Following on my piece about Rick Scott from yesterday, I notice that Nikki Haley has put her finger in the wind and determined that Donald Trump is still the gatekeeper of the Republican Party. It’s an amazing turnabout for the former ambassador and South Carolina governor who said in February, “We need to acknowledge [Trump] let us down. He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”
It’s no secret that Haley has presidential ambitions. Just ask Tim Alberta who profiled her recently for Politico:
Since last fall, I’ve spent nearly six hours talking with Haley on-the-record. I’ve also spoken with nearly 70 people who know her: friends, associates, donors, staffers, former colleagues. From those conversations, two things are clear. First, Nikki Haley is going to run for president in 2024.
But on Monday, at a press conference during a visit to South Carolina State University, she said she won’t run. Or, at least, she won’t challenge Donald Trump if he seeks a non-consecutive second term in the Oval Office.
Former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, often mentioned as a possible 2024 GOP presidential contender, said Monday that she would not seek her party’s nomination if former President Donald Trump opts to run a second time.
“Yes,” Haley said, when asked if she would support a second bid by Trump, in whose Cabinet she served for the first half of his administration.
“I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it,” Haley said, asked by The Associated Press if a possible Trump bid could preclude her own effort, were he to announce first. “That’s something that we’ll have a conversation about at some point, if that decision is something that has to be made.”
I noted on Monday the jarring spectacle of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) giving an award to Trump just two months after seven Republican senators voted to convict him of inciting an insurrection against the U.S. Government. Haley provided a similar spectacle by promising to subsume her obvious lust for the White House if Trump decides to run again.
What these episodes demonstrate is that the people are leading the Republican Party rather than the other way around. It’s obviously a good thing when politicians listen to their constituents and are responsive to their needs. There’s only so far a representative can go if they’re selling something voters don’t want to buy. But we’re talking about a man who set a deluded and violent mob on Congress in an illegal and unconstitutional bid to stay in power after losing a presidential election. Two months ago, there was a consensus that this was an unforgivable act even if there was uncertainty about what to do about it.
Today, it’s clear that no one on the right sees any political future in standing up to Trump or even sounding like they might stand in the way of him resuming his place in the White House. They obviously felt the heat from the Republican base and changed their evaluation of the political landscape.
It’s simple to call this cowardice. But it’s worse than that. The Republican base didn’t start out this way. They were led here by Trump who recognized all the latent worst tendencies that had been cultivated over the years by the GOP and exploited them. The way to fix this is to lead the people back.
I know what they want. What the people want is the problem. You can’t solve that through capitulation. For Haley, it makes you wonder what she thinks is important. Why does she believe so fervently that she should be president? Is it so she can do whatever Trump would have done?
There must be things she’s fighting for that are different. Are none of them urgent enough that they merit at least putting up a fight, no matter how futile the fight might seem?
So, whether it’s Rick Scott in the Senate or Nikki Haley, the lack of leadership is almost dumbfounding.
January 6 was a clarifying moment. It showed just how bad things had gotten on the right in this country. All the nonsense had really serious consequences. It’s in the aftermath that we’re discovering that the no one has the will to even try to fix this problem because the Republican base doesn’t want it fixed.
The solution is still clear. People were led to a bad place. They need to be led back.