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A Part or Apart? The Significance of Nikki Haley’s Presidential Announcement

By Katie Bray, Leah Rozbicki, Dr. Shyam K. Sriram

Katie Bray is a senior and political science major.

Leah Rozbicki is a senior and political science major.

Shyam K. Sriram is an assistant professor in the department of political science.

The news that former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has announced her 2024 campaign for the presidency is something that should be widely appreciated. The daughter of immigrants from India, Haley represents a presidential candidate with a unique positionality and intersectionality. The challenge as we see it, however, is how to move the needle from division to unity. Haley is only 51 years old and represents a generational shift in political leaders from Baby Boomers to Generation X and a traditional family-oriented understanding of Republican politics that harkens to the Reagan era.

Haley has an impressive resume, as she has also served in the South Carolina legislature, as the first female and first Asian-American governor of South Carolina, as the first Indian-American presidential cabinet member and as the United States ambassador to the United Nations. This career shows that she is more than qualified to serve as the president, especially considering she has had the chance to serve in positions that would have her working on both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Haley also offers a unique intersectionality: she is a South Asian American woman who was raised Sikh but now identifies as Christian. Additionally, she has a lighter complexion and a phenotype that gives her an ethnically ambiguous identity. There is a vast amount of political science research on how voters’ evaluations of candidates is affected by everything from partisanship and gender norms to complexion and perception of patriotism. Haley’s positionality could be a boon for the Republican Party, which could potentially gain a portion of the minority vote. Moreover, this allows her to not be seen as a threatening political figure by many. This also gives Haley the unique ability to dodge the questions surrounding her patriotism because of her skin complexion and her allegiance to the Republican Party. Despite these issues, Haley running for president is a huge win for minority women: it will be fascinating to observe how her campaign and team balance a need for descriptive versus substantive representation. Identities matter, but Republican candidates often focus more on policies.

Haley’s opinion of Donald Trump has also wavered, bringing some of her hypocrisies to light in order to maintain her popularity and keep getting her elected. Since Trump’s run for office in 2016 and leading up to today, Haley has repeatedly changed her stance on the former president. During his 2016 campaign, Haley was highly critical, stating during her State of the Union response, “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.” Not long after this, she ended up taking a position in his cabinet. Ultimately, Haley ended up resigning in 2018, but this resignation ended on good terms, as she speaks highly of Trump in her book. The Jan. 6, 2021 attack made her change her stance once again. At this point she decided that blaming Trump and saying that he had let down the Republicans was the right way to go; however, in October 2022, she stated that the Republicans needed Donald Trump again. The fact that she is even running for president is once again a show of hypocrisy. Previously, in 2021, Haley had said that if Trump ran for office again, she would not run in order to show her support. Now in 2023, we see that that certainly was not the truth.

With the continual fracture of the Republican Party, Nikki Haley might be just what the party needs: an experienced politician capable of appealing to the traditional base, minority voters and Trump supporters. This could also be precisely what the left needs. With Haley running for president, she gives Florida Governor Ron DeSantis a significant run for his money, splitting the electorate and making it harder for him and Trump to secure the votes needed. Despite having previously aligned herself with President Trump, Haley has proven to take some more moderate stances in an attempt to seem more appealing to voters. In fact, Haley even fought for the removal of the confederate flag in the South Carolina statehouse. Actions such as these show her reluctance to align herself with an extremist faction of the Republican Party and more so of her willingness to secure votes and popularity. Although Nikki Haley might not be the ideal president for many, her candidacy serves as a huge milestone for minority women: one that should be celebrated.

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