Why this Liberal Canadian Believes that Nikki Haley Should Be President

2 February 2024

I am a Canadian who usually votes literally Liberal. Had I been voting in America, it would probably have been straight-up Democrat. Here is why my vote for 2024 would go to Nikki Haley.

It’s not about “anyone but” Donald Trump. Joe Biden is that. It’s not just because she is decades younger than these men, and maybe smarter too, which could bring some fresh air to the White House. It’s mainly because America is in deep trouble, desperately in need of a change of course, and she is more likely than any other candidate to be able and willing to do that. I may not share much of Nikki Haley’s political views, but this concern pales in the light of America’s current crisis.

America suffers from a dangerous class divide, not between left and right so much as between the comfortable and the angry—essentially those who feel part of the status quo, from which they benefit, and those who resent it, including some who also benefit from it.

The comfortable do well, and live well, no few beyond what they contribute. Some of them don’t bother to see past their entitlements, while others do care about this divide. As for the angry, some of them are just-plain-angry, for whatever reason, even if they are well-off, while others have reason to be angry: they feel betrayed by a system that has been stacked against them, sometimes from Day 1. Even many in the middle class have legitimate worries—for example, about losing their job or incurring unbearable health care expenses—while many just struggle every day to make ends meet, as food costs and mortgage rates rise. Who can blame them for asking why, as their country gets richer, they get poorer?

Economists tell them about rising tides that lift all boats; what they see instead are the yachts rising ever higher while their dinghies, anchored below, are getting swamped. Hence, those who feel betrayed join those who are just-plain-angry to support Donald Trump. He has, after all, given them voice, even if, as president, not much more.

llustration by S. Brovkin.

How did the great American dream—democracy of the people, by the people, for the people—come to this? A decent society maintains protections for its citizens, supplied significantly by government, with economic opportunities for advancement, supplied significantly by business. This used to be the United States: consider the welfare programs after World War II, in a flourishing economy. No longer, thanks to three fixes that have been breaking America.

First, in the 1980s, the Reagan presidency weakened government while decimating the unions. There were excesses to be corrected, for sure, but he didn’t stop with correction. As has become so common in the country, he took change to excess.

In 1989, the year that Ronald Reagan left office, the Berlin Wall fell, an event described by pundits at the time as “the triumph of capitalism,” even “the end of history.” Hardly so, on both counts. Soviet communism collapsed under the dead weight of its own imbalance: public sector government was far too powerful. How ironic that the very problem that brought down communism in Eastern Europe has since been bringing down democracy in America, just on the other side of the political spectrum. Capitalism has been triumphing since 1989, at the expense of government, and balance.

Then came the tipping point in 2010, when the Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, opened the floodgates of private funding of public elections. In effect, the Court legalized bribery in America. Legal corruption has had a field day ever since.

Today, politics in America, and many other countries, swings between left and right, leaving paralysis in the center, which enables private entitlements and individual rights to run rampant at the expense of shared responsibilities. Don’t ask for permission or even forgiveness in America today; just barrel ahead with whatever serves yourself.

Hence the need to recalibrate, and here is where Nikki Haley could come in. There is a natural alliance to be had, quite possibly a winning one, of the bitterly beleaguered with the comfortably concerned. This could bring back into the fold decent Americans who feel betrayed, and can be moved. Who better to promote such an alliance than an unusual president who is not quite establishment, yet astutely constructive. (A respected Canadian diplomat who worked with Nikki Haley describes her as a great interlocker.)

Of late, the pundits have been pondering Haley’s sudden escalation of attacks on Trump: what Machiavellian intentions can be behind this? I haven’t seen another explanation: that she could be genuinely concerned about the danger of this man being elected again. Imagine that!

By offering hope beyond despair, she might just be able to pull this off: to begin the process of restoring sensible balance in America. Joe Biden, in contrast, cannot stop the hemorrhaging—in fact, it has stopped him—let alone Donald Trump. I am not holding my breath for a Haley presidency, but I do know that American politics is forever a crapshoot: it ain’t over till it’s over.

Why would a Republican president create such an alliance?  Maybe because only a Republican president can do this, just as Richard Nixon was the one who could go to China. With politics having become so vile, the only way out may be to bypass its conventions: get past left versus right, to collaboration for the restoration of sanity. Why would responsible business support this? Because, for the sake of sustainability, business needs a country in balance, not one in perpetual crisis.

In the 1930s, in times of great strife, not so dissimilar to those now, Americans got a New Deal. Today, across the political spectrum, Americans need a Decent Deal.


© Henry Mintzberg 2024. No rights reserved: This has a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.