Feeding False Equivalency

Retiring South Carolina Democratic chairman Dick Harpootlian, who has a history of dubious comments about the opposition, gave Nikki Haley and Palmetto State Republicans the going-away gift of a speech suggesting that Democrats “send Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from.” Haley, as you probably know, is an Indian-American (or more precisely, a Sikh-American).

That’s borderline obnoxious, since it could refer to Haley’s relative lack of experience before being elected governor in 2010. It’s also a bit unlikely, insofar as the politician scheduled to “send Nikki Haley back to wherever she came from” is former state legislator Vincent Sheheen, who is an Arab-American (or more precisely, a Lebanese-American). But still, it’s a gift to a Republican Party, in South Carolina and nationally, that is hungry for any material that could enable it to claim victimization and play the “so’s-your-old-man” card when its own officials forget it’s no longer cool to be the White Man’s Party.

So Peter Beinert is right that Democrats ought to strongly repudiate any intentional or unintentional slur of Haley or any other politician in either party. It’s the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do. Lord knows I’m no fan of Nikki Haley, but her racial/ethnic background has zero to do with the case for sending her back to Lexington (the Columbia suburb she represented in the legislature) or Bamburg (her birthplace, about 50 miles away).

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.