By Sushil Kutty
“Nikki Haley for President!” That was the talk of the town in the United States. This Haley is no comet. But if she breaks the glass ceiling then it will be meteoric. Hillary Clinton tried, but failed. Vice President Kamala Harris has a chance provided President Joe Biden steps aside. A former Governor of North Carolina, Nikki was President Donald Trump’s UN Ambassador.
The two are now rivals for the POTUS post. February 15, Nikki Haley said she was ready to become the Republican Party’s POTUS candidate. She is the second Republican after Trump with her hat in the ring. Wednesday, Nikki Haley kicked off her maiden presidential campaign.
And if the complaint is ‘Nikki’ doesn’t sound ‘Presidential”, then ‘Haley’ fits the bill; some would say better than Trump, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis whose “cowboy boots” make him stand taller than his wife though he’s still to step into the ring.
Haley, however, has been talking of a Presidential run right from the day President Donald Trump messed up big in 2020. But Nikki will not likely make the January 6, 2020 Capitol Hill “insurrection” the talking point of her campaign.
Then again, it might not be in her hands. She is in a competition and only the best person wins though Haley said it differently “May the best woman win”, pitting herself against VeePee Kamala Harris, who is also “Indian origin”.
Kamala Harris’ Indian origins are traced to the state of Tamil Nadu in South India from where her Tamilian mother took a flight to the land of milk and honey, where immigrants made it big. Nikki Haley’s Indian origins are rooted in Punjab, and to the Sikh faith.
Nikki is in competition for the Republican ticket with Trump, and Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, who wants to be POTUS so direly that he is ready to take on his erstwhile boss with whatever it takes including calling Trump an insurrectionist, which will force Haley’s hand one way or the other.
It will be a difficult choice for Haley. It was Trump who gave her a leg-up and Trump is the villain of the January 6 piece for Mike Pence. The Trump-Pence-Haley to-and-fros will be exciting and revealing, worth the wait for the sort of dirt that will be spilled, and thrown about.
If Haley steers clear of talking of Trump’s Capitol Hill insurrection, there is no guarantee Mike Pence will not. Trump and Pence are gonna make it tense for Haley. Trump will have ready a “nickname” for Nikki Haley if he hasn’t already made up one in all “humourness”.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who the Trump camp fears the most, has got the Trump nickname “Ron Desanctimonious” though there are new news reports of another Trump-given name for Ron, “Meatball Ron”. Nikki Haley will not be spared. Trump will make it sound like a game though past record shows he can sound like a tramp!
Haley started her campaign February 15 with a speech that did not touch any raw Trump nerves. For the time being, Nikki Haley isn’t attacking “her president”. But Haley spoke of “We’re ready, ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past. And we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future.”
Was Trump listening? If anybody fits the “stale ideas” and “faded names” description, it can only be Trump, unless Nikki also had President Joe Biden in mind. The US media considers Haley as an “underdog”. And she is listed as the “first declared opponent to Trump in the Republican primary”. If she wants to trump over Trump, Nikki must develop a thick skin, and learn to cuss like Calamity Jane, no less!
Haley shouldn’t fear direct confrontations with Trump, who can be a dictator, though he had given the impression that he had a soft corner for Nikki Haley. That “soft corner” can turn into “soft target”. Trump will not be gentleman-like to a lady-like political adversary. And forget that Trump is a friend of India, and Indians.
“Asian-American” Haley will not get any advantages. The likes of Trump aren’t touched by gender and “immigrant roots”. Haley’s “May the best woman win” must already have registered in Trump’s mind, for him to come up with a ready repartee. Nikki Haley Wednesday said she doesn’t “believe in glass ceilings” but Trump will remember Hillary, and then Haley will believe.
The thing to note is, Trump will lose a lot of the Asian-American support he had got in 2016 with Haley in the fray. Nikki was the country’s first female Asian American governor, and the first Asian (Indian) American to serve in the Cabinet. “Take it from me, the first minority female governor in history: America is not a racist country,” she said. “This self-loathing is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic.”
For Indians worldwide, Haley, who is just 51, is a sign of Indians striking it big-time in politics. After becoming trailblazing CEOs of Big Tech companies, people of Indian origin are striking out in the big bad world of politics. There have been Indian-origin heads of states in small island nations, but after Rishi Sunak, Nikki Haley could be the trailblazing meteoric comet. (IPA Service)