While the Democratic Party continues to be in disarray after the disastrous defeat of its presumptive first woman president, Hillary Clinton, the Republicans are enjoying the spoils of their historic victory. The Republicans currently control 34 governorships and just passed a key landmark tax legislation bill in record time, (albeit one that is not good for our tristate area). Despite the demographics favoring them, the Democrats inexplicably are losing ground.
American Jewish organizations have learned that the Israeli narratives of the past 60 years no longer resonate with the under-40 crowd. That is, we no longer can sell Israel to American Jews based on either 1. Holocaust guilt (i.e. you need to support Israel so it is there for us in case there is another Holocaust) or 2. a fear that Israel will be destroyed by its Arab neighbors if we don’t show our support and help it remain strong. We in the federations and other Jewish organizations continue to struggle to find ways to connect the younger generations with Israel without using the fear of annihilation.
Likewise, the Democratic party, if it wants to regain power, will need to move away from its narrative that every “minority” (i.e. lower case) position or group is worthy of support. And if a person doesn’t agree that a particular minority group or cause is worthy of support, they are a (insert relevant, derogatory name — racist, misogynist, etc.). This baiting and name-calling does not play well in most of the country. It is also allowing the Republican party, with arguably much worse policies and concern for ordinary Americans, to enjoy inexplicable success.
Moreover, if the Democrats continue to allow the fossilized remains of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to represent the face of the party, they are likely relegating themselves to minority status for the foreseeable future. Seeing Chuck Schumer’s angry countenance on TV with nary a legitimate policy alternative makes us wax nostalgic for Richard Nixon vis-à-vis the televised debates with Kennedy. Though Mr. Schumer comes across as both less sincere and less likeable than Richard Nixon, who was elected president only eight years after the loss to JFK.
The Republican party is in a position to steal the Democrats’ thunder by running a female candidate in either three or seven years, as the case may be, who has a legitimate chance to win the presidency. She has none of the baggage of Ms. Clinton — a tough but likeable personality that Hillary Clinton could never pull off, a flexible policy position that does not feel like flip-flopping, and demographics that the Democrats probably wish had brought her into their party. This makes Ms. Haley a dangerous quadruple threat to the Democratic party.
Nikki Haley is the daughter of immigrants from India who was born into the Sikh religion. So, from the get-go, besides being a woman, she has both the immigrant and religious minority demographic, a usual Democratic strong suit, in her favor. Her parents started an upscale clothing store in South Carolina, where Nikki learned about business and finance. She became involved in many women’s business groups while working at the store. When she ran for the South Carolina statehouse and then the governorship, she was a long shot in both races, running against entrenched incumbents. She won each of them only after runoffs, which makes her a successful and seasoned campaigner who knows how to fight and win a tough election.
Ms. Haley is not a typical Republican or politician as her positions cut across policy lines. As governor of South Carolina, she signed the first state law in the United States against the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. She did this in a state that has only 14,000 Jewish people. So it is a position she believes in, not one she adopted for political purposes. This makes her statements at the United Nations all the more believable and powerful. Ms. Haley also refused to support a law pending in the South Carolina legislature restricting the use of bathrooms by sex (which is not a conservative position). After initially opposing the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina legislature, she changed her position and advocated for its removal, so that “no one should feel pain by seeing this when they pass by.” These were courageous positions taken by a governor in South Carolina, especially one who was both young and female!
Nikki Haley is the real deal, a strong female candidate who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in and what is right. It is refreshing to see this in a politician. Her statements at the United Nations in support of Israel and in defense of the U.S. embassy’s move to Jerusalem should be seen as a source of pride by the Jewish people. The fact that she held these positions as a strong supporter of Israel when she was the governor of South Carolina should give solace to those who are concerned that she is only echoing the policies of Donald Trump.
If backing a strong, self-made women who is thoughtful and courageous is something that women seek in a candidate they should take a long, hard look at Nikki Haley. If women value party lines over policies and optics over competency, then it is likely that the Democrats will once again put forth a candidate in 2020 or 2024 (as the case may be) who will lose to Nikki Haley. For the reasons set forth above, if Ms. Haley runs for the presidency, I want to be one of the first to proudly say, “I’m with her.”