Nikki Haley delivered the most politically savvy line of the night. (Not a sentence I thought I’d write.) It was a theme the organizers should have hammered more instead of talking about “socialism.”
“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist,” she said. “That is a lie. America is not a racist country.”
Then she told her own story about her Indian parents rising to success in the American South, and her successes as governor of South Carolina. This was prelude to Tim Scott’s closing speech, in which he talked about going “from cotton to Congress” in the space of one lifetime. This was all a reminder in flashing lights: The Republican Party in the South votes for racial minorities. It speaks to a deep desire, easy to detect in many conservatives, that those traditionally on the fringes of American life feel more like part of the mainstream.
Both Haley and Scott acknowledged America’s faults, its sins, and discrimination that’s been part of their life. But both of them rejected the idea that this is fundamental to America’s identity, or a license to upend the social order as it currently exists.
This is not just a long-shot play to continue improving Trump’s numbers with black and Hispanic men, though it is that. It’s a message to suburban voters who don’t want to support a movement they see as racist. And who especially don’t want to believe their modest successes in this life are counted by the powers that be as the illegitimately accrued profits of racism.
It was also a big red flag waved in front of progressives in the media, who have adopted a definition of what constitutes “racism” that is much more expansive and less idiomatic.