To be fair, you can see why some people were impressed: Haley crisply laid out the GOP’s principles and effectively invoked the June shooting in Charleston, S.C., (though she did leave out her initial reluctance to take down the Confederate flag at the state capitol). And happily for many establishment Republicans, she jabbed at Trump, Cruz and company. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” she said. “We must resist that temptation.”
As favorable as the reaction from some Republicans was, though, Trump supporters and others not-so-enamored of the GOP establishment were not favorable in their reviews. Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and other conservative talk show hosts slammed the speech. Carly Fiorina, still trying to get traction in the “outsider” track to the GOP nomination, said “it was the wrong note.” Of course, some number of conservatives have always wanted to be “noisier” and even less compromising, on the grounds that Democrats and the weak-kneed GOP establishment are flushing America down the toilet. A true, uncompromising conservative, they say, would, well, “Make America Great Again.” The difference is that now, between Cruz, Trump and Ben Carson, the “everything is awful” portion of the GOP is a clear majority, not limited to the fringe.
Frankly, though, Haley and company shouldn’t be surprised. Though her speech may not have been as hyperbolic, it still subtly fed the fears that sustain that “Make America Great Again” anger. There is “chaotic unrest in many of our cities,” she said. America faces “the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th, and this president appears either unwilling or unable to deal with it.” Democrats are “demonizing” American success. In short, Haley said, “we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory.”
If all of these things are true, and if as Haley said, the GOP must admit that it has “played a role in how and why our government is broken,” why should the conservative base trust the Republican establishment? Why shouldn’t they be fearful of where the United States is going? Isn’t anyone not standing firm against such “threats” endangering America?
“We live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory” doesn’t become magically less fear-inducing when spoken rather than shouted, or when mixed in with promises of lower taxes. The message is still the same: Be afraid. That fear and the anger from the GOP establishment’s apparent complacency are the reasons behind the strength of Trump, Cruz and others. Platitudes from Nikki Haley and others won’t stop that fear as long as they keep feeding it.