Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Nikki Haley’s Butternut Bonafides

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 8, 2019

After the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (above) embraced and argued for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag that flew on the State House grounds, adjacent to the Confederate monument there. Haley was widely lauded in some circles for her supposed courage in challenging South Carolina’s traditional Lost Cause-y view of the Civil War, but in truth the circumstances were so horrific that virtually any governor, of either party, likely would have followed the same course she did. The pressure to take down the flag was overwhelming, and that outcome was probably inevitable.

Naturally, the Confederate Heritage™ folks lost their ever-lovin’ minds over the issue, and gave vent to the vulgar bigotry that’s always there, but is usually papered over with tired tropes about “honor,” “sacrifice,” and all the rest. It’s what they do.

In the wake of the Charleston shooting, Haley was careful to say the right things, as dictated by the circumstances of the moment. At the time, she decried the state’s decision in 2000 to remove the flag from the State House itself, to its position by the monument.

“I think the more important part is it should have never been there,” she said. “These grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain.”

Haley, a rising star in the Republican Party, is the youngest current governor in the U.S. She is also the first woman and the first Indian American to serve as Governor of South Carolina.

Haley said the flag should be in a museum, a place that preserves history, not in a place where people gather to implement policies about the state’s future.

“There is a place for that flag,” she said. “It’s not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina.”

It should never have been there,” she said then. “Not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina.

That was in 2015. A lot has changed since then. Haley went on to serve for two years as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a position that these days is curiously both high-profile and of relatively little consequence. Having put that on her resume, and published her obligatory memoir ever-so-politely distancing herself from the excesses of the roiling kleptocracy that is the current administration, she’s looking out once again for the main chance. And that, apparently, includes re-embracing the Confederate Heritage™ narrative about the shooting. Haley may think of herself as being “the face of the New South” (right, in 2014) but she still speaks in the voice of the Old South:

Nikki Haley, who formerly served as the South Carolina governor and then as the Trump administration U.N. ambassador, blamed “the national media” for making a white supremacist’s 2015 massacre of nine black churchgoers at a historic African American church “about racism.”

In an interview with Glenn Beck, Haley also said that the murderer, [the killer]* “hijacked” the supposedly virtuous nature of the Confederate battle flag.

“Here is this guy that comes out with his manifesto, holding the Confederate flag, and had just hijacked everything that people thought of,” she said.

“We don’t have hateful people in South Carolina. There’s always the small minority that’s always going to be there, but people saw it as service and sacrifice and heritage. . . .”

“Once he did that,” Haley said of [the shooter’s] attack, “there was no way to overcome it.”

“The national media came in in droves,” she continued. “They wanted to define what happened. They wanted to make this about racism, they wanted to make this about gun control, they wanted to make it about the death penalty.”

Well, no. Lots of people, in South Carolina and elsewhere, didn’t view the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of “service and sacrifice and heritage” — not in 1962 when it went atop the State House dome, not in 2000 when it was moved to the grounds, and not in 2015, and Nikki Haley damn well knows that. She knew it when she first ran for governor in 2010, and she knew it when she ran for re-election in 2014, when it was a major campaign issue in her race against her Democratic opponent, Vincent Sheheen. She won that election handily. Then came the Emmanuel AME killings, seven months later.

Haley now says the media — it’s always “the media” with these folks — “made this about racism.” This is unadulterated bullshit.

I read the killer’s “manifesto,” and viewed the dozens of pictures he posted with it, before his “Last Rhodesian” site was taken down. I kept copies, too, although I’ve never shared them. While only a few of the photos were posed with the Confederate Battle Flag, virtually all of them trace back to slavery, antebellum plantations, Confederate cemeteries — even a museum run by the SCV. He even had Confederate flag plates on his car. He was, in his own addled way, quite clear about his intent to target African Americans, and to start a wider war for the survival of the white race. Period, full stop.

Nikki Haley knows that white nationalism/-supremacy/-identity/-whatever-you-want-to-call it is widespread in the Confederate Heritage™ community; we’ve seen this over and over and over and over and over and over again. She herself witnessed it up close when the Klan organized a rally on the State House steps in Columbia to protest the removal of the flag from the grounds there.

In retrospect, everyone should’ve seen this coming. Haley herself telegraphed that her stated views in 2015 were, shall we say, flexible when she chose to preside over a reverential ceremony (above) to remove the flag that, she claimed, “should never have been there.” That’s not how you handle an object that, in your own words, causes “hurt and pain.”

Haley, of course, is laying the groundwork for a 2024 presidential campaign. And she knows two things — (1) that the South Carolina Republican primary, that comes early in the primary cycle, will be make-or-break for her pursuit of the Republican nomination, and (2) that the Republican Party in South Carolina (“too small for a republic. . . .”) is going to demand her fealty to the tropes and deflections of the Lost Cause. That’s what she was doing the other day on Glenn Beck’s podcast, signaling to hard-core Republicans, and especially that subset of the far right that tunes in to Glenn Beck, that she’s all-in on perpetuating that narrative. It’s the media’s fault, this the inexplicable act of a single deranged person, no one ever associated that flag with racism, etc.

As I said, unadulterated bullshit.

There are many adjectives one can fairly apply to Nikki Haley; stupid is not one of the them. She knows what she’s doing, and is counting on Republican voters in South Carolina and elsewhere to have short memories. I wouldn’t bet against her being right about that.


* I have redacted the Charleston shooter’s name. You all know it anyway.


5 Responses

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  1. Andy Hall said, on December 8, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    Please don’t bother commenting to tell me that the heritage folks have long despised Nikki Haley, and will never support her. I know all that.

  2. kbrown2225 said, on December 8, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Well stated, Andy!

  3. kbrown2225 said, on December 8, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    I find it simply amazing that anyone can, with a straight face, make the argument that a symbol (the Confederate Flag) which represents an attempt at a break-off American republic dedicated to the twin concepts of white supremacy and the enslavement of the Negro race can have “nothing to do with race”?

    Wow, that is some heavy duty cognitive dissonance they got going there, huh?

    Look, I am from Alabama and was raised on the Lost Cause bullshit, but we didn’t drink it that deep!

  4. Neil Hamilton said, on December 9, 2019 at 8:55 am

    I wonder how many more tragic incidents are going to have to take place before reality takes center stage and forces really hard choices in the future. Instead, we get users who take fact and twist it into political advantage, learning nothing from our past, our present, and dam our future.

  5. Msb said, on December 9, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Very well said, Andy. I wish I could be mildly surprised to find Haley firmly placing herself among the Rs who find nothing too stupid or false to say or do in service to their political fortunes.

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