Nikki Haley is not on a noble mission — but we should still root her on

Nikki Haley may not have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Republican presidential nomination but she’s decided she’s not going to go quietly. She’s not only needling Donald Trump constantly about his mental fitness, she’s taken on the Republican National Committee (RNC) for their servile move to prematurely declare Trump the “presumptive nominee.” In her South Carolina town halls, Haley’s become downright feisty:

I suspect it’s the laughing at Trump that bothers him the most — although I doubt it’s the first time a woman has done so.

You have to wonder what might have been if Haley and the others had gone after Trump this way from the beginning. I always assumed he would win the nomination but they didn’t have to make it so easy for him. Who knows, if they had jumped on him hard in those days after the 2022 loss when many in the party were saying they were getting tired of losing and blaming his disastrous endorsements, maybe one of them could have made a real run for it.

In the end, trying so hard not to alienate Trump and his followers didn’t work anyway. But better late than never and I have to admit that I find it fascinating to watch yet another rising star in the GOP self-immolate on the alter of Donald Trump’s MAGA party.

I don’t expect Haley to pull a Liz Cheney. She’s really not that bothered by the authoritarian turn of the Republican Party. She just wants to be president and would be happy to follow most of the MAGA agenda just with a little less rhetorical unpleasantness. I’d guess you wouldn’t see her telling Republican governors to defy the federal government as Trump just did with the Southern border in Texas but she would almost certainly enact the same draconian immigration policies.

Haley’s bellicose foreign policy sounds different but in the end, she and Trump would arrive at the same place. Trump would be manipulated into it because he’s too ignorant of the issues to know which end is up and she would get there because she’s a full-fledged right-wing hawk. Haley wouldn’t make a fool of herself on the world stage with Trump’s dramatic flair but she seems to see herself as the second coming of Margaret Thatcher so you could certainly expect fireworks.

Her domestic agenda would almost certainly be the same and because she’s not crude and boorish about it she’d probably succeed in weakening the opposition by dividing the Democratic Party. She won’t succeed in cutting Social Security and Medicare, as she obviously longs to do, but benefactors would be pleased that she had it back on the agenda and precluded any talk of expanding benefits.

Nikki Haley is a member of the Republican Party and it is the MAGA party now, a far right-wing, populist, authoritarian, Christian nationalist party. She isn’t bucking that trend in any substantial way so if she blows up her political future by opposing Donald Trump it will only be because she’s insulted their Dear Leader, an unpardonable sin, not because she opposes what he stands for.

Her benefactors in the Koch Network are just like her, which is undoubtedly why they chose to back her. They were of the libertarian bent, all about corporate greed, low taxes, exploitation of labor, deregulation, all of which has been achieved through the manipulation of voters through culture war issues, primarily racism and grievance over status. She is on board with all of that. They don’t like Trump because he makes the right look bad and ultimately weakens them, not because they care much about the specifics of his agenda, such as it is. The question is if he can win.

CNN reported that the Koch Network’s Americans for Prosperity Action told their top donors over the weekend that backing Haley was the right decision because she is the last candidate standing against Trump which, considering the obvious handwriting on the wall, is hardly the validation they might want it to be. But they have a backup plan: flip the Senate which they see as vital with a Trump nomination in order to maintain their influence. According to Puck, the network’s internal polling shows that “Trump is a disaster at the top of the ticket, and so he either must be defeated in the primary, or they need to make a major down-ballot investment to prevent a Democratic sweep.”

They aren’t the only ones. This week another group of major Republican donors associated with American Opportunity Alliance, which includes billionaires Paul Singer, Ken Griffin, the Ricketts family and others will be meeting with representatives of the Haley and Trump campaigns to hear their pitches. Puck reports that while this group has historically been anti-Trump they are accommodating themselves to the inevitability of his nomination. Some were at pains to mention that “Trump delivered for the Wall Street community. ‘It was kind of fun when he won,’ one said.” Yeah. Fun.

Haley and Trump, meanwhile, are chasing these big money donors all over the country. Trump believes they’ll all come to kiss the ring before long, begging for his dispensation and he’s probably right. He’s holding a huge fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago next month which features an exclusive dinner for those who want to contribute more than the $100,000 limit.

Haley has at least one big Silicon Valley supporter, a Bitcoin guy named Tim Draper, who even wrote a Haley campaign song. (Please listen to it. You won’t regret it.) Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ good buddy Harlan Crow is a big supporter of No Labels, the group potentially running a third-party ticket but his wife is a Haley fan who is holding fundraisers with other rich billionaire wives.

What this all shows is that these people have way too much money. They are cavalierly throwing millions away on Haley’s doomed campaign and Donald Trump, the self-described billionaire who has an army of marks who are happy to send the self-described billionaire half their social security checks whenever he asks. It’s really nothing more than a game to them. These mega donors are just having “fun” while the country burns.  

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