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“Nikki Haley Living In Fantasyland”: Comfortably Indoctrinated In A Kind Of Civic Mythology

Nikki Haley’s 44th birthday is this week. You would think her a little old for fairytales.

But a bizarre, little-reported remark the South Carolina governor made last week suggests that, age notwithstanding, Haley lives in Fantasyland, at least insofar as American history is concerned. The comment in question came the day after her Tuesday night speech in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which she cuffed Donald Trump for his strident anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant bigotry.

Haley told reporters, “When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally, we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.”

Some observers found that an astonishing thing for her to say as chief executive of the first state to secede from the Union in defense of slavery, a state that embraced segregation until forced to change by the federal government. Others observed that any fair reading of Haley’s quote makes it pretty clear she was speaking only in the context of legal immigration.

They’re right. The problem is, even if you concede that point, Haley is still grotesquely wrong. She thinks no immigration laws have been passed “based on race or religion”? What about:

The Naturalization Act of 1790, which extended citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person…”?

Or the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, whose title and intent are self-explanatory?

Or the Immigration Act of 1917, which banned immigrants from East Asia and the Pacific?

Or Ozawa v. U.S., the 1922 Supreme Court decision which declared that Japanese immigrants could not be naturalized?

Or U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the 1923 high court ruling which said people from India — like Haley’s parents — could not become naturalized citizens?

So yes, however you slice it, Haley is wrong and Haley is ignorant. But one wonders if Haley is to blame.

Americans, the historian Ray Arsenault once said, live by “mythic conceptions of what they think happened” in the past. And as school systems, under pressure from conservative school boards, retreat from teaching that which embarrasses the nation’s self-image, as ethnic studies classes are outlawed, as textbooks are scrubbed of painfully inconvenient truths, as standards requiring the teaching of only “positive aspects” of American history are imposed, we find those mythic conceptions encroaching reality to a troubling degree.

Suddenly, slaves become immigrants and settlers. The Civil War has nothing to do with slavery. Martin Luther King becomes a tea party member. And America has never passed laws “based on race and religion.”

Yes, Haley’s ignorance might be willful. There’s surely a lot of that going around. But it might also be that she’s simply part of that generation which has been taught fairytales under the guise of history. Such teaching will leave you comfortably indoctrinated in a kind of civic mythology — and wholly unprepared to interpret or contextualize what’s happening before your eyes.

To wit: What makes Donald Trump’s proposed restrictions on Muslims troubling is not that they represent the coming of something new, but the return of something old, a shameful strain in the American psyche that we have seen too many times before. It is not a deviation from America, but the very stuff of America, an ugly scapegoating that has too often besmirched our character and beguiled us away from our most luminous ideals.

This is something all of us should know, but do not. As a state official, perhaps a candidate for vice president, perhaps eventually a president of the United States, Nikki Haley might someday change history. It would be good if she understood it first.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 17, 2016

January 18, 2016 Posted by | American History, Civil War, Nikki Haley | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Not Ever Do That Again”: SC Gov. Nikki Haley; The U.S. Has ‘Never’ Passed Laws Based On Race And Religion — Um…

Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R-SC) decision to speak out against Donald Trump and other anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim forces in the Republican Party is certainly laudable — but her awareness of American history needs a little work.

The Hill reports:

She said Wednesday that Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the country is what compelled her to speak out.

“You know, the one thing that got me I think was when he started saying ban all Muslims,” she said.

“We’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion,” she added. “Let’s not start that now.”

Of course, the state of South Carolina is itself a grand exhibit of America’s history of racially-based laws. It was the state where the Civil War began, as the first state to secede in the South’s effort to preserve and expand the institution of slavery, and it was where the first shots of the war were fired at Fort Sumter.

During the Jim Crow era, the state was also home to Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrat rebellion of 1948, a political mobilization for segregation that rallied against the emerging post-World War II civil rights movement.

To be sure, both South Carolina and the United States as a whole have made progress, climbing upward from these tainted beginnings to build a great country. But it sure does sound odd to hear a political leader say that we’ve “never in the history of this country” passed such odious laws — and, “Let’s not start that now.”

A better thing to say would’ve been: “Let’s not ever do that again.” That sort of myth-busting — against the idea of America as not just a great country, but a perfect one — would, in fact, be the right way to avoid doing it again.


By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, January 13, 2015

January 14, 2016 Posted by | American History, Nikki Haley, Racism | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Mutually Assured Destruction”: How Nikki Haley Revealed The Danger Trump Poses To The GOP

More than a few conservatives were shocked when South Carolina governor Nikki Haley offered an extended critique of Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric in her State of the Union response last night. Though she didn’t mention him by name, the next morning she didn’t shy away from saying that’s who she was talking about when she said things like, “No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country” and “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference.”

Here was the Republican Party’s choice to rebut President Obama, taking the opportunity of this formal setting to criticize the Republican Party’s frontrunner for the presidential nomination.

There’s no question the party is divided along multiple fault lines. But hearing it from Haley, who is thought by many to be a future contender for vice president and maybe even president, brings up some interesting questions about what Republicans will do if Trump becomes their nominee, and how his candidacy affects the complex balancing act they’ve been trying to achieve on issues of race and representation.

Here’s how that balancing act works. On the one hand, most of the influential people in the GOP sincerely want the party to present a more diverse face to the electorate. When someone like Nikki Haley or South Carolina senator Tim Scott or Marco Rubio comes along, they couldn’t be more pleased. Here, they can say, we’re not just a white party — look at these dynamic young Republicans who are members of minority groups.

That comes with a caveat, which is that in order to be embraced and held up by the party, you have to be in agreement with the party’s entire agenda, particularly on issues that touch on race. The party needs minority validators, who can push back when Democrats say that their policies are discriminatory in effect or even racist in intent. It’s much more powerful to have a black Republican argue that the party’s efforts to make it harder for black people to vote are motivated solely by its deep and profound commitment to the integrity of the ballot, or to have an Hispanic Republican make the case for crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, than it is to have a white Republican make those same arguments.

Having a few of those validators may not be enough to bring large numbers of minority voters into the GOP. If nothing else, however, it can keep moderate white voters from feeling like voting Republican means you don’t believe in a diverse and modern America.

But then along comes Donald Trump. One of the things that makes Trump so different as a candidate is that he says things explicitly that other politicians only imply. When it comes to stirring up nativist fears, Trump is cheerfully unsubtle. Mexicans are rapists, we should keep out the Muslims out — whatever you might be thinking but wouldn’t want to say out loud, Trump will happily say for you. Trump doesn’t bother coding anything. It’s no accident that there’s now a white nationalist group making robocalls to Iowa voters in support of his candidacy. Trump strips away the veneer of principle Republicans try to place on policies that benefit only their kind of people.

So one of the dangers of having Trump as the party’s nominee isn’t just that he’s a repellent buffoon who’ll lose the election, though that’s true. It’s also that his naked nativism and outright bigotry discredits the party if it ends up choosing him. His appeal can’t just be explained away, even if Republicans may try to say that he only has the support he does because of economic anxiety, an argument that Brian Beutler has been mocking to great effect. That’s a problem for every Republican running in a district or state where their victory isn’t assured.

So it’ll be fascinating to see what other Republicans do if Trump becomes their nominee. It’s one thing for someone like Haley to criticize Trump now, when we’re still in the primaries and someone else might win. But it will be much harder to do in the general election. Most Republicans will feel they have no choice but to line up behind him and work to get him elected, since the alternative is four years of a Democratic presidency. But what about someone like Haley — an extremely conservative Republican, but also the daughter of immigrants who knows full well that her background is a big part of what makes other Republicans so interested in her future ambitions?

One possibility is that Republicans will give him nominal support, but not much more. With a few exceptions, he’ll have the endorsement of all the prominent politicians, but they’re not going to put too much effort into making sure he wins the White House, especially if it means putting themselves out as his surrogates, where they’ll have to answer for everything he’s said and wants to do.

After all, losing the White House again could actually be good for the party at the state and local level, as it has been during the Obama years. As long as they can get people to forget the Trump candidacy as soon as possible.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 13, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP, Nikki Haley | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Not-Very-Subtle Attack”: GOP’s Official SOTU Response Helps Obama Undermine Trump

At the beginning of her pre-recorded “response” to the State of the Union address, Nikki Haley echoed the president’s evocation of his 2008 campaign themes by taking up the old 2008 Republican theme of Obama being just a good speech-maker with no substance. Near the end she briskly went through the Republican critique of Obama and the standard GOP agenda of tax-cutting and Obamacare-repealing and defense-spending increases, etc. But in between these bookends, she did something very different.

The emotional and structural heart of Haley’s speech was a not-very-subtle attack on Donald Trump as a “siren voice” of intolerance:

During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

That was clear enough. But Haley doubled down by making the saga of the Charleston massacre earlier this year — not coincidentally the beginning of her best moment in office when she squashed conservative resistance to the removal of the Confederate flag from state property — an allegory of the kind of tensions Trump is exploiting.

What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about.

Our state was struck with shock, pain, and fear. But our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs.

We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.

We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.

There’s an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results.

Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.

Not much doubt who she was talking about.

So Haley delivered the Republican Establishment’s message to and about Trump as much as any message to and about Obama. By doing so, she is presumably doing their will, and will store up treasure in heaven politically. But will it make her more or less viable as a possible vice-presidential nominee in 2016? That obviously depends on the identity of the person at the top of the ticket. But if I were Donald Trump and had any leverage over the GOP at the end of this nominating contest, I’d make sure Nikki Haley is buried at the Republican Convention in some pre-prime-time, five-minute speech slot, preferably confined to talking about the Tenth Amendment or something. She’s only 43, so maybe she’s shooting for a spot on the ticket — perhaps even the top spot — in 2024 or 2028.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 12, 2015

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Nikki Haley, State of the Union | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Southern Strategy Is Dead”: Does The Republican Party Have An Alternative?

On Monday afternoon, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) announced that she now supports removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the statehouse in Columbia. While the reaction of the Republican presidential candidates to the terrorist attack last week in Charleston and the subsequent debate about the flag has been cowardly at best, this is nevertheless a significant moment, with broad implications for the place of race in American politics. To put it simply, the GOP’s “Southern Strategy” is all but dead.

As political strategies go, it had a good run — nearly half a century. In 1968, Richard Nixon campaigned on behalf of the “silent majority” who wanted nothing of civil rights protests and uppity young people; he told them he’d deliver the “law and order” they craved, and there was little question who they were afraid of. It was called the Southern Strategy because while the South had been firmly Democratic since the Civil War, Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act initiated an exodus of Southern whites to the Republican Party, enabling them to build an electoral college majority with the South as its foundation. They would win five of the next six presidential elections with that strategy.

A key component was to make the GOP the default party of white people, by running against what they associated with black people — not just civil rights, but things like poverty programs and crime. It required ongoing reminders of who was on who’s side. So in 1980, Ronald Reagan announced his campaign for president in the town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, where civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman were murdered in 1964. He was not there to promote racial healing. Four years earlier, Reagan had told audiences how appalled he was at the idea of a “strapping young buck” buying T-bone steaks with food stamps, and he spent a good deal of the 1980 campaign railing against welfare queens. The race of the (largely fictional) offenders was lost on no one.

And as Stanley Greenberg, then a political scientist and now a leading Democratic pollster, found in his classic 1985 study of Macomb County, Michigan, the entire phenomenon of “Reagan Democrats” was built on racial resentment. “These white Democratic defectors express a profound distaste for blacks, a sentiment that pervades almost everything they think about government and politics,” he wrote. “Blacks constitute the explanation for their vulnerability and for almost everything that has gone wrong in their lives; not being black is what constitutes being middle class; not living with blacks is what makes a neighborhood a decent place to live.”

So when Reagan’s vice president ran to succeed him, it was little surprise that he would employ an inflammatory racial attack against his opponent, repeating over and over again the story of escaped convict Willie Horton. If Michael Dukakis were elected, George Bush’s campaign convinced people, hordes of menacing black felons would rampage through the land, raping white women and emasculating their husbands. They didn’t say it in quite those words, but they didn’t have to; Horton’s mug shot (aired endlessly on the news) and the story of his crimes was more than enough. While Bush is now treated as a noble and kind elder statesman, we shouldn’t forget that he ran one of the most racist presidential campaigns of modern times. “By the time we’re finished,” Bush’s strategist Lee Atwater said, “they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.”

Today a Republican presidential candidate wouldn’t feature Willie Horton as prominently as Bush did, but it isn’t because they’ve seen the moral error of their ways. It’s because it doesn’t work anymore. While nearly nine in 10 voters in 1980 were white, their proportion has been dropping for decades, and it will probably be around seven in 10 in next year’s election. Mitt Romney won all the Deep South in 2012, and won white voters by more than 20 points — but still lost to Barack Obama by 126 electoral votes.

That doesn’t mean the GOP’s center of gravity doesn’t still lie beneath the Mason-Dixon line. Republicans control nearly all the state governments in the South, which provides them laboratories for their latest innovations in governing, and their hold on the House of Representatives is built on their strength in the South. But as a strategy to win the White House, counting on white people — and the white people who respond when their racial hot buttons are pushed — won’t ever succeed again.

The party’s candidates are still coming to grips with this reality. They’ve pandered to racists for so long that not upsetting them is still their default setting; when the issue of the Confederate flag came up, the first response almost all of presidential candidates had was just to say that the people of South Carolina will decide, which is procedurally accurate and substantively irrelevant. But if South Carolina’s governor can come out against the flag, it really is a signal that times have changed.

Smart people in the GOP know that if the party is going to win the White House again, they can’t do it with the Southern Strategy that served them so well for so long. The question now is whether they can come up with an alternative.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributing Writer, The Week, June 23, 2015

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Nikki Haley, Southern Strategy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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