Nikki Haley shows us who she really is: a coward

Nikki Haley was once perceived by many Republicans as their hope for redeeming a party that had been taken over by a morally corrupt, lying and craven narcissist. Donald Trump, she declared, exhibited “everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten.”

But by announcing Wednesday that she will be voting for Trump after spending months skewering him as “unfit for office,” “unhinged,” “diminished” and a chaos agent, she proved what many Americans believe: You can’t trust politicians, especially Trump-supporting ones.


By prioritizing career over country, Haley extinguished any hope that she might emerge as a party bulwark to an authoritarian regime if Trump is returned to the White House. She has squandered the little credibility she had left after raising her hand in a Republican debate when asked if she would support Trump as the party’s nominee even if he were a convicted felon.

And she left us with the clearest window yet into her character. We now know she lacks the courage needed to lead a misdirected and fractured party, let alone a divided nation.

Remember when Haley said, “I don’t put up with bullies?” She’s just told us she’s voting for one to lead the most powerful nation in the world. Remember when she ended her campaign in February without endorsing Trump and said, “I feel no need to kiss the ring.” She’s just left that ring with a nice big lipstick smudge. Remember when she told Trump to “earn the votes of those in our party and beyond who did not support him?” Trump never retreated from the policy issues on which she clashed with him — his opposition to support for Ukraine, his threat to let Putin attack NATO allies and his dehumanizing refusal to embrace a border deal.

It didn’t matter.

To the pundit class, whose cynicism runs deep about Haley because she became Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations after calling him a liar, her announcement Wednesday was no surprise.

Haley can now spend the summer reminding Republicans of their tribal goal of uniting to achieve victory in November. She’ll undoubtedly draw a coveted spot at the Republican National Convention in July, where she may even win over the red-hatted hall of MAGA supporters.

Haley outlasted a crowded field of rivals to survive as the last Trump alternative standing. Awash in cash and with an often-adoring media, she stayed in the race even as Trump racked up victories in the early states. Her decision so aggravated the former president that he reminded her and her voters why they despised him.

He insulted her husband, Michael Haley, who has been deployed to Africa since June with the South Carolina Army National Guard. Michael Haley responded on X with a photo of a wolf. The caption on the image read: “The difference between humans and animals? Animals would never allow the dumbest ones to lead the pack.”

People had forgotten what they didn’t like about Trump, and as Haley sharpened her attacks on his character and policies in the final weeks, she purposefully reminded us of how chaotic another Trump term would be.

Even after ending her campaign, Haley continued to amass votes in Republican primaries, collecting more than 93 delegates to date. It may be just a fraction of the 2,229 collected by Trump, but it was enough to earn a respectable amount of attention at the convention this summer.

If Haley sees her success in those primaries as a sign that she is still popular, she misinterprets the message. Those voters could have stayed home but cast a vote instead because they were protesting Trump. By embracing him and undermining her perfectly accurate critiques, she is saying “never mind” to all her supporters, leaving them nowhere to go.

This is an opening President Joe Biden’s campaign should seize. They should seek orphaned Haley voters by embracing the argument former Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan used in an op-ed this month: “Why I’m voting for Biden and other Republicans should, too.”

Haley waited to announce her vote for Trump until almost every GOP primary was over. We now see it for the cynical move that it was. It allowed her supporters to hold out false hope that their protest vote might count for something when, privately, she was planning to break with them in the self-interest of advancing her career.

The most shocking failure of our modern political era isn’t Trump’s inciting violence to prevent the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6. It has been the failure of his party to course correct away from authoritarianism. Haley had a chance to lead instead of follow. She wimped out and joined the growing list of cowards, including US Senators Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott, Ted Cruz, J.D. Vance, former US Attorney General Bill Barr and many more.

They have chosen to promote a man who tried to overthrow American democracy. If Trump is reelected in November, he may finally succeed. Thanks, Nikki.

Mary Ellen Klas is a politics and policy columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. A former capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald, she has covered politics and government for more than three decades.