Haley's CPAC Speech Highlights American Exceptionalism
Nikki Haley struck a common sense balance in addressing issues of race and gender in her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Haley was one of the few Republican challengers to former President Trump to attend CPAC this year. The crowd of Republican party faithful largely favored Mr. Trump for the party nominee, as indicated by the straw poll giving the former president a sizeable lead of 62% over his competitors.
Haley, unphased by the lop-sided CPAC support, braved the crowd and made her case as to why she should be the Republican nominee. Her remarks starkly contrast the tone of some women and ethnic minority political office seekers. Rather than using her race and gender to point out how awful America is, she used her race and gender to highlight American exceptionalism.
The first minority woman elected as governor of any state, Haley is not celebrated by feminists who are uncomfortable with women and ethnic minorities who do not share their political worldview.
The Indian-American former governor and ambassador to the United Nations often points to her rise to the highest levels of power as proof that America is not a racist nation. Despite America's flaws, we agree with Haley. She told the crowd, "America isn't perfect, but the principles at the heart of America are perfect."
Haley has successfully talked about issues that some conservatives stumble over. For example, she addressed voter identification in her speech at CPAC as she has on the campaign trail. The former governor, unlike many politicians, has hands-on experience with the issue, having signed voter ID into law in South Carolina. While she was vilified, she stood her ground and maintained that simply requiring proof of identification to vote is not inherently racist. Haley's Administration offered free rides to anyone who needed one to secure identification to vote. Only 25 citizens requested rides. Voter turnout in South Carolina is on the rise across all demographics.
It remains unclear how successfully Haley has threaded the race needle. We hope conservatives will not consider it identity politics for her to declare the elephant in the room, which is she is a woman, and she is a minority, and both characteristics help inform her opinions.
The Bass Sisters: Dee Dee Bass Wilbon and Deana Bass Williams are sisters and co-founders of Bass Public Affairs a Washington, DC based public affairs firm. They co-host the podcast Policy and Pound Cake. Their ongoing digital series Our American Story shares the broad and beautiful history of the Black American experience.