My precious angel babies, did you think I had forgotten about you? Yes, things have been very busy at the secret underground pyramid-shaped headquarters of Pyramid, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my eye glued to the news that, apparently, we’re having a presidential election next year. Didn’t we just have one of these? Smash Mouth was right: the years start coming and they truly do not stop coming.
Alas, welcome back to our unkillable series “Who The Fuck Are All These Fucks?” in which we profile, in brief, each of the 2024 candidates for president. This series is not meant to be exhaustive, and you’re encouraged to look into each candidate on your own.
NAME: Nimarata Nikki Haley
CURRENT JOB: Unemployed. Running a PAC cannot possibly count as a job.
PREVIOUS JOB: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (2017-2018), Governor of South Carolina (2011-2017)
WHAT DID SHE ACTUALLY SAY ABOUT DONALD TRUMP IN 2016: “That’s not who we want as president. We will not allow that in our country.”
So it’s finally come to this, Nikki? After all of that time spent in the weeds after you left the Trump administration in 2018? How did you come to become the person who abandoned Trump (as far as Trump supporters are concerned) but also the person too dangerous to be trusted (as far as everyone else is concerned)? Let’s look back into the past and see what it tells us about the future.
Nimrata Randhawa was born in South Carolina in 1972. Her parents were immigrants from India: her father, a college professor; her mother, a public school teacher. A young Haley took an interest in math, keeping the books for her mother’s clothing shop at the age of twelve. She went to Clemson and studied accounting, graduating in 1994. She found herself back in the family clothing business in Bamberg and, in 1996, she married William Michael Haley, who went by Bill until his future wife just decided that wasn’t going to be his name and called him Michael, instead.
In 2004, Haley ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives, defeating an incumbent Republican to take the seat. She became an active member of the House and quickly joined leadership, putting herself in a great spot when 2010’s gubernatorial election rolled around.
Haley the Rebel
Heavily backed by Chicago businessman Shalabh Kumar and endorsed by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Jenny Sanford, the wife of incumbent South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Haley coasted to victory. Just kidding! Polling showed Haley in dead last behind Attorney General Henry McMaster, Congressman Gresham Barrett, and André Bauer, the state’s lieutenant governor. Haley’s early candidacy was in trouble, but there were a lot of undecided voters, and it seemed like support across all four candidates was weak. Haley started shoring up support, partly with aggressive campaigning but also partly with one last endorsement: former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Palin’s vice presidential bid in the 2008 election had gone absolutely nowhere but it had inspired a lot of people who saw in the Alaska governor a vision: what if government was bad?
Haley promised to bring that vision to reality with her platform, which was aligned with the nascent Tea Party movement. A small government, ineffectively so if possible. Enforce laws that are tough on poor people, but don’t hurt job creators. Use the term “job creators” unironically. You get it.
South Carolina Republican lawmakers were skeptical of the Tea Party movement and she feuded with the very legislature she’d just been a leader in. Some of those feuds were somewhat surprising: in 2016, Haley said she’d refuse to sign a so-called “bathroom bill” to force transgender people to use the bathroom for the gender they were assigned at birth. Haley lamented that there were no instances, to her knowledge, where this was an actual problem: “So when I look at South Carolina, we look at our situations, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re, again, not hearing any citizens that feel like they are being violated in terms of freedoms.”\
Haley the Principled
If that 2016 position on transgender access to bathrooms seems odd, it wasn’t. Yes, as recently as 2016, the most common Republican answer to transgender issues was “why would this matter?”
As the 2016 presidential election began to take shape, Haley joined Marco Rubio’s bandwagon. Rubio promised to bring Tea Party ideas to the White House – cut taxes, cut spending, cut services – and Haley was on board. Haley, a woman of color, found candidate Donald Trump to be “dangerous” and said that his rhetoric proved that he we was “not who want as president.” Ever a southerner, Haley responded to an attack by Trump by saying, “Bless your heart.” Rough.
Rubio eventually dropped out the election and Haley switched to Ted Cruz, again trying to push the ‘Never Trump’ crowd to victory. It didn’t work, and Haley was asked if he would vote for someone about whom she had previously said, “That’s not who we want as president. We will not allow that in our country.”
“Of course,” she replied.
Haley the Sell-out
Trump reportedly wanted Haley as the U.S. Secretary of State, but she declined. Why? Well, one reason might be that the job of the Secretary of State is to handle foreign relations, and it was clear that a big part of that job in the Trump administration would be apologizing. As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, there would be no need to apologize, because Republicans have disliked the United Nations for decades anyway.
One of Haley’s first moves at the U.N. was to proclaim American support of Ukraine in its conflict with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula. A month later, she said that a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. would be “un-American” and she wouldn’t support one if Trump issued it. Haley basically spent her first month at the U.N. foreshadowing the next four years.
Haley quit after two years.
At the time, she stressed that she still supported Trump: “If I disagree with something and believe it is important enough to raise with the president, I do it. And he listens.” But Haley was one of many Trump administration officials to leave after relatively short stints. In fact, the administration set a record for first-year turnover. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Housing and Human Services Tom Price, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, EPA Administration Scott Pruitt, and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin all departed the cabinet before Haley.
Haley left the Trump administration to go nowhere. That’s not unheard of. The stress and demands of a cabinet-level job are exhausting and some people need a break. Haley founded a “group” which received a lot of financial donations. In 2022, Nikki Haley’s Stand for America raised $17.4 million. It spent $341,450 on candidates and around $10 million on its own organizational expenses. It’s widely understood to be the preparation vehicle for Haley’s presidential bid.
So, okay. There’s a presidential bid coming. Right?
Well, yes, obviously. But in order to get there, Haley had to make it past 2020, when Donald Trump was still a candidate. Haley may have had her eyes on a seat in the U.S. Senate or some other role in government. She took a board of directors seat at Boeing but then quit the board after a year. She saw Trump lose the 2020 election and surely thought her chance was coming.
But when Trump and his supporters attempted a coup d’etat against the United States in 2021, Haley had to figure out an answer. The answer she found at first was to say it was “not his finest” behavior. She opposed an impeachment, too. But then, she said this: “We need to acknowledge he let us down. 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.”
Then, she said she would vote for him again in 2024. No, really. Haley went beyond merely embracing Trump’s policies (“outstanding”) and goals (“stronger, safer, and more prosperous”) – even though nearly all of Trump’s significant policy accomplishments were quickly undone by the subsequent Biden administration – and said she not only would back a Trump 2024 bid, but would not launch her own campaign if he was going to run for re-election.
Haley the Liar
Nikki Haley announced her presidential campaign on February 14, 2023. Donald Trump, her former boss who she promised to support and not run against, had launched his bid nearly four months earlier. Donald Trump, who she said led America “down a path he shouldn’t have,” who she promised to support again despite saying “we can’t let that ever happen again,” a man she had stressed should never be allowed president.
Usually in the course of these posts, we discuss the candidate’s beliefs. It’s very hard with Haley. What does Nikki Haley believe?
Or, more properly, what does Haley believe that she won’t throw out the window in the service of her own ambition? Her website has a “record of results” rather than any kind of platform. She was “one of the most pro-life governors in America,” a sentence that doesn’t make any sense. Gone, of course, is any mention of being one of the most pro-trans governors in America, because that’s not going to win her any support now with far-right agitators whipping up fear about transgender people; in 2023, Haley said Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law too weak and that she would extend the law from applying to students under 8 to applying to students under 12. She talks about “getting tough on Russia” but it’s always in the past, always highlighting her accomplishments. In the future, “getting tough on Russia” can mean whatever is most advantageous for Nikki Haley.
As a result, moderates are wary of Haley’s constant appeals to the right wing, but the right wing sees Haley as duplicitous and untrustworthy. As she faces the daunting task of getting enough Republicans to pick her over her old boss, she needs the same coup de grace that boosted her gubernatorial campaign back in 2010. Who would it come from, though? She was still unknown outside South Carolina back then. Now, we all know who Nikki Haley is. At least, we all know who Nikki Haley is today. Who can say who she might be tomorrow?