Although Nikki Haley is an articulate, highly presentable political performer, she also seems clueless about what drives most Republican voters in 2024. This is equally true of her donors, including Reid Hoffman, the usually reliable Democratic sugar daddy who this year took a chance on the former South Carolina governor. All of them want a return to “normalcy,” as they define the term, which means a more stable version of what we now have, without quite so much turmoil on the southern border and, of course, with a rising stock market.
Haley’s persistent complaint about Donald Trump is that he’ll bring “chaos,” which Nikki and her donors certainly do not want. She is also concerned that Trump “tried to buddy up to dictators,” whereas Haley wants to fight these distant baddies and shower their liberated subjects with state-of-the-art “human rights.”
Nikki Haley and the Never-Trumpers who have rallied to her have no message to match what Trump offers.
Unfortunately, most Republican voters don’t want these goodies. In fact, they have no problem with “chaos” if that means draining the swamp, going after the “fake media,” and making Trump’s enemies pay for weaponizing the government against them.
When pollsters asked Republican voters in New Hampshire what they expect a Republican administration to do to improve the political situation, the overwhelming response was “curb immigration and overhaul the federal government.” Those who took this position must have known the price they would pay for the “overhaul” would be contending with the deep state, the Democratic National Committee, and quite possibly mobs incited by the media and financed by woke capitalists.
What these voters most clearly don’t want is what Nikki Haley, Reid Hoffman, the Wall Street Journal, and Mitch McConnell want to give them: a fine-tuned, less malicious version of the government now in power together with military crusades against “dictators.”
Trump voters have a very different priority, which is fighting and defeating the woke, globalist, Green New Deal dictatorship under which they live at home.
For those of us (and here I include myself) who may have wondered why all those millions of fans who attend his rallies cheer Trump even when he rants on about personal grievances and even when he crudely insults rivals, the answer is quite simple. Trump is “fighting” for those who are cheering his words. He lets us know that he is being reviled by the media and bombarded with lawfare because he “stands in the way” of those who are coming after “the American people” — i.e., his voters.
His voters are the decent, hardworking, church-attending Americans who come to his rallies and who shiver in the cold, listening on loudspeakers, if they can’t make it into the auditorium. Because Trump is there and fighting for them, his MAGA supporters will be protected against their most venomous foes in both the media and deep state.
Nikki Haley and the Never-Trumpers who have rallied to her and who lavish her with campaign funds have no message to match that. Expressing pride in our “democratic values” and pledging devotion to human rights really doesn’t cut the mustard with today’s right, especially if the voters there find themselves being harassed by a government that demeans them socially and treats them as a domestic enemy.
George W. Bush-style Republican rhetoric doesn’t resonate with a transformed GOP. For present Republican voters, the greatest dangers are internal, and the prime enemy is the one who has opened our southern border to invaders and who is using government surveillance agencies to go after political dissenters.
What matters to Trump’s voters
This is not to say that Trump will necessarily do all that he promises. The last time he was president, he didn’t drain the swamp. He also appointed liberal internationalist-type Republicans, like Haley, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton, to conduct U.S. foreign policy. Still, living conditions then were better for Trump’s base, and there was no deliberate attempt, as there is now, to flood the country with future Democratic voters.
But unless Trump sets out to purge a hostile public administration, whatever he and his voters lament will continue to bedevil them. Quite possibly, Trump’s base would get what they want programmatically with greater certainty by backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, someone who represents Trump’s populist views but who articulates them more coherently and in fuller detail. DeSantis as president would also be less likely than Trump to pick fights over personal affronts and would undoubtedly show more gravitas than his former rival for the presidency.
But none of that matters to the Republican base, which cheers on Trump precisely because he savages those whom his partisans hate.
And Trump delights in upping the ante to rile his adversaries. For example, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott resisted attempts by the Biden administration to remove razor-wire obstacles to illegal aliens crossing the border, almost all Republican dignitaries rushed to Abbott’s defense. But Trump immediately called for more. He urged Republican governors to send their National Guard units to the Texas-Mexico border to aid Abbott against the invasion of illegal aliens that had been unleashed by the Biden administration.
Whether that happens remains to be seen. For Trump’s fans, however, the important thing is his defiant gesture.