There but for the grace of God go I… oh wait. I have gone there before—in another professional life. Call it the “junior oopsie”: an inexperienced, long-rung factotum pushing “send” or “publish” early on a firm’s big reveal.
At least, that’s what I imagined happened with Nikki Haley’s presidential announcement. All reports indicated she was to launch her White House bid after Valentine’s Day. But then, in the early hours of Chocolate’n’Rose Christmas, a slick, hi-res two-minute Twitter video sprang up, officializing her run.
It was the perfect pairing: a costly, careful, consultant-crafted candidate casting posted a day early by who is, at this early campaign juncture, likely an unpaid volunteer.
Alas, that latter part is mere wishcasting. But an amateur slip-up would bring a bit of life to what will undoubtedly be a limp, even quaint, campaign. Haley’s official declaration, done from a dais in bucolic Charleston, SC, was about as boilerplate as burgers on Independence Day. And I quote: Something something something America! Something something something freedom! Something something something best days are ahead of us!
Just throw in some bunting and a smile-lift appeal to existential annihilation, and you’ve got yourself a real Yankee Doodle of a campaign! Haley’s pitch is no-frills functional:
The world’s in trouble, America is needed more than ever. And I, the former envoy to the United Nations under a nationalist president and former governess of the 25th largest economy in the country, can lead her. In heels. And I’m also the first South-Asian female governor in American history. Did I mention I’m a woman? You know, the kind with TWO X chromosomes! Not like some of these she-male college athletes these days, am I right folks? *Interrupted by campaign hand.* Huh? What’s that? Oh. I’ve been instructed by my aides to apologize for the last remark and reemphasize we’re all Americans in this together. Now let’s go topple Saddam Husse… errrr… I mean Putin!
The only relevant question: Who asked for the identity-checkbox governor of the first secessionist state to run for president? I didn’t. You, sensible reader, probably didn’t. According to most polling, somewhere around 3 percent of Republicans are Nikki stans. Are these Haley Horatti supposed to float her through Iowa and New Hampshire so she can potentially win her home state? How’d that work out for Jebbers last time?
Who, besides her own Chanel-slicked lips, is whispering in Haley’s auditory canal imploring her to run? Perhaps a bevy of Boeing executives, where she once held a board seat? The New York Times, playing campaign coroner, declared her try DOA—which might be the biggest endorsement she gets. National Review’s editor Rich Lowry branded Haley ‘24 a “highly conventional campaign”—which is an actual death sentence. Even the Wall Street Journal, the war-agitating paper par excellence, finds “no clear rationale for her candidacy.” Which says a lot because Nikki Haley is the quintessential throwback candidate to pre-Trump times.
The Never-Trump pub The Bulwark crowned Haley the “Perfect Republican Presidential Candidate (for 2015).” Too bad they were off the mark a few years. If memory serves, a certain tangerine-toned traitor to his class mopped the floor with a bus full of Haley clones that year. Really, the Palmetto State pol was of the moment a decade ago, when Republicans chose a buttoned-up financier as their champion. Now her moment has passed, along with her American imperium ideology.
To quote the great early 20th century economic journalist Garet Garrett, “There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.”
Haley talks a good game about Uncle Sam reasserting himself into global affairs, but the appetite for a neoliberal leviathan delivering McDonald’s and Marvel movies to the world rumbles only in the 202 area code. Garrett’s “Night of Depression” was the “Great” one of Dust Bowl infamy. But we’re in the throes of a newer, less material-deprived, depression. So-called “deaths of despair” are rising. Opioid overdoses are at a record high. Americans are feeling lonelier than ever. Young men increasingly report being chum-less. The former pillars of civil society have crumbled, from churches, to bridge clubs, to actual, on-site occupations. A US senator, freshly elected from Pennsylvania, checked into a hospital for “clinical depression” after less than two months on the job.
A small town in Ohio may be poisoned beyond repair thanks to a derailed train that diffused vinyl chloride. The EPA is AWOL, with creek beds washed in pestilence. Yet Nikki Haley is more concerned with Iranian women’s right to flowing tresses and sending another $10 billion aid bundle to Ukraine.
Despite her swamp-drain adjacent stint, Haley’s one with the “the Blob.” She’ll tout her Trump admin. credentials with one side of her mouth while declaring “I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump” out the other side. A leopard can’t change its spots, and a leopard-print Louboutin-heeled neocon can’t stop from digging her stiletto into recalcitrant countries. Haley embodies the “compassionate conservatism” of George Bush, that notoriously doled out compassion to everyone else but Americans.
Someone should inform Ambassador Haley that neoconservative chic is so noughties. Don Lemon had it right in the wrong way: Nikki Haley is past her prime because her international liberal beliefs are out of favor everywhere but the Beltway.
Now we await the inevitable Trump epithet. May I suggest “Nagging Nikki,” “Hollow-Head Haley,” or just plain “Suck Up”? Or better yet, “Haley Who?”