Haley’s hypocritical embrace, by Marc H. Morial

1/11/2024, 6 p.m.
“The Lost Cause mythology was more than bad history. It provided the intellectual justification for Jim Crow — not just …

“The Lost Cause mythology was more than bad history. It provided the intellectual justification for Jim Crow — not just in the former Confederacy, but everywhere systemic racism denied Black citizens equal citizenship and economic rights ... That’s why the recent retreat to Lost Cause mythos is troubling. One would think that a Republican candidate for the presidency might be proud of the party’s roots as a firmly anti-slavery organization that dismantled the “Peculiar Institution” and fomented a critical constitutional revolution during Reconstruction— one that truly made the country more free.”— Joshua Zeitz

When she was inaugurated as South Carolina’s first woman and first non-white governor in 2011, Nikki Haley said, “It would be wrong to mention our greatness during the revolutionary period without noting the ugliness of much that followed.

The horrors of slavery and discrimination … remain part of our history and a part of the fabric of our lives.”

It would be wrong.

That didn’t stop Ms. Haley, now a presidential candidate, from flagrantly pandering to racists by lying about the cause of the Civil War during a town hall in New Hampshire.

When she told her questioner that answering him wasn’t “easy,” it wasn’t because she didn’t know that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. It was because she knew that giving the correct answer would alienate voters who have embraced a false version of history.

In the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, issued Dec. 24, 1860, the government of South Carolina explained its reasons for seceding from the United States. Those reasons bear no resemblance to Ms. Haley’s cowardly blather about “the freedoms” and “the role of government.”

Unlike Ms. Haley, South Carolina’s lawmakers were honest about their reasons for seceding. “An increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery has led to a disregard of their obligations” to return people who escaped from enslavement back to their enslavers.

All 11 states who seceded – and the pro-secession minority of legislators in Missouri and Kentucky cited slavery as their reason.

Ms. Haley does not claim to be ignorant of this history. The day after her craven response in New Hampshire sparked national outrage, she declared, “Of course the Civil War was about slavery,” but quickly returned to her vague talking points about “the role of government” and “individual liberties.”

Ms. Haley’s pandering on the issue of slavery in New Hampshire appears to contrast with her comments in 2015, after a white supremacist who draped himself in symbols of the Confederacy murdered nine Black worshippers at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. Announcing the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, she called it — for some — “a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past.”

But she has long been willing to overlook “the horrors of slavery” in discussing the cause of the Civil War. In a 2010 interview with an activist group called Palmetto Patriots, she said the war was a conflict between “tradition” and “change,” never mentioning that the tradition was slavery.

Interestingly, the reason why Palmetto Patriots asked the question of Ms. Haley, who is of South Asian ancestry, and none of the other candidates for governor, is rooted in racism. The other candidates were “Southerners whose families go back to beyond the war between the states, back to antebellum times, and they would have a deeper appreciation of Southern thinking and mentality,” a spokesman said.

As the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, Ms. Haley’s loyalty to the false “Lost Cause” interpretation of history could not be assumed when she was running for governor. As a presidential candidate, she has proved that she is eager to defend white supremacy by distorting history and presenting racial gaps as the result of ‘merit” and “hard work” instead of systemic oppression.

The writer is president of the National Urban League.