While Governor Haley’s response to the State of the Union criticized much of Obama’s legacy, she did strike a similar tone over the politics of division. Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, was able to emphasize her own family’s experience of the American Dream in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric against Muslim and Latin American immigrants. She referenced the Charleston shootings of last June to show that even in the face of threats, Americans can come together with respect and compassion. She explained her state did not break into violence, it did not target people based on their race or religion, and even took down a historic symbol that caused division. “There's an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there's a tendency to falsely equate noise with results. Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.” Haley has been a noted critic of Trump for months, criticizing his anti-immigrant rhetoric as early as July, and calling his ban on Muslims entering the United States both “un-American” and “unconstitutional.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has referred to Haley as “an inclusive leader who's visionary, who's got a path for the future, who's brought people together.” Choosing her to deliver the Republican response sends a clear message about the tone the Republican leadership wishes to set for its party.
The question remains, how will Trump respond to attacks from both parties’ establishments? While most candidates might fear such criticism from their party’s leadership, Trump is not most candidates. As one of the most successful political outsiders in American history, Trump is not beholden to the Republican leadership or political donors, and is therefore free to speak his mind on the issues, a fact which appeals to many of his supporters. As a candidate who runs on his lack of political experience, his ability to draw criticism from both the Republican and Democratic political establishments not only furthers his outside credentials, but manages to paint the Republican leadership as being in league with the Democrats. Leaders like Ryan and Haley may seek to rebrand the Republican party as more inclusive and respectful, but Trump’s consistently high polling numbers indicate that his xenophobic comments may be more in touch with the Republican base than they are. In this instance, Trump taking veiled criticism from both parties’ speeches may in fact help his chances rather than hurt them.
*The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not represent those of The Political Analysis.