NERET: Why Nikki Haley Is The Neoliberals’ Favorite Republican

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Eduardo Neret Contributor
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Nikki Haley is campaigning to the wrong crowd. 

Her campaign would probably say that’s part of her strategy. To conservative voters, that’s exactly the problem with Nikki Haley: Republican primary voters aren’t Haley’s real constituency. 

The individuals Haley is truly trying to appeal to, the people whose opinions she cares about the most, are the neoliberal elites who run establishment institutions like the media and Wall Street banks. 

Tucker Carlson, my former boss, made this point over a year ago. I was with him in Iowa when he gave a speech explaining why Haley is unfit to lead the Republican Party. 

In the speech, Carlson recalled Haley’s response to George Floyd’s death in 2020. Just days after the incident (and notably before any facts had emerged) Haley tweeted that “in order to heal,” Floyd’s death “needs to be personal and painful for everyone.”

“I thought, why should what happened between a cop and George Floyd outside a convenience store in Minneapolis be personal and painful to anybody,” Carlson wondered. “What are you even talking about? Oh you have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re trying to please the people whose opinions you actually care about at The New York Times.” 

Carlson was and is, of course, right. He added that Haley’s tweet was a perfect example of why she’s unfit to lead the country. 

“The second things get intense and the second the other side really unleashes and starts yelling so loudly that you can’t think clearly — I want a leader who can still think clearly,” he said.

Nikki Haley may be a nice person and a good politician, but she’s not that type of leader. More often than not, she’s been the type of Republican who behaves exactly like the institutional left believes Republicans should. She is the media’s favorite Republican running this cycle, and it’s not hard to see why. 

For one, Haley believes in identity politics. She’s made her gender a central part of her pitch, from her bizarre comment about the “ammunition” in her heels at a primary debate to the campaign gear on her website. Haley sells bumper stickers and t-shirts that say “Sometimes It Takes A Woman,” which sounds more like Hillary Clinton than your average female GOP voter. 

When asked recently why minorities should vote for her, Haley didn’t cite any policy proposals. Instead, she answered, “I am a minority first, so I think I’m as diverse as it gets.”

In other words, Haley wants people to vote for her because she’s an Indian woman. That message has earned Haley praise from the media.

On Wednesday, NPR ran a piece titled “Strong but ‘feminine’: how Nikki Haley navigates gender as only woman in the GOP race.” The author wrote that Haley has been “highlighting the traits that make her unique … including her gender and her family’s immigration story.” As if those things weren’t obvious to voters.

It’s clear the media is attempting to rehabilitate Haley’s image on the left to make her more palatable to their audiences. 

After the first Republican debate, MSNBC host Joy Reid said Haley “seemed like a reasonable Republican politician who kind of made sense.” Comedian Bill Maher recently called Haley an “as-good-as-it-gets Republican.” A November piece in Politico said Haley was “consolidating the NeverTrump vote” among donors and organizers. 

Then there’s the support for Haley from the corporate establishment on Wall Street. Last month, fresh off declaring she would end limits on legal immigration and instead reform the system based on what corporations “need,” Haley met with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and other business executives to court their support. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, is arguably the most significant proponent of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing in the United States. 

When asked after the meeting if she was concerned about those ESG policies, Haley ignored the question. Instead, she pointed to her record as governor and said, “I partnered with my businesses. I use them as a resource. One, they hire people that we need to hire. They help us with our economy.” 

Around the same time as Haley’s meeting with Fink, Axios reported that she had been having private conversations with J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Days later, he publicly called on business leaders, even liberal Democrats, to support her. 

Perhaps even more important her ties to the neoliberal establishment is that Haley is a staunch proponent of involving the United States in foreign military conflicts like the war in Ukraine. By extension, Haley also supports enriching the defense contractors that benefit from those conflicts. In fact, no other Republican currently running can be counted on to protect that system — the military industrial complex — the way Haley would. 

That’s because Haley herself was part of it. She also directly benefited from it. 

As South Carolina governor, Haley signed over a billion dollars worth of economic development legislation for Boeing. The company rewarded Haley with a seat on its board just months after she left the Trump administration in 2018. That relationship, along with Haley’s work with several other companies with ties to the defense industry, gave a huge boost to her personal finances. As journalist Lee Fang reported earlier this year, Haley went from being over a million dollars in debt and having just $15,000 in a bank account to amassing a fortune worth over $12 million.

Amassing personal wealth is not in itself disqualifying. But Haley ingratiating herself with the defense industry is part of a pattern. At a time when conservatives increasingly want leaders to buck the establishment, Haley has been too willing to go along with it. 

Whether because of her own personal conflicts of interest, her general desire to be embraced in the mainstream and by donors, or simply her lack of courage, Nikki Haley has repeatedly shown conservatives that she can’t be trusted to take principled stances on controversial issues. 

Republicans deserve a nominee who represents them first, before the interests of Wall Street and permanent Washington. They want a nominee who will not cower when faced with criticism from the media establishment.

Not only does Nikki Haley fail to fit that bill, but she’s the exact opposite. There’s a reason why establishment forces are coalescing to prop up her campaign. Voters: beware of the moderate dressed in conservative clothing.

Eduardo Neret is a conservative writer and political commentator, and a former producer for Tucker Carlson.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.