Following former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley's launch of her 2024 presidential campaign Tuesday, progressives cautioned that while the Republican has spent years cultivating a so-called "moderate" public persona, her policy positions make it abundantly clear that as president, she would promote a right-wing agenda similar to the Trump administration, in which she served for nearly two years.
Haley, who also served as South Carolina's governor before joining the administration of former President Donald Trump in 2017, has advanced right-wing policies both domestically and abroad, and since leaving public office four years ago, has used her platform to promote "extreme hardline positions on foreign policy," wrote Daniel Larison at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
The Republican has strived to center her response to the 2015 Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston by a white supremacist as evidence of her moderation, including in her campaign launch video footage of the speech she gave weeks after the massacre when signing a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol.
Progressive strategist Sawyer Hackett noted, however, that moments earlier in the video she denied that the deep history of institutional racism has contributed to persistent inequality in the United States.
"Make no mistake: Nikki Haley is no moderate," said Christina Harvey, executive director of progressive advocacy group Stand Up America. "From her support of Trump's policy of putting children in cages and the regressive reproductive health policies she pushed as governor of South Carolina to her opposition to federal voting rights legislation and her unwavering support of Donald Trump—even after he incited the January 6 insurrection—Nikki Haley has shown her true colors."
During her six years as governor of South Carolina, Haley signed anti-reproductive rights bills including one that banned abortion care after 19 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
With anti-abortion rights Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expected to also announce a run for the GOP presidential nomination, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju said the primary is already becoming "a race to the bottom."
"Whether it's serving in Donald Trump's Cabinet or signing an extreme abortion ban into law, Nikki Haley's record is chock full of red flags," said Timmaraju. "Haley's views on abortion are just as extreme as others gunning for the Republican nomination, and we look forward to working alongside our members to defeat the Republican nominee, whoever it may be."
Haley's campaign launch ad also included a claim that President Joe Biden is promoting a "socialist" agenda, which Poor People's Campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. William Barber II interpreted as an attack on those who "believe in living wages, voting rights, and healthcare for all."
During Haley's two years as U.N. ambassador under the Trump administration, she was a strong proponent of the president's so-called "zero tolerance" policy under which thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents and guardians, Trump's push to pull out of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and the administration's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
Though she briefly criticized Trump for inciting the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, Haley soon after defended the former president and called on Democratic lawmakers to "give the man a break" as they impeached Trump for a second time.
"When we needed leaders to stand up for our democracy and our freedoms, Haley fell in line with Donald Trump, again and again," said Harvey. "That's exactly the opposite of what our country needs. Unfortunately, it doesn't make her unique. Whether the Republican nominee is Nikki Haley, Donald Trump, or someone else, there will likely be a MAGA Republican with a track record of undermining our democracy on the GOP ticket come November 2024."
At the Quincy Institute, Larison wrote that Haley's effort to cast herself as a moderating voice in the Republican Party while also defending the former president has left her "with no obvious base of support" and has likely rendered her a long-shot candidate.
"There is so little daylight between Haley's own positions and those of Trump that it will be difficult for her to criticize anything he did as president," Larison wrote. "Haley's foreign policy record is bound up with Trump's to such an extent that she will struggle to distinguish herself from him."
Barber called on voters to focus on "the main message: None of the Republicans planning on running disagree with Trump on policy."