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Nikki Haley offers vision for Republican Party, teases presidential bid at campus event

Katie Bradham, Senior Photographer

Senior management major Taylor Rogers and Nikki Haley go through discussion questions during the event on Nov. 29. 

Nikki Haley, former South Carolina Governor, Clemson alumna and Board of Trustees member, spoke on a variety of issues for the Republican party and teased a potential presidential bid at a campus event Tuesday night.

Haley focused her speech on explaining the underperformance of the Republican Party in the midterm elections and offered up her vision for the future of the party. She defended the quality of the Republican midterm candidates and downplayed former President Donald Trump’s impact on the success of candidates.

Haley attributed Republican underperformance to Democrats’ success in fundraising, early voting turnout and party unification. She laid out a set of focuses for the Republican Party, which included the economy, crime, election integrity, education, safety abroad and opposing criticism of America.

The event, titled “The Road to Saving America,” was hosted by Clemson’s chapter of the non-profit organization Turning Point USA. The decision to host Haley was met with criticism by the Clemson College Republicans, who questioned Haley’s ideological status as a Republican.

During her speech, Haley criticized the state of the economy. She decried high government spending, especially large budget sizes for entertainment infrastructure. She voiced concern about rising debt at the national level and the inability of individuals and small businesses to pay off expenses.

“31% of small business owners couldn’t make their rent payment in October,” Haley said. “Small businesses are the heartbeat of our economy.”

Education needs to be talked about more frequently, according to Haley. She stated that U.S. reading and math proficiency levels are behind where they need to be and were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let this sink in. 70% of 8th graders in America aren’t proficient in reading,” she said. “We need to get our act together.”

Haley also focused on cultural issues, stating that the U.S.-Mexico border is lawless. “You’ve had over a hundred terrorists already cross that border that we know of,” Haley said. “It’s not if there’s a 9/11; it’s when there’s going to be a 9/11 if we don’t do something to stop it.”

Haley called for voter ID laws in South Carolina to bolster election integrity, pointing to surveys indicating broad support for the policy. “It is absolutely racist to think that minorities are incapable of going to the DMV and getting an ID,” she said. 

Haley, who served as U.N. Ambassador under the Trump administration, said that America is in the worst spot it has ever been in for safety abroad. She stated that missteps by the Biden administration in Afghanistan set the stage for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Haley voiced her support for national pride, which she believes has dwindled in America. Haley pointed to the protests in China and Iran over human rights violations as evidence of the abundance of freedoms American citizens enjoy.

During a question-and-answer session, Haley perpetuated falsehoods about Critical Race Theory. She claimed that the curriculum is taught to kindergarteners and further stated that it includes teaching a five-year-old girl that “if she’s white, she’s bad, and if she’s brown or black, she’s never going to be good enough, and she’s always going to be a victim.”

Haley teased a possible presidential run at the end of the event. “I’ve never lost a race, and I’m not going to start now. If we decide to get into it, we’ll put a thousand percent into it, and we’ll finish it,” she said.

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