When Gov. Nikki Haley steps forward Tuesday night to deliver the Republican Party’s response to President Obama’s final State of the Union address, she won’t just be confronting the president’s agenda. She’ll also be pushing back against the narrative that the GOP is now the party of bombast, outsiders, and, of course, Donald Trump.
In Haley’s speech, excerpts of which were released Tuesday night, the 43-year old proudly embraces her status as the daughter of Indian immigrants. And without naming Trump, who has called Mexican immigrants rapists and suggested a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the United States, Haley suggests a need for a more inclusive tone for a largely party dominated by older white men.
“Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America,” Haley was to say. “Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.”
Those comments are a nod to exactly why GOP leaders chose Haley to follow the president. While the 2016 GOP contest has been almost entirely about Trump and his ability to channel the anger of the party base, Haley is the Republican dream of what an up-and-comer in the party should be: a young woman of color and a sitting governor who has earned praise from both sides of the aisle earlier this year during the Charleston shooting, when she led the charge to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house grounds.
Haley is no moderate. Her strict small government politics made her tea party champion, and she’s styled herself as a jobs creator. Still, she has pushed back against Trump’s brand of Republican politics.
“Every time someone criticizes him, he goes and makes a political attack back,” Haley told reporters when asked about Trump last year. “That’s not who we are as Republicans. That’s not what we do.”