Nikki Haley tries to prove that the GOP isn’t the party of racist, sexist white men. Steve King tries to prove her wrong.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union last night, and used her platform as an opportunity to try and distance herself and her party from the brand of destructive politics that has marked its primary campaign.

While Haley didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, it was pretty clear who she was talking to, saying that, “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”

Nikki Haley, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Nikki Haley, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

This morning, she confirmed on the Today Show that, yes, she thinks Trump is a problem, saying “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk…I think that a lot of what we’re trying to do is say those angriest voices are not helpful.”

As ABC’s Rick Klein pointed out yesterday, tapping Haley to deliver the Republican response to Obama’s speech — presumably with the knowledge that she would turn some of her fire inward and criticize members of her own party for their increasingly ugly politics — is part of a larger effort to prove to the American people that the Republican Party isn’t the party of racist, sexist white men that Democrats claim it to be. Paul Ryan, among others, is tired of the small number of female elected officials in their ranks, and the even smaller number of people of color, being dismissed as tokens, as Debbie Wasserman Schultz did earlier in the week when she said that the only reason Nikki Haley was given the nod is “because the Republican Party has a diversity problem.” Until that charge is addressed and dismissed, the party has little hope of widening its tent.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the racist, sexist white men in his party have no interest in widening the tent.

Reacting to Haley’s address and subsequent dig at Donald Trump, Republican congressschmuck Steve King took whatever sliver of good will Haley gained for the GOP with women and people of color, threw it in the garbage and lit it on fire:

King’s overtly sexist dismissal of Haley did more than undercut her credibility as a spokesperson for the party and prospective vice presidential nominee. It took the legs out from under her (and, by extension, Ryan’s) claim that “principled” conservatism can be culturally and demographically inclusive. According to King, the degree to which you are conservative is very much defined by your willingness to reject racial and gender diversity. This is disgusting, but given the state of the Republican primary, he hasn’t exactly been proven wrong.

King’s charge is especially disgusting because Haley checks almost every box King would require under his definition of “principled,” by which King means “bigoted,” conservatism. She supports the same policies designed to target people on the basis of race King does — cruel and uncompromising crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, voter ID requirements, and so on. She just does it with a smile on her face. After all, she took down the Confederate Flag, so she can’t be a true hardliner, right?

Wrong. Here’s what she had to say about King’s criticism earlier today:

That is nouveau-conservative and fresh face of the GOP Nikki Haley all-but-endorsing Ted Cruz in the Republican primary, claiming that the candidate who coined the term “atheist Taliban” has never said anything problematic about religion. All while arguing that establishment favorites Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush are suspect for supporting “amnesty” and Common Core, respectively.

That’s quite the coincidence, because know who else has already endorsed Cruz? Steve King. The two politicians share the same politics and the same slate of policy preferences; King just thinks Haley’s a compromising moderate because she’s nicer, darker and more attractive than he is.

If that’s how the right wing wants to define what it means to be a “principled conservative,” go ahead. Good luck in November.

Update: Literally the first tweet I saw after hitting publish on this post:


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

Share This Post

  • I wouldn’t say “Plenty”. fox news personalities

  • larry longmore

    Even that is wrong as there have been a couple of “freedom of religion” bills passed allowing Christians to discriminate if it hurt their feelings to treat everyone equally.
    EDIT: unless you mean 2016 in which case yeah, but it is early yet

  • larry longmore

    By SC law Haley’s marriage would have been illegal just a few years back. The law forbidding interracial marriage was not removed until the courts force it to be.

  • pogden297

    Ridiculous. There are plenty of brunettes, and women of color, on Fox.

  • MoonDragon

    Considering the criticisms she’s received from the right wing of her party (and Ann Coulter), Nikki is the first person to be accused of the new crime “Republicaning while brown”.

  • marknc

    “We’ve never, in the history of this country, passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.”

    She only misspoke by one word. What she meant to say was: We’ve never, in the history of this YEAR, passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion.

  • The_Fixer

    Yes, by now it is painfully obvious that the “leaders” of the GOP are horny old men who are easily distracted by the sight of any female that they consider attractive. That distraction does not extend to allowing them any position of consequence in the party.

    King is an absolutely despicable man – unfortunately, he is par for the course. Even a cursory glance at the Republican Presidential candidates, as well as the “movers and shakers” in the party reveals that he is not an exception – he represents the rule.

  • angryspittle

    Well she can always bleach her hair, swear short skirts and tempt viewers with beaver shots and she’ll get a slot on Fox after her term……

  • Women like Nikki Haley are the female versions of Uncle Toms for the Republican party. (Auntie Tomasinas?) Trotted out when convenient, but never allowed to forget their second-class place. Just witness the women of Faux News: Blonde, young or at least young-ish, extensive plastic surgery, and never allowed to wear pants on camera.

    There is precisely one thing Haley is lacking to be considered a ‘principled conservative’ in the GOP: A penis.

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