Nikki Haley was once among the vulnerable. Now she’s exploiting them

There was a time I admired Nikki Haley, though that was before she became expert at routinely using the most vulnerable among us as stepping stones on her way to attaining even more power.

I grew up in the same South Carolina she did during the same time period and was relegated to underfunded hyper-segregated schools the way she had been. That’s why no one had to tell me how incredible her rise has been, becoming governor of a state that had never elected anyone but white men and had rewritten its constitution to ensure if any non-white person made it to the governor’s mansion, the General Assembly would have plenty of tools to curtail their power anyway.


Haley became governor of a state that treats its women and girls as afterthoughts. She became governor of a state on the buckle of the Bible Belt despite her parents’ non-Christian background. She did so while beating back racist tropes and misogynistic rumors deployed by fellow Republicans. And she left her mark on the state despite all of that. She even stood up to Donald Trump long after the likes of Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott had begun stumping for the most disastrous president of my lifetime.

My admiration for Haley was never about ideology. I agreed with her policy positions less than half the time. And I can’t forgive her decision to torpedo plans for South Carolina to run the exchanges for the Affordable Care Act and refusal to expand Medicaid despite the tens of thousands of jobs it was projected to create and the hundreds of thousands of lives it would have saved or improved.

Maybe I was just blinded by the commonalities in our upbringings and thought she was better than she actually was. I thought she was someone who wanted to use politics to help people more than help herself. I was wrong. After spending years ignoring black residents’ attempts to have the Confederate flag removed from the Statehouse – including adopting Lost Cause rhetoric to appease white residents who wanted it to stay – Haley was governor when it was taken down after the Charleston Massacre. She took full credit even though it only came down because Dylann Roof murdered nine black people in a church.

A new low on CNN

Since then, she’s been using her background and identity as a non-white woman to help Trump and the Republican Party sidestep charges of bigotry and racism. She reached a new low, though, during a recent town hall on CNN.

“How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker room,” Haley said in response to a question from moderator Jake Tapper. “And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year.”

You read that correctly. Haley blamed teen girl suicide on transgender youth. Maybe she didn’t know that the group most susceptible to suicide are trans youth because of the way society frowns upon even their presence in public.

What’s more, since the South Carolina High School Sports League in 2016 began prohibiting athletes of the opposite gender from competing on a team, there have been less than half a dozen attempts to have that rule waived and only a couple of which have been granted.

Now compare that to the 37,000 girls competing in South Carolina high school sports every year. That was even before Gov. Henry McMaster signed a law that has made it nearly impossible for the rare trans girl in the state who wants to compete to have an opportunity.

Haley is open about her faith and conversion from being a Sikh to becoming a Christian. The more she shows herself on the national stage, the more it becomes clear that Haley is willing to say or do anything she thinks necessary to gain more power and influence – even if it means afflicting “the least of these” Jesus said she should be comforting.