Early in Haley’s video, the former South Carolina governor goes all in on The 1619 Project, the now four-year-old New York Times magazine theme issue (turned book, turned documentary). For Haley, her story—“I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. Not Black, not white. I was different”—is what makes America great: the tale of someone who was raised to love this country and who was ultimately rewarded for that love. In that sense, Haley’s case is unique. She will likely be the only daughter of Indian immigrants standing on the Republican debate stage. But the larger point she is making is the same one you’ll hear many Republicans make again and again: America has gotten over its violently racist past and is now postracial, even colorblind—for Haley, her own success is proof of this.
There is a lot of time devoted to The 1619 Project and “critical race theory.” But the video nevertheless manages to whiz through an array of familiar right-wing baddies and tropes. “Some look at our past as evidence that America’s founding principles are bad,” Haley says over a montage of horrifying images: The 1619 Project’s logo, a picture of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a sign reading “Racism is a Pandemic.”
“They say the promise of freedom is just made up,” she continues. “Some think our ideas are not just wrong but racist and evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen evil. In Iran, they murder their own people for challenging the government. When a woman tells you about soldiers throwing babies in a fire, it puts things in perspective. Even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.” “America: It’s Not China or Iran” may not be the winning political slogan Nikki Haley thinks it is.