Black and brown people voted for these presidential candidates.

In 2000 and 2016, top vote-getters Gore and Clinton never became presidents. The highest office in our nation is elected by a relic of slavery days called the Electoral College, not the popular vote.

Why repeatedly bring up the popular vote in interviews, a Twitter video, and the announcement event?

Haley has never advocated for changes to the presidential election process which discounts Black, brown, and urban voters. The election of the president and vice president are really 50 separate state elections for electors who vote for the occupants of the White House. In the Electoral College, a voter in Wyoming has 3.18 times as much clout as one in California, according to Fair Vote.

Talking about the “popular vote” is part of a bigger appeal to independent and moderate Democratic voters. The U.S. population and to a lesser degree the electorate is shifting, becoming browner, younger, and less wed to a political party. The Pew Research Center reports that “Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S.”

Haley hopes to attract new voters and some who look more like her to Republican primaries. Her Feb. 15 rally featured a diverse group of supporters in contrast to gatherings hosted by former President Trump.

At the event, she even calls herself a “brown girl in a Black and White world” and tells stories about growing up as “the only Indian family” in a town called Bamberg, South Carolina. In a video released on Twitter, Haley states, “I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants — not Black, not white. I am different.”

Here is the rub. For people of color, like me, her approach is chafing an already raw spot.

After leaning into her gender and heritage, she states, “It is not about identity politics,” followed by a declaration that “I do not believe in a glass ceiling.” For anyone counting, the flip-flops are adding up. Let’s not even go into the debate about Haley’s pledge to not run against Trump.

Throughout the presidential announcement speech, she gaslights like former boss Trump. “America is not a racist country,” according to Haley who said in a video that railroad tracks divided the Blacks and Whites in her hometown. Perhaps that’s more a case of a forked tongue.

The former UN Ambassador also borrows liberally from the Trump campaign playbook, highlighting Black and brown women as public enemies. The announcement video flashes images of journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as people who do not appreciate the values and greatness of America compared to hardships in the rest of the world. She implies that these women want to make our country “weaker and woke.”

How does Haley explain the lack of a single woman as President of the United States in our 235-year history without talking about a glass ceiling? Did she not feel the shards breaking around her as the first women Governor of South Carolina?

Electing the first woman to the White House will require an extensive national conversation about sexism and a change in our culture. A recent study found that women chief executive officers were more likely to be considered lucky, compared to their male counterparts who were described as competent. When women executives made mistakes, their errors were likely to be described as evidence of incompetence, rather than bad luck like their male colleagues. It is hard to solve a challenge that is not acknowledged.