Haley paced back and forth nervously when presented with the question, “What was the cause of the civil war.” Her nervous pacing was a tell she was about to give an unorthodox answer to the question the New Hampshire independent voter put to her.
“I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run,” Haley said. “The freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do.”
Her twenty-five-word response ended any hope of becoming the first female president.
If she had said the following: “I think we all know slavery was the major contributing factor of the Civil War along with the lack of enforcement of the fugitive slave laws and the desire to expand slavery into the new territories.”
Most would have stopped listening after she said what everyone in that room knew and expected her to identify slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War.
Whether others would have asked about the fugitive slave laws and expanding slavery into new territories is up for grabs. But, if that did happen, she could have shown her chops on the integral parts of what contributed to the Southern states, starting with hers, to secede from the Union over their warped belief they had the right to enslave Black men, women, and children.
Instead, she spent several days trying to dig herself out of the hole she created. In every instance I saw, she just made it worse, even when she admitted she should have said slavery was the cause of the Civil War. As the saying goes, that horse was out of the barn.
Haley could have saved herself a great deal of grief if she had just said slavery, so why didn’t she? Thinking about it, I could come up with only one answer: she suffers from the following condition, “a personality quality of extreme or excessive pride or dangerous overconfidence and complacency, often in combination with arrogance.” It’s a condition known as hubris.
On one level, we shouldn’t be surprised at Haley’s response. It reflects how private schools in southern states teach the Civil War, or as they call it, The Lost Cause. Her response shows she learned her lessons well.
Elizabeth Spiers, a guest columnist at the New York Times, who attended Edgewood Academy in Elmore, Ala., wrote the following on how Southern private schools taught the Civil War:
“Our history textbooks positioned the Civil War as a states’ rights issue, a narrative that was reinforced by teachers, many of whom — as Gov. Haley suggests — did mention slavery but said the idea that it was a root cause of the war was liberal propaganda.”
Haley’s response to the question coincides with what Spiers wrote in her guest post. So, let’s take a moment and consider a few things regarding Haley’s response to the cause of the Civil War.
Enslavement of Africans was already in place in the colonies as an accepted practice. Most of the delegates attending the Constitutional Congress were themselves enslavers. This barbaric practice was making them wealthy.
But for some, they found trading in human flesh was starting to prick their conscience. For others, the opportunity to grow their wealth even further was too damn tempting to stop engaging in the practice. Pay particular attention to this clause: An immediate abolition of slavery would bring ruin upon the whites and misery upon the blacks in the southern states.
Ruin for the whites? Misery upon the blacks? What could that possibly mean?
Enslaving people was expensive. I’m not referring to food, clothing, and shelter. It was the purchase price. Feeding, clothing, and sheltering them was done on the cheap. Not every plantation owner was successful in the area of management. Abolishing enslavement would force foreclosure on many plantation owners as many were leveraged to the hilt. For those enslaved, they would be back on the auction block and sold again or worse. These plantation owners didn’t see them as human and would have no compunction about executing them. But that would be the last resort, as they were a commodity they could resell.
The Constitutional delegates decided to kick the can down the road and let whoever was in charge in 1808 devise a solution to solve the problem they created but had no desire to. So the founders’ solution — which South Carolina supported — left the next generation to clean up the mess they made.
The question put to Haley caused her to pause, thinking how best to respond. Toluse Oloruunnip of the Washington Post described her response, “Haley fell back on an assertion that has historically been seized upon by people sympathetic to the South — that the war was not fundamentally about slavery, but about federal power.
These town hall meetings can be tricky, but Haley should be used to them; after all, she is a former governor, has done her fair share of these types of meetings, and undoubtedly got her fair share of questions ranging from the ridiculous to the in-depth.
So, what if she answered the question in the following way?
Question: What was the cause of the Civil War?
Response: That’s an interesting question.
As you know, the inhuman practice of slavery was already in the colonies. It was a hotly contested issue, but in states like mine and Georgia, the issue of enslavement based on past agreements was an issue for them when it came to the possibility of expanding it in other states, and they felt their states’ rights around slavery were about to be cast aside.
I believe if Haley had responded with something similar as suggested, she would have avoided the rounds of explanations she went through, which didn’t improve the situation she placed herself in. This quote sums it up rather succinctly:
Political strategist Shermichael Singleton said the following;
“She had a chance to be competitive even though she was always likely to lose [the nomination]. However, that’s over now. She’s toast,” Singleton said. I agree with Shermichael. Her chances of occupying the Oval Office have vanished and will likely never reappear.
After watching the tape of what Haley said and how she handled herself, I understand what she attempted to do with her response. But there is something about Haley that will never allow her to grasp and understand how to explain the lingering impact enslavement has had on Blacks.
In discussions with various reporters and newscasters, she kept defaulting to how she had discussions with her friends and in school and some other damn gobbledygook claptrap she was feeding to the reporters. But, the point she was driving was state rights, which is code the right to enslave Black people.
Lincoln addressed the issue in a speech in Kalamazoo, Michigan. States like South Carolina were claiming they had the right to expand slavery into new territories and pushed the idea those they had enslaved were better off than freemen of the North.
“They insist that slavery has a right to spread. They defend it upon principle. They insist that their slaves are far better off than Northern freemen.” –Lincoln Speeches and Writings, 1832–1858 –Speech At Kalamazoo Michigan, pg. 379
In Haley’s explanation, she was attempting to point out that states’ rights were the focal point of why Southern states decided to secede from the Union. Essentially, Haley was advocating the continuation of the expansion of dehumanizing of men, women, and children for profit.
In 1860, Lincoln was elected to the presidency and addressed the issue of slavery in his inaugural address:
“Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States, that by the accession of a Republican Administration, their property, and their peace, and personal security, are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection.” — Lincoln Speeches and Writings, 1859–1865 — First Inaugural Address March 4, 1865, pg. 215.
On April 12, 1861, forty days after Lincoln gave his inaugural address, forces of the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, starting the bloodiest conflict ever on American soil over the issue of enslavement and from South Carolina’s and other southern states belief their right to expand it into other parts of the country.
Nikki Haley has ambition. She believes in herself. So much so she thinks she has what it takes to be the first female President of the United States. This country will indeed elect a woman to our highest office. It is long overdue. But as Shermichael Singelton said: “ She’s toast.”
Nikki Haley will never sit behind the Resolute Desk as President of the United States.