For at least two weeks, Republicans across the country benefited from low expectations as many were celebrated for simply being shrewd enough to see that the Confederate Flag was finally going the way of the flip phone in the hearts and minds of people, or better yet, their very kind of person, major corporations. However, the very feet they used to jump on the bandwagon before being left behind has returned to its usual resting space: their mouths.
Among them include South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who is now once again being touted as a rising star in light of her call for the removal of the Confederate flag following the Charleston Massacre. Katie Packer Gage, a Republican consultant, told CNN, "She saw an opportunity and saw a spotlight on South Carolina and saw that there were going to be real significant problems for the state and the Republicans if they couldn't bring it down. She stepped up and it didn't take her weeks or months, even though she could have punted. She is a smart politician."
Haley may be smart in that she knew better than to get on the wrong side of history in the wake of great tragedy (as opposed to 2014, when she had no issue with the flag being flown on state grounds), though when it comes to truly tackling racism with respect to policy, the first Indian governor of the state is not about that life.
Look no further than her recent appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press. On the flag’s removal, Haley noted: “We can truly say it's a new day in South Carolina. It was hard for me to look at that flag coming down and not think about the Emanuel Nine. It reminded me of how much South Carolina's moved forward. The way that we didn't have any protests, we had vigils, we didn't have, you know, people getting out of hand, we had hugs. It just was a real proud moment for South Carolina."
It is a new day in that a symbol of oppression has been removed, but not so much when it comes to prejudicial policy. When was asked whether the removal of a symbol of racism and white southern defiance against the Civil Rights Movement might translate into other policy shifts on issues on voter ID laws, Haley sounded a lot like the Haley of 2014, who pretended racism should be spoken more in past tense.
Haley argued, "I've never seen the voter ID as a racial issue. I see is it's an issue where people prove who they are, and I think that's something very important for our democracy." Let’s say the motivation is partisanship as opposed to racism. If the end result is still a disproportionate amount of Black people being affected by such policy, does that not still scream of racial bias?
Haley likes to invoke “colorblindness” when convenient. See her 2014 argument in defense of the Confederate flag flying high at the South Carolina statehouse where she says of racism, “But we really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor. When we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator, that sent a huge message.”
It may have taken a White supremacist murderer to convince Haley and others of her party otherwise, but the rest of us didn’t need Dylann Roof to prove how prevalent racism remains in America. All we have to do is step outside, or in some cases, step inside a polling station to try and vote.
We can also turn on the TV and see Donald Trump basking in his bigotry to the delight of current Republicans being polled about the 2016 GOP presidential field. In this same Meet The Press interview, Haley claimed to understand Trump’s “frustration” but advised that he watched his “tone.” She stressed that we employ respectful language as the alternative “hurts people.”
Therein lies my problem with Haley and her colleagues within the party: They don’t want a bigot to be so blunt about being so yet none seem to have problems aligning themselves with policy that benefits them politically – even if it comes at the expense of the rights of racial minorities.
Haley is currently being touted as the face of the “New South,” but thus far as only symbolically tackled racism while defiantly standing by it substantively. This doesn’t feel new at all. It comes across the same kind of bull, only with a more pleasant disposition.