Nikki Haley has recently declared that she will run for the presidency of the United States. She could be the first South Asian American to become president.
Nikki Haley has recently declared that she will run for the presidency of the United States. She announced her campaign on February 14th, and since then, the media has been focusing on her motivations and chances of getting to the Oval Office. The 2024 United States presidential election will take place on November 5th, 2024, after caucuses and primary elections (the internal elections of the parties run by state and local governments), which are scheduled for January and February 2024. At the moment, there are only two declared candidates – Nikki Haley and Donald Trump, both for the Republican Party, and President Biden has expressed his intention of running for a second term.
Republicans and Democrats will be competing to convince voters on major issues that concern them, such as economics, with a focus on inflation, social security and Medicare, national security, migration, abortion, and foreign policy (principally, the position towards the war in Ukraine and the economic race against China).
The importance of women running for leadership positions
Although there is still a lack of women's representation in politics in the US, the last elections and the current one show that women's participation is increasing. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was very strong during the past election, as well as Kamala Harris's race where she was not able to continue as a presidential candidate but achieved the vice-presidency with President Biden.
However, the spotlight on women in politics has not only been addressed from a gender point of view; it has also considered their ethnic background and heritage. Kamala Harris is the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to be elected Vice President. Now, Nikki Haley could be the first South Asian American to become president.
Who is Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley's birth name was Nimarata Nikki Randhawa. She was born in 1972 in Bamberg, South Carolina, to immigrant Sikh parents from Punjab, India. She holds an accounting degree from Clemson University. In 2004, Haley was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives, where she served three terms. In 2010, she was elected as the first minority female governor (although this is arguable, considering that Susana Martinez was also elected governor of New Mexico in the same period). Since then, Nikki Haley has been considered the most notable non-white conservative woman to ever enter the political race. In 2017, former President Trump nominated her, as the first Indian American member of a presidential cabinet, to become the United States ambassador to the United Nations. She held this position until December 31, 2018.
Currently, as a presidential candidate, Haley's campaign encourages the idea that it is time for a new generation of leadership that promotes the US foundational values but addresses the current challenges. She has the challenge of regaining the popular vote that Republicans have lost in seven out of the past eight presidential elections. She presents herself as an outsider and part of a minority that will change how the Washington establishment has failed US citizens. Fiscal responsibility, securing the border, and strengthening US citizens' pride and purpose have been set as her main goals.
Critics of Nikki Haley: being a minority woman does not guarantee standing up for the interests of minorities
Politicians and public opinion have depicted Haley’s decision as highly risky and optimistic considering the power of her party contender, Donald Trump. She is appealing to voters who support ethnically diverse candidates with a discourse of cohesion rather than differences. However, even though she identifies herself as part of a minority, she does not directly advocate for the fight against racism in the country. She has denied on different occasions that the US could be a racist country. Her opening video shows how she is basing her campaign on racial issues but from a different perspective.
In addition, critics of Nikki Haley have highlighted her decisions as governor regarding her opposition to refugee resettlement, her signature on the law banning abortions after twenty weeks, her position on gun violence, and the elimination of critical race theory studies, gender identity, and sexual orientation in schools. Furthermore, as Ambassador to the United Nations, she was highly criticized for pulling the country out of the Human Rights Council.
Even though one of her recognized attributes is her ability to connect with people, data shows that it is a very challenging environment for her to get the attention of minorities as a Republican politician. According to the 2016 Pew Research Center survey on political affiliation, Republican Party voters are primarily white, with 54% of the white population identifying as Republicans. On the other hand, the majority of black (87%), Hispanic (63%), and Asian American (66%) voters are identified as Democrats. Women are also more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans, with only 38% of women identifying with Republicans.
Nikki Haley has faced criticism for using her ethnicity as a political campaign tactic while many Asian Americans do not feel represented by her. Haley changed her name, converted to Christianity, and listed her race as white during the 2001 elections when she registered to vote. Sara Sadhwani, a professor of Politics at Pomona College, states that South Asians typically support other South Asians regardless of their party affiliation, but according to her data, only 55% of South Asian Americans would vote for Haley.
Rumors of Kamala Harris running again with Joe Biden for a second term would result in a possible election with two South Asian American women competing. Regardless of the political spectrum, this is important for women in the country that see in them an opportunity to achieve political positions.