The XX Factor

Nikki Haley: More Socially Conservative than You Think

Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images

Even though I didn’t agree with her politics, I admired South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley when she was elected last fall. As our own Hanna Rosin pointed out in an Atlantic profile of Haley, she’s an Indian American woman who toppled the good ol’ boys of South Carolina politics, and she did it by focusing on fiscal conservatism. As Hanna put it, Haley painted herself as “a corporate accountant with a competitive streak,” not someone who was focused on fighting abortion or gay marriage or making the United States into a Christian nation.

Which is why it is troubling and upsetting to see her attending a North Charleston Town Hall hosted by Rep. Michele Bachmann. According to Politico, though Haley hasn’t endorsed anyone for president yet, has spoken favorably about two candidates so far: Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. What do Bachmann and Perry have in common? They are the candidates who are the most baldly religious, who are virulently anti-abortion and gay marriage, who muddle the lines between church and state in a very unsettling way.This feels especially confusing coming from Haley, considering the fact that she was raised Sikh, and even had a Sikh wedding ceremony along with a Methodist one.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. There have been signs for a while now that the Tea Party isn’t as economically focused as they would have had you believe when they first emerged two years ago. As Amanda put it in a post from May, “The real story here is that the GOP is claiming to be all about economics, and then turning around and spending most of their time trying to legislate sex out of existence.” I just thought Nikki Haley might be the one tea partier who walked the walk of economic focus instead of just talking the talk.