Photo by Christopher Reistroffer/Reuters
Nikki Haley, the former Governor of South Carolina and a prominent figure in American politics, has been involved in several controversial incidents and statements related to the Civil War and its legacy. Her recent remarks in New Hampshire, where she declined to acknowledge slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War, have brought renewed attention to her changing positions regarding Civil War and Trump related issues.
In a recent town hall meeting, Haley’s tendency to shift her positions has brought comparisons to past presidential candidate: John Kerry. A boy, who identified himself as Adam, stated: “So Chris Christie thinks that you’re a flip-flopper on the Donald Trump issue,…And honestly, I agree with him. You’re basically the new John Kerry”
Haley Responded: “I told you, I think he was the right president at the right time. I told you that I agreed with a lot of his policies. But do I think he’s the right president to go forward? No. We can’t handle the chaos anymore,” she said.
Evolving Stance on Trump
“Every time someone criticizes him, he goes and makes a political attack back,” Haley said in 2015. “That’s not who we are as Republicans. That’s not what we do.”
She went further after the 2016 South Carolina primary stating: “[Trump] everything a governor doesn’t want in a President.” and stated that she would not endorse Trump. However, despite saying she was not a fan, she did vote for him and accept a role in his cabinet.
In her book released in 2019, titled “With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace,” Haley fully embraced the Trump presidency. She heaped praise on the President, interpreting his complimentary remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strategic move to maintain open lines of communication. During her book tour in an interview with NBC, Haley expressed favorable views about Trump, stating, “In all my interactions with him, I found him to be honest, attentive, and a pleasure to work with.”
On January 6th
“We need to acknowledge he let us down,” she continued. “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.”
In October of 2021, Haley again softens her stance on Trump: “He has the ability to get strong people elected, and he has the ability to move the ball, and I hope that he continues to do that,” Haley told the Wall Street Journal. “We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.”
Nikki Haley’s political journey, as highlighted by her shifting positions on contentious issues like the Confederate flag and states’ rights, underscores a pattern of adjusting her stance in response to public sentiment. This adaptability, while potentially beneficial in navigating the immediate fallout of controversial events, raises questions about her steadfastness and authenticity as a leader. As she steps into the national spotlight with her presidential bid, this tendency to re-calibrate her views in the face of public reaction could become a double-edged sword. On one hand, it demonstrates a responsiveness to public opinion, a trait valued in democratic leadership. On the other, it may lead to skepticism among voters who seek a candidate with consistent and clear principles.
Let’s take a look at Haley’s evolving positions on the Civil War
2010 Interview Discussion the Civil War
In a revealing glimpse into the political and historical perspectives of Nikki Haley, a prominent figure in American politics, a 2010 interview with the now gone “The Palmetto Patriots,” group, Haley shed light on her stance regarding some of the most divisive issues in the nation’s history. In the interview, Haley made several controversial points:
- Civil War Perspective: Haley described the Civil War as a conflict between tradition and change, without explicitly mentioning slavery.
- Confederate Flag Controversy: In the interview she states; “You know, for those groups that come in and say they have issues with the Confederate flag, I will work to talk to them about it,” Haley said. “I will work and talk to them about the heritage and how this is not something that is racist. This is something that is a tradition that people feel proud of and let them know that we want their business in this state. And that the flag where it is, was a compromise of all people that everybody should accept as part of South Carolina.” However, following the 2015 Charleston church shooting, Haley, then governor, called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds. She softened her stance again later and faced further backlash for comments suggesting the flag symbolized “service, sacrifice, and heritage” for some.
- Secession Comments: Haley stated that she believed states have the right to secede under the Constitution, a point that is legally incorrect as per a Supreme Court ruling.
- Comparison with Black History Month: Haley supported Confederate History Month, comparing it to Black History Month, emphasizing it should be observed in a positive and non-harmful manner. “Yes, it’s part of a traditional – you know, it’s part of tradition,” she said. “And so, when you look at that, if you have the same as you have Black History Month and you have Confederate History Month and all of those. As long as it’s done where it is in a positive way and not in a negative way, and it doesn’t go to harm anyone, and it goes back to where it focuses on the traditions of the people that are wanting to celebrate it, then I think it’s fine.”
- Haley’s View on Civil War: She viewed the Civil War as a clash over “individual rights and liberty of people,” framing it as tradition versus change. Haley also added: “I think you have one side of the Civil War that was fighting for tradition, and I think you have another side of the Civil War that was fighting for change”
Haley Removes the Confederate Flag
As Governor of South Carolina, Haley’s stance on Confederate symbols and the legacy of the Civil War has been complex and sometimes contradictory. In 2015, she signed legislation to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds, a decision made in the wake of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting. This act was seen as a significant step in distancing the state from Confederate symbols that many associate with racism and slavery. Prior to this, in the 2010 interview mentioned above, Haley had defended the right of states to secede and referred to the Confederate flag as part of the heritage of some Southerners.
New Hampshire Town Hall Comments Spark Controversy
Haley’s more recent comments in New Hampshire, where she attributed the cause of the Civil War to disputes over “how government was going to run” and “the freedoms and what people couldn’t do,” have sparked criticism and debate. Democratic President Joe Biden and others have pointedly noted that the Civil War was fundamentally about slavery.
On Thursday after much backlash, Haley issued this comment: “Of course, the Civil War was about slavery. We know that. That’s unquestioned. Always the case. We know the Civil War was about slavery,” Haley said at a town hall in North Conway. “But it was also more than that. It was about the freedoms of every individual. It was about the role of government. For 80 years, America had the decision and the moral question of whether slavery was a good thing. And whether government economically, culturally, any other reasons, had a role to play in that. By the grace of God, we did the right thing and slavery is no more.”
Shifting Positions Might Prove Problematic
In the high-stakes arena of a general election, where voters across the political spectrum critically evaluate a candidate’s record and integrity, Haley’s history of shifting positions might prove problematic. Voters often favor candidates who exhibit a strong, unwavering commitment to their core beliefs, viewing this as a sign of reliability and trustworthiness in office. Therefore, Haley’s challenge will be to navigate this complex landscape, balancing the need to respond to public opinion while maintaining a sense of principled consistency. How she manages this balancing act could significantly influence her appeal to the broader electorate and ultimately, her viability as a presidential candidate.