Haley Takes the Stage
The South Carolina governor’s national profile continues to rise.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley


Besides the vicious conflict with a powerful political establishment, her story is probably most notable for two things: her rise as an Indian-American in what was once one of America’s most segregated states, and the difficulties of running for office as a mother and a wife. Haley describes the pain, early in her life, not just of being excluded for being a non-white minority, but also of her family’s being utterly different from everyone else in her hometown. Most notably, she was disqualified from a beauty contest that had separate competitions for blacks and whites. But this story is ultimately a positive one: She tells me that her family’s eventual acceptance and her continued success say “so much about the goodness of South Carolina and a lot about the greatness of America.”

Besides policy disputes, Haley’s experience as a female politician has been colored by various unsubstantiated accusations of adultery, which she attributes to the desperation of South Carolina’s establishment. She tells me the abuse was such that “so many people, after I won the race for governor, came up to me and said, ‘After seeing what you went through, I would never want to run for office.’ That’s the reason why I wrote the book.” She argues that, despite the fierce opposition she has faced as a legislator and as governor, “I hope the book opens people’s eyes to what it’s like when a mother, daughter, wife, or sister runs for office. It’s not easy, but when you put yourself out there, it’s worth it. Look at what changes you can make for your state and your country.” One hopes that Governor Haley succeeds in her efforts to reform South Carolina’s government, not least so that her career proves that point.

— Patrick Brennan is a 2011 William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.


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