Nikki Haley’s campaign told some hard truths about Donald Trump despite itself

Nikki Haley, transgender, transphobia, gender identity, pronouns
Nikki Haley Photo: Shutterstock

Let’s face it. Nikki Haley‘s presidential campaign never had a chance. After yesterday’s Super Tuesday results, even Haley couldn’t ignore the inevitable any longer and dropped out of the race, conceding that Donald Trump is the party leader.

Haley’s goals in running were never really clear. Some of it was probably ego, as it is with any politician. Some of it was hoping to be the last person standing in the event that something happened to Trump. (A lot of establishment Republicans are hoping for the grim reaper to deliver them from Trump, something they’ve dubbed “actuarial arbitrage.”)

Some of it was principle. Haley represents the last gasp of the internationalist Republican. She hammered Trump for cozying up to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and failing to support Ukraine in its war against Russia. But the GOP is increasingly isolationist thanks to Trump, so the kind of aggressive international intervention that Haley supports is disappearing among Republicans.

What Haley’s candidacy did best was point out Trump’s shortcomings as a candidate. Unfortunately, Haley often did that despite herself.

Like every other Republican, Haley simply could not bring herself to tell the full truth about Trump. She couched her criticism of him in general terms. “Chaos follows him,” she kept saying, as if the trail of wreckage Trump caused was a stray dog that simply trotted along behind him. When he threatened “revenge” on his opponents, Haley said, “I don’t know what that means.” She also said she didn’t know if Trump would follow the Constitution as president although “you always want to think someone will.”

Ironically, given her own performance, the place Haley did highlight Trump’s flaws was at the ballot box. For an incumbent, Trump underperformed in several key contests. Sure, he beat Haley in her own state of South Carolina as well as in New Hampshire, but considering all his advantages, he should have done better.

The exit polls from Super Tuesday point to a number of problems ahead for Trump. Trump’s support is weaker among college graduates and women. Polls have found that a significant portion of Haley’s supporters say they won’t vote for Trump in November.

Haley’s departure from the race isn’t a loss. She’s a standard issue right-wing Republican who tried to cloak her extreme views in soft-sounding language. She wouldn’t violate the rule of law the way that Trump is likely to, but she would be a disaster for LGBTQ+ rights.

Haley didn’t endorse Trump. She said on the campaign trail last month that, “I feel no need to kiss the ring.” Of course a lot of Republicans have said that before only to turn around and embrace him. The same day that Haley withdrew, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Trump. Trump has repeatedly belittled McConnell as an “old crow” and launched a racist attack on McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who served in Trump’s cabinet. It proves that for Republicans, party supersedes everything, including the future of the nation itself.

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