Can Nikki Haley see the whole room? Not. She played the race card on Sunday, just two days before the New Hampshire primaries, by making implausible and outlandish claims about her childhood in South Carolina. Whose vote is she trying to win? Are they the patriotic voters who have had enough of being accused of racism and are tired of it, or is this the Washington establishment that weaponized these charges? Answer: The answer to this question is not in doubt.
Haley was a big advocate of identity politics when she said on NBC’s Sunday: “We were a small town in the South where we were the only Indians.” I was teased for being brown every day. Anyone who wants to doubt it can look back at what I have said about how difficult it was for me to grow up as a girl of color in the Deep South.”
Wait a moment. Kids are known to tease each other and use whatever they can to do so. But did Nikki Haley experience racism in the Deep South? She was born in South Carolina, in 1972. She is talking about being subjected to racist taunts in the 1970s, and even 1980s.
Haley did not grow up in the South that Theodore Bilbo or Bull Connor inhabited. She grew up in the New South, a time of Ted Turner and Jimmy Carter. Even old segregationists like George Wallace and Strom were making amends for their racist views and courting black and white support.
Haley went even further, saying: “If I want to know what it was growing up like, I was disqualified for a beauty contest because I wasn’t black or white because they didn’t know where to place me.” Look, I’m familiar with the suffering and pain of racism.
Oh, come now. Does she expect us to believe there was ever a South Carolina beauty pageant that in the 1980s disqualified people based on race, or that it even considered race? If it had happened, and if she was right, Nikki Haley’s disqualification and the story would have made international headlines.
Since 1964, discrimination based on race has been a federal offense. The New South wanted to leave its past behind and present a new face to the world. Haley’s South looks more like Hollywood, where racist sheriffs with fat faces and drawling voices still roam the country, searching for black people to devour. It is not anything you have seen in South Carolina, or anywhere in the South, for many years.
Haley’s claims were met with the mockery and scorn they so richly merited. The Babylon Bee published an article entitled “Nikki Haley Remembers Her Daring Childhood Effort To Escape Slavery Through The Underground Railroad.” Dinesh D’Souza stated: “I am from Bombay in India and I have lived for the last four decades within the most conservative areas of American society. I have never been teased because I am brown. I’m even browner than Nikki Haley. What’s happening here? Dinesh: “Flagrant pandering on the left. That’s what is going on.”
Haley’s plan is difficult to understand. I have met many Southerners who are sick and tired of the South’s persistent stereotype, despite the social transformation that has occurred over the past six decades. Non-Southerners are always shocked when they see the segregated water fountains and lunch counters in Atlanta, Nashville, or Charleston.
Haley’s South Carolina Republican primary on February 24. Haley is a native South Carolinian. Could she possibly think that calling South Carolinians racists so late in the game would have any effect on her vote?
Haley doesn’t seem to care about South Carolina voters. She wants the support of the Republican leadership, who are happy to play identity games as vigorously as the Democrat leaders. This establishment hated Trump but loved Haley. All she’s done is to shoot herself in her foot, which is very clearly brown.