Nikki Haley, A Conservative of Convenience

Recently, a friend of mine posted on a public forum that he would love to see a Nikki Haley ticket for the GOP in the 2024 Presidential election. He said he likes her politics and feels she is a good conservative who would bring new voters to the Republican party. It is hard to see where he got the idea that Haley is a reliable conservative, and even harder to see why he would think that she would be better for the GOP‘s chances of winning than Trump, or DeSantis, or any number of other possible candidates, including Tim Scott.

As this column was being written, Nikki Haley was in 4th place among possible GOP Presidential candidates in the Real Clear Politics rollup of the major polls. Haley’s polls averaged 4.3%of the vote among all voters, which put her so far behind Trump and DeSantis that most major media outlets were wondering why she is bothering. The primary speculations are that she is maneuvering for a Vice Presidential spot on the GOP ticket with DeSantis, or looking to play spoiler versus Trump to burnish her credentials for a Presidential campaign after 2024.

So, is Haley a candidate that conservatives should take seriously? Given her track record of outperforming expectations, it would be silly for any of her opponents to take her for granted, but she is highly unlikely to be popular with Trump supporters. Just by running Haley is going back on her own promise that she would not run against Trump, and her support of the Democrat January 6th show trials give many (perhaps most) Trump voters a dim view of her position on the power of the Federal government.

That dim view was further clouded when Haley endorsed Lindsey Graham’s proposed federal abortion ban immediately prior to the 2022 midterm elections. It seemed like a blatantly political play to undermine the incredible victory that Trump’s SCOTUS nominees had given conservatives by revoking the Roe v Wade decision. Lindsey Graham, a sneaky, windvane watching RINO pushed that bill knowing that it would hurt GOP chances in the midterm by alienating moderate women, and Haley followed his lead. When SCOTUS had just ruled that the abortion issue should be resolved at the state level, a pure reading of the Constitution, why on earth would any true conservative support a law that would re-insert the federal government into the issue? Answer? Because Haley values power more than she values principles.

That is also the reason she turned on Trump after the January 6th demonstrations and supported Democrat show trials. Ironically, her attacks on Trump were a return to her positions on Trump before he was elected President, and before she took a job in his administration. Plainly, she is an opportunist who will turn on anyone she feels has outlived their usefulness to her personal political agenda. In 2016, she declared that Trump was “everything a governor doesn’t want in President.” On the other hand, she told the GOP Convention in August 2020: “Donald Trump has always put America first, and he has earned 4 more years as President.” 

Perhaps in Haley’s eyes he earned it by hiring her, but that decision did not stop her from changing her views again after January 6th: “(Trump) was badly wrong with his words yesterday, and it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.” She also said that Trump “has no future in the GOP.” Perhaps that was wishful thinking since Trump looks to be every Republican candidate’s biggest obstacle to a Presidential nomination. One thing is certain, Haley is not being driven by principle in her views on Trump.

Similarly, when she made a grandstanding gesture on changing the South Carolina flag after a deranged white racist murdered 9 black people at a church, Haley subsequently decried the demise of the very flag she eliminated, saying it was a symbol of southern heritage rather than racism. If she thought that was true, then her action to remove the flag was a calculated political stunt. If Haley did not think that, then saying after the fact that she believed it is a hypocritical and cynical ploy to curry favor with people with whom she does not agree. She is trying to straddle a fence in order to appeal to both sides of a contentious issue. That is not a sign that she will be reliable in the face of controversy.

If one looks at Haley’s Presidential platform, it sounds appealing. She is strong on opposing China, Russia, and Iran, and names China as America’s primary adversary. Haley supposedly opposes increasing federal spending. She advocates for gun rights and says she has gun carry license. Haley is against foreign aid to enemies of America, which seems like common sense and makes one wonder why anyone likes that idea of giving aid to Cuba, for example. She is strongly in support of military aid to Ukraine in the form of material, but NOT direct financial aid. All those positions are designed to warm the hearts of conservative voters, but one wonders which of them Haley would find it expedient to jettison if they became politically controversial.

Overall, Haley is not a candidate to take lightly, but GOP voters looking for a true conservative warrior should be far more comfortable with politicians who have firmly stood for their conservative principles when doing so was risky and unpopular, and shown the willingness and the ability to take the heat without faltering. Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have certainly earned their stripes on that score, as has Tim Scott. Until Nikki Haley shows similar resilience under fire, conservatives would be well advised to give their votes to her opponents in the GOP primaries

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2 thoughts on “Nikki Haley, A Conservative of Convenience”

  1. Nikki has only as much appeal as Donald Trump will give her, assuming she goes back to her old position as UN Ambassador, and also assuming Trump wins.

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