Opinion: America's Future Rests on Nikki Haley's Success

Opinion: America's Future Rests on Nikki Haley's Success

Nikki Haley's endorsement by the influential Koch brothers highlights the lack of lessons learned from 2016 Discover the implications and significance of her candidacy in this thought-provoking article

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, journalists delved into the rural red counties of Trump country, examined the Clinton campaign's shortcomings, and engaged in introspection.

Opinion: America's Future Rests on Nikki Haley's Success

Nicole Hemmer

Attributed to Nicole Hemmer, the media was heavily focused on the coverage of Hillary Clinton's emails and Donald Trump's rallies, leading to criticism from both readers and colleagues. This resulted in the belief that the press had mishandled their campaign coverage, ultimately contributing to Trump's victory. This called for a necessary evaluation of their reporting.

As we near 2024, it's evident that not much has changed for Trump or the journalists covering him. Despite soul-searching, the GOP primary debates and Trump's posts on Truth Social continue to keep him at the center stage. The focus remains on Trump's lead against his primary competitors, with little attention given to policies or the implications of another Trump presidency. This lack of change shows how little has been learned from 2016.

The stories create controversy but lack substance. If this reporting style continues into the 2024 general election, Americans will be ill-prepared for the upcoming election. The political press discusses the precarious state of US democracy without giving voters the necessary stories and information to understand the 2024 elections.

Voters consider more than just the future of their form of government when they vote. They also take into account the personality, policies, and politics of the candidates. Coverage of the Republican primaries and Trump's main competitor highlights how the current approach of the media often obscures the bigger stakes and developments, offering little more than insider information and uncertain predictions about the campaigns.

An example of this is seen in the experience of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. In the primary debates, which Trump has chosen not to attend, Haley has emerged as a candidate with policy ideas and approaches that sometimes sharply contrast with Trump and the other candidates on stage. With a more hawkish stance on foreign policy, a more skeptical view on anti-abortion absolutism, and less interest in the ideas of economic populism, Haley might represent the George W. Bush/Paul Ryan wing of the party, which was thought to be nearly extinct since Trump's rise.

Opinion: America's Future Rests on Nikki Haley's Success

On November 11, 2023, in Claremont, New Hampshire, former President Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, addressed a campaign event. The defense is set to begin presenting its case on Monday in Trump's fraud case. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Opinion: When Trump says something, believe it

News broke on Tuesday that Haley has received the endorsement of Americans for Prosperity Action, a SuperPAC founded by David and Charles Koch. The endorsement was reported by The New York Times, delving into campaign strategies, electoral positioning, Haleys position in the polls, and the SuperPACs financial resources. However, the article did not delve into the Koch brothers' organization's representation within the Republican coalition or discuss their policies in depth. The Times did mention Haleys foreign policy stance, specifically focusing on her criticism of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, advocacy for military strikes in Iran, and her hawkish support for Ukraine aid. However, there is much more to say. The Koch brothers have long represented the corporate wing of the party, advocating for policies that benefit big business and the wealthy such as low taxes, low wages, open immigration, and free trade, which has shaped their support of Haley. This is important information that campaign reporters did not have to look far to find. The endorsement discusses Haleys education and health care policies, and hints at her anti-union and pro-industry stances.

Haley's interest in this race goes beyond her position in the polls. What's truly fascinating is her place within the party. She not only represents a previously dominant faction of the GOP, but also illustrates how that wing of the party has adjusted to the Trump era.

As Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, Haley holds a unique position considering her contrasting views on Trump's foreign policy. She has taken a tougher stance on immigration, a departure from the once disapproved position of the Koch brothers, and has strongly embraced anti-trans rhetoric and policies. She has portrayed Trump's indictments as politically motivated and unnecessary drama, indicating her cautious approach to criticizing Trump too harshly.

Opinion: America's Future Rests on Nikki Haley's Success

Presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks during a town hall at Vittoria Lodge on November 17, 2023 in Ankeny, Iowa.

Lily Smith/The Des Moines Register/USA Today Network

Koch network endorsement is latest sign of Haleys rise, but its far from a game ender

This sheds light on Haley, who has been somewhat undefined in the race, allowing Trump-wary Republicans and independents to project their own preferences onto her. Haley has been seen as a moderate due to her decision to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol after the Charleston massacre in 2015, as well as a budget-balancing wonk for considering Social Security and Medicare cuts. She has also been viewed as a representative for a more inclusive Republican Party, given her identities as a woman and Indian-American. However, none of these fully capture Haley's true political beliefs or policy preferences.

By considering both the endorsement and Haley's policy positions, we can see how Republicans who disagree with Trump have managed to accommodate him without sacrificing many of their wider political commitments.

The composition of the party and its voters is revealed by this, as well as shedding light on the developments of the Trump era. This includes the contradiction of a president who claimed to have a populist economic agenda while enacting deep tax cuts for the wealthy and trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The recent meeting with non-union autoworkers during the UAW strike in Detroit adds to this understanding.

This clarity allows journalists to highlight the implications for a potential second Trump presidency. It goes beyond the threat to democratic governance and points to the real economic consequences for working-class Americans. Despite some Republicans expressing interest in economic populism, the driving force in governance remains the Haley wing.

The approach to election coverage needs a fundamental change. While some campaign reporting has adapted slightly, overall, the main model remains unchanged. It still relies heavily on polls, predictions, and palace intrigue, with less emphasis on policy and long-term party and voter transformations. This conclusion comes from a recent report by the Columbia Journalism Review, which analyzed the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post leading up to the 2022 midterms. The report found that little had changed since 2016.

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Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates! According to the report's authors, both the Times and the Post had similar coverage of domestic politics, prioritizing entertainment over educating readers on essential differences between political parties. The Post showed more interest in Democratic issues, while the Times focused on Republican issues, but both newspapers followed the same traditional and profitable approach to campaign coverage.

For decades, a model has been in place that has faced significant criticism long before the Trump era. In 2012, journalist Patrick Hruby criticized what he termed "The SportsCenter-ization of Political Journalism," a critique that remains relevant today. Criticism of the media was a central theme in both The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report and continues to be a key approach for analyzing US politics. However, despite this criticism, there has been limited institutional reform for various reasons, including the difficulty and expense of change, the risks involved, and the challenge of meeting journalistic values of objectivity and balance. Additionally, the horserace model aligns with reader preferences for engaging stories, making it difficult to shift towards analytical and contextual coverage of political issues. Nevertheless, change is essential and must happen soon. A democratic system cannot thrive without strong, independent, and useful journalism, which is even more vital in a democratic system that is currently at a critical juncture.