Nikki Haley’s future is in good hands, hers - Hindustan Times
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Nikki Haley’s future is in good hands, hers

Mar 30, 2024 09:50 PM IST

For now, Haley’s path forward remains uncertain. What is certain is she will carve out her own path.

Indian American Nikki Haley dropped out of the 2024 United States (US) presidential race on March 6 after it became clear that she had no realistic path to beat former President Donald Trump and win the Republican nomination. Unlike two other challengers, Indian American entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who both ended their campaigns after the Iowa Caucus in January and endorsed Trump, the former governor of South Carolina and US ambassador to the United Nations soldiered on till the so-called Super Tuesday, on March 5, when 15 states held their primaries.

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks on stage at her watch party during the South Carolina Republican presidential primary election in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Brian Snyder(REUTERS)
Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks on stage at her watch party during the South Carolina Republican presidential primary election in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S. February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Brian Snyder(REUTERS)

Significantly, to this day, Haley has not endorsed Trump. With her refusal to do so, what is Nikki Haley’s future?

Haley has most probably taken herself out of consideration to be Trump’s vice-presidential running mate by staying in the race for too long and criticising her former boss on policy matters. In addition, Haley has said repeatedly that she is not interested in being vice-president.

One theory is that she may be positioning herself to be a leader of the Republican Party in a post-Trump Make America Great Again (MAGA)-dominated GOP. Several factors support that theory including the following.

Many moderate and old-establishment Republicans, such as senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine and governors Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Phil Scott of Vermont threw their weight behind her in her race against Trump.

Haley received substantial financial support from AFP Action, the political arm of the influential conservative group Americans for Prosperity, founded by billionaire businessman Charles Koch, which has been a force in Republican politics for a long time. Haley made history by becoming the first woman to win a Republican primary when she defeated Trump in the District of Columbia on March 3.

The resilience Haley displayed throughout the primaries sets her apart from all other contenders to be the future leader of a post-Trump GOP. Her endurance solidified her position as a prominent figure in GOP politics, granting her a voice if she navigates the post-election landscape skillfully.

Finally, even after suspending her campaign, Haley continued to get significant support, garnering anywhere from 10% to 20% of votes in several states that had primaries after Super Tuesday. This sustained level of backing serves as a notable indicator that there remains space for moderate voices within the Republican Party, even in the Trump era.

The essential question is: Will the Trump MAGA movement lose control of and influence over the GOP any time soon?

This is a difficult question to answer at this point in time. This is so because, despite the controversies surrounding Trump, including his orchestration of an insurrection and the numerous federal charges against him, he continues to dominate the Republican Party: The GOP today is effectively the Party of Trump (POT).

This was demonstrated by the fact that during the primaries, except for former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, nearly all of the candidates showed deference to Trump, did not criticise him, and endorsed him after they withdrew from the race.

While Haley did draw a sharp contrast with Trump on several policy matters, particularly as the race progressed, her early focus was mainly directed toward other candidates. In contrast, Trump targeted Haley’s Indian roots, referring to her as “Nimbra” and falsely claiming she was ineligible for the presidency due to her parents’ citizenship status at birth.

It is worth noting here that, to her credit, Haley did not shy away from her Indian and Sikh identity. Since her first gubernatorial campaign in South Carolina, she has consistently embraced her heritage. “I start every speech by saying I’m the proud daughter of Indian parents,” Haley said 14 years ago. “I’m very proud of my parents in the way that they raised me, I’m proud of the (Indian American) community and the fact that they are the highest educated (and) have the highest per capita income, the least dependent on government assistance.”

After the November election, two potential scenarios emerge for Haley’s political trajectory. If Trump recaptures the White House, she might face a fate similar to another former governor and one-time rising star in the Republican Party, Jeb Bush — a prolonged hibernation and political irrelevance.

Conversely, if Trump loses, two possibilities might unfold. The first would be the GOP moves beyond Trumpism and embracing Haley as a leader for the GOP’s rebirth. The second would be the continued dominance of the MAGA ideology with no opportunity for Haley to be in a leadership position in the foreseeable future.

For now, Haley’s path forward remains uncertain. What is certain is she will carve out her own path. Haley has been a trailblazer throughout her whole life. At 52, she has the capacity and the competence to go in any direction she chooses. Haley’s first job right out of college was in the waste management and recycling industry. If she decides to stay in the political arena, she can draw upon that experience, to recycle and rejuvenate the Republican Party. If, on the other hand, she decides to move from the public sector to the private sector, she has the credentials to excel there as well.

Haley’s future is in good hands. It is in her hands.

Frank F Islam is an entrepreneur, civic leader, and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed are personal

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