Discover more from The Racket News ™
Nikki Haley is my Number One #2
2024 is a year requiring courage, and only one candidate has it.
If 2016 was about revolt, and 2020 was about deplorable acts, 2024 is going to be about courage. C.S. Lewis wrote that “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Courage is the ability to act in spite of feeling fear, and fear is the basis for so much of our politics. The 18th century English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote “In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.” The question for 2024 is how deep into folly we’re willing to go.
As you may have discerned from the headline, I am going to focus on Nikki Haley. But before I get to that, I want to build my argument (the one I had in my own head) why I think she’s worth focusing on.
In conflict with courage, in judging character, and therefore candidates for high office, is another principle, and that’s purity. By purity, I mean tests of policy, loyalty, and whatever shibboleths the voters and party have latched on to (pro-life, resistant to wokeness, suspicious of big government). Surely nobody in politics is pure, especially in this pugilistic environment where Republicans can’t agree on the most basic issues (and can barely summon the backbone to expel an inveterate liar like George Santos).
Take, for example, Mike Pence. My friend Erick Erickson knows and likes Mike Pence. I believe Pence does his best to follow his conscience and a personal understanding of his faith. I think he seeks out wise counsel, and lives in a way he sees fit to best honor God with his life. But as all humans do, he falls short. (The “understatement alert” lamp is flashing in my brain.) Through the confluence of history and terrible choices, Pence managed to both show complete obsequiousness to Donald Trump for nearly five years, and at the same time become Trump’s greatest foe, deemed a traitor to the MAGA cause at its penultimate moment (the ultimate moment was the stroke of noon, January 20th, 2021). Mike Pence, for all his purity of conscience, is the most politically impure person to have entered, and now exited, the race.
Thank you! Please subscribe.
I’m not going to get into Tim Scott or Doug Burgum, because they were never major players (Burgum continues his campaign, for unfathomable reasons.) The next most impure Republican running is Chris Christie, the flip-flopping, fast-talking, acid-tongued opportunist who was widely blamed for Romney’s 2012 loss to Barack Obama. In 2016, Christie, after spending over 70 days camped out in New Hampshire, was destroyed in the primary, finishing 6th behind Trump, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio.
Just 17 days later: “I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States,” said Christie standing beside Trump. Christie expected to win some plum cabinet appointment, and had set himself up as Trump’s transition chief. That is, until Jared Kushner had him booted. The fact that Christie couldn’t see a blood feud smacking him in the face years after putting Kushner’s dad away for tax evasion disqualifies him from negotiating anything in the name of our government.
Now Christie fancies himself the ultimate Never Trumper. To me, his credentials in this regard are spoiled to the point of hilarity. I think most voters agree.
One of the only serious contenders who remained above water (though not close to Trump) is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis reminds me of Ted Cruz: an Ivy League lawyer with impeccable credentials, who can argue any side of an issue and come off sounding convincing, which is precisely why DeSantis can’t make up his mind how to answer the simplest questions.
On July 27th of this year, DeSantis was asked the softball of all softballs, if he believed teaching that enslaved people “developed skills” for personal benefit was a good idea, or if he personally believed there were beneficial aspects to slavery. Instead of answering “there are no beneficial aspects to slavery” (duh), DeSantis tried to finesse the question, attacking the reporter for lacking context.
And from June to October, DeSantis had a running exchange with a 15-year-old New Hampshire high schooler, that if you’re keeping score, he’s losing. Most recently, young Quinn Mitchell was escorted by police from a GOP event in Nashua, N.H. Mitchell told the New York Times “They said, ‘We know who you are,’” about the event’s organizers, which included DeSantis campaign staffers. Fighting with a high schooler is an amateur move that even Hillary Clinton would avoid.
DeSantis is playing a game of culture war, riding the wave against educational indoctrination and outcome-based equity that swept Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin into office. Given the results of the last election that handed both chambers of the Virginia legislature to Democrats, that wave may have crested. In fact, I’m certain it has crested.
What Pence, Christie and DeSantis seem to have in common is an on-again-off-again (mostly off-again) relationship with courage. It didn’t take courage to do what then-Vice President Pence did on January 6th, 2021. It took common sense, and a basic understanding of the Constitution. What would have required courage is for Pence to stand up publicly on any given day before the Senate was to certify the Electoral College result, and declare that Trump was planning a self-coup, complete with a violent crowd, refusal to approve increased protection of the Capitol by the military, and ersatz slates of electors. Pence was privvy to all of this, yet he chose to go to the Capitol, hoping against hope that he alone could stop the political farce without the carnage.
It would have taken courage for Pence to go to the New York Times, or the Washington Post, to tell what he knew. It might have ended with Pence thrown completely under the bus by Trump and the White House staff, but it would have likely avoided January 6th, at least the way it unfolded. It would have taken courage for Pence to have resigned along with so many others in Trump’s administration, when it became clear that his boss lacked the tools for the job.
In 2024, it’s going to take courage to take on Donald Trump and the Know-Nothing Trumpists, and to rally the GOP, even if it results in a loss to President Joe Biden. The one GOP candidate running who has exhibited evidence of courage, along with the least mark of impurity accrued from serving in the Trump administration is Nikki Haley.
A month after the Charleston racist murder of nine Black churchgoers in June, 2015, Haley signed a bill into law that removed the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol. If you’re not a southerner, it’s difficult to understand the cultural and political value of the Stars & Bars to whites who trace their family back to Johnny Reb fighting in gray against Union boys in blue. The Civil War started in South Carolina, and the myth of the Lost Cause still runs strong there. In 2019, she caught flack after appearing on Glenn Beck’s podcast, correctly stating that for some in her state, the battle flag symbolized “service, sacrifice and heritage,” and that murderer Dylann Roof “hijacked” it. Well, there are a lot of groups, from the KKK to the Proud Boys, who adopted the Star & Bars. I don’t think they “hijacked” it per se, since the flag defends race-based chattel slavery itself, which is undeniably evil, but the myth of southern honor suffered. Haley walked a difficult line.
It’s impossible to win the Republican nomination for the presidency without white southern voters, if not a majority, at least a significant number of them. The fact that 22% of Republicans in South Carolina chose Haley over Trump in a poll three weeks ago is a good start. Trump had 53%, with DeSantis getting 11%. Tim Scott, who dropped out, had 6%. If Scott’s voters accrued to Haley, and Haley did well in New Hampshire (if not winning it outright), she could have significant momentum going forward.
Haley is also the only name on the N.H. ballot who is beating Biden in the polls, by as much as ten percent.
As U.N. Ambassador, in her first appearance at the Security Council in February 2017, Haley condemned Russia on the issue of Ukraine. She called for “an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea.” Haley has been a strong proponent of Ukraine in its current war against Russia. She also supports Israel in its war against Hamas. On the debate stage, she didn’t back away from the harmful idiocy of Vivek Ramaswamy, calling him “scum” after he made remarks about her daughter.
The GOP would do well to nominate a woman for president. Better yet, a smart, accomplished woman who raised a family and is married to a military member. Even better, a woman who served in the Trump administration, but resigned before Trump committed any impeachable offenses. She left on good terms. The GOP would do well to nominate a woman (or anyone) who can beat Joe Biden.
After quite a bit of consideration and thought, I am fairly confident that Nikki Haley is my Number One for #2. And by the polling, it seems I’m not alone by any means.
Ross Douthat recently opined in the New York Times, asking “Can Nikki Haley Beat Trump?” Of course, that’s the only practical question that matters. If any GOP candidate wants a shot at the presidency, the path runs through Donald Trump. Douthat’s verdict is a definite “maybe” qualified by so many “ifs” and assumptions as to be almost meaningless. But two things emerge: first, it’s not impossible (as Lloyd Christmas said in Dumb and Dumber, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance”); second, I get the feeling Douthat wants it to be true. That could be simply because anyone who can beat Trump is (mostly) desirable, or because, like me, Douthat has his doubts about Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In the end, Douthat lamented the consensus opinion.
Fundamentally, though, I still believe that Haley’s destiny is anticipated by the biting, “congrats, Nikki,” quote from a DeSantis ally in New York Magazine: “You won the Never Trump primary. Your prize is nothing.”
It says a lot that friends of DeSantis choose to spend their dry powder on Haley.
Again, going back to first principles: 2016 was about revolt. Rebellion against the fatalistic Obama years, where the jobs promised to rust belt workers were never coming back; where the international place for America was at a table of equals, many of which are unwilling to pay the price for the seat; where Obama’s transformative vision of America left out tens of millions as vestigal appendages whose time has passed. Trump’s message that demographics do not equal destiny, if you control the demographics, and that “we don’t have a country” if we can’t assert real borders, appealed to those voters. It swung enough swing states from Obama to the GOP, helped along by Herself—the Ice Queen Hillary—and her ennui toward the hoi polloi beyond her Brooklyn headquarters. Selena Zito’s fantastic book “The Great Revolt” puts faces and names behind the 2016 phenomenon.
In 2020, those who counted themselves among the deplorables in 2016 found that Trump wasn’t kidding about being deplorable. Every misogynist, xenophobic, thin-skinned, and stupendously stupid remark Trump made, was not an act. It was oh so real. When not supported by lists of Federalist Society judges, and smart people in important positions, Trump stood nakedly nincompoopish, cringeworthy and threadbare like a Vaudeville routine played too many times to people who don’t remember what Vaudeville was. By mid-2020, all the smart people had left Trump, and he was surrounded by sycophants, wannabes, opportunists, and Mike Pence. Nothing could save Trump from himself in November 2020.
Back in early 2021, nobody expected Trump to re-emerge in 2024. But now, events have overtaken expectations. It’s not virtue that can save the GOP—Republicans are irredeemably beyond virtue—but a single virtue at the testing point of courage might open the window enough to admit some light. Win or lose, Nikki Haley exhibits courage and, even more useful, nuance. She’s not a DeSantis debate machine. She’s not a Christie opportunist. she’s not a Trumpist conspiracist.
As to the matter of Haley’s statement about online identity requirements, I actually agree with her premise, but I think the issue is very complex, and her statement is one from a 10,000 foot level, and therefore open to all kinds of First Amendment criticism. I agree that social media companies need to be transparent about their sharing algorithms. I think everyone needs to verify a “real” identity, and I mean much more than the ubiquitous “prove you’re not a robot” by identifying bicycles in the image checkbox. As a cybersecurity professional in my other “real” life outside my writing, I have some definite policy ideas and technology proposals to deal with this issue, while preserving privacy, anti-doxxing, and risk scoring. If the Haley campaign is listening, I’d be glad to talk to them about it. I wouldn’t make that offer to any of the other campaigns, because I don’t think they look at most issues seriously, but through the lens of what will win them a few more votes.
I think Nikki Haley would make a good Number One, if she can get past the guy keeping her at #2. That’s good enough for me, and hopefully, enough to wake up the rest of the voters who will participate in GOP primaries and caucuses. We have just over two months to find out.
** RIP Rosalynn Carter. From Atlanta’s 11 Alive:
They had actually first met on the day she was born – he was three years old, and their families lived next to one another. She grew up a friend of his sister Ruth, and when he was home one day from the U.S. Naval Academy in the summer of 1945, he saw her walking with his sister, stopped his car and asked her out to the movies.
A love story. A beautiful life.