Nikki Haley's Surprising SOTU Response Divides The Republican Party When It Most Needs To Come Together
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley gave the official Republican response to President Obama's final State of the Union speech Tuesday night. But it looks like many conservatives aren't happy with what she had to say. Right-wing reaction is already pouring in, and the revealing divide in the response to Haley's SOTU rebuttal is indicative of the growing problems within the GOP.
Much like her own party, Haley's response seemed split. Of course part of her time was spent addressing Obama's speech, and she worked hard to strike a bipartisan tone. The commitment to productivity over divisiveness was appreciated by moderate Democrats and Republicans alike — the polling numbers for Haley's speech were even higher than Obama's in one focus group. But her admission of the party's culpability in partisanship and her proposal of conservative compromise didn't sit well with hard-line conservatives, whom she addressed in the other half of her speech.
Haley codedlyl told Donald Trump to sit down and shut up. “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume.” The pointed recommendation, almost certainly aimed at the bombastic presidential candidate, also serves as a warning to his supporters to turn away from radical rhetoric, and to react rationally rather than out of fear. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.”
Immediately, right-wing pundits expressed outrage online, responding with inflammatory comments to Haley's carefully parsed words. Radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted, "The country is lit up w/ a populist fever & the GOP responds by digging in, criticizing the GOP candidates dominating polls?! NOT SMART." Meanwhile, Ann Coulter tweeted, "Nikki Haley says 'welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of religion.' Translation: let in all the Muslims."
That's not to say that all Republicans were displeased with Haley's speech. Plenty of politicians and pundits who have publicly opposed Trump's ultra-conservative rhetoric took to social media to voice their support. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush wrote on Twitter, "Proud of my friend @nikkihaley for delivering a positive & uplifting response to Pres. Obama's #SOTU. Clear vision for a brighter future." Journalist Matt Lewis summed up the problem perfectly in a single tweet: "Very good Nikki Haley speech. The Party of Ryan/Haley is a stark contrast to the Party of Trump."
The Republican Party seems to be fracturing, and Haley clearly isn't the one to bring it back together. The party is suffering from the lack of a unifying figure, and in the current state of political turmoil, it's buckling under its own weight. The gap in the reactions to Haley's speech makes the problem clear: The GOP needs to come together before it falls apart.