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Nikki Haley Launches 2024 Presidential Campaign with Emphasis on Racial Identity and opposition to “the Socialist Left

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, has officially announced her candidacy for president in 2024 and has become the first major challenger to former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination.[0] Haley held her first campaign event in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday, launching her bid with a video and a speech that touched on her accomplishments as governor and ambassador, her opposition to the “socialist left”, and her identity as a woman of color and the child of immigrants.[1]

Haley rose to prominence during her two terms as governor, notably after she ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds in response to the racially motivated shooting of nine people by a white supremacist at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015.[2] She broke barriers when she was elected governor of South Carolina in 2010, becoming the first woman to lead the state and its first Indian-American governor.[2]

Over the years, Haley's attitude towards Trump has changed.[3] Before agreeing to join his administration in 2017 and pledging not to challenge him in 2024, she had been critical of him when he initially ran in 2016.[3] In the past few months, she has withdrawn her commitment to the pledge and is now preparing to deliver a speech in Charleston on Wednesday.[3]

Haley’s campaign launch video touched on cultural fights surrounding education and racism, and her opposition to the “socialist left.” She leaned into her racial identity as the daughter of Indian immigrants who grew up feeling “different” in a state with a deep history of racism and Black-white divisions.[4] She solemnly attacked liberals who say the U.S.’s “ideas are not just wrong but racist and evil” as images of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the “1619 Project,” and Black Lives Matter protests were shown.[4]

The kicker of Haley’s announcement is a ponderous line that follows a reference to the bullies ostensibly targeting the U.S. — from the “socialist left” to Russia and China.[4] I am not one to suffer bullies gladly; when you stand up to them, it is more effective if done in heels.[5] This feeble attempt at Palinism is all the more disappointing since it was Sarah Palin who helped Haley launch her political career in 2010.[4]

0. “Why Nikki Haley thinks she can beat Trump in Republican race” BBC, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64653925

1. “Haley enters the fray, knowing Trump's history mocking women” POLITICO, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/02/15/haley-against-trump-00082920

2. “Nikki Haley launches 2024 presidential campaign at South Carolina event — watch live stream” CBS News, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/live-updates/nikki-haley-2024-presidential-campaign-event-watch-live-stream-today-2023-02-15/

3. “Nikki Haley announces she is running for president” The Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/02/14/nikki-haley-president-campaign-2024/

4. “Nikki Haley's Announcement Video Is a Sloppy Mess” New York Magazine, 14 Feb. 2023, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/02/nikki-haley-needs-to-work-on-her-presidential-elevator-pitch.html

5. “WH: UFOs likely research or commercial, Haley kicks off presidential run: 5 Things podcast” USA TODAY, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/02/15/wh-ufos-likely-commercial-haley-begins-wh-bid-5-things-podcast/11262077002