Come On, Folks, Give Nikki Haley a Break

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My Twitter feed has been alight with mockery of the latest from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley: “We’ve never, in the history of this country, passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion,” she said at a press conference today. What an idiot!

But, you know, always click the link. Here’s the full quote:

When you’ve got immigrants who are coming here legally, we’ve never in the history of this country passed any laws or done anything based on race or religion. Let’s not start that now.

This still isn’t quite correct: After World War I a series of immigration restrictions were passed that explicitly favored northern European whites; limited immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans; and banned Asian immigrants almost entirely. Still, Haley can be forgiven for not knowing about this or other examples of restrictive immigration laws. It’s not especially common knowledge these days. In any case, she obviously wasn’t pretending that Jim Crow and its ilk never existed.

So let’s dial down the faux outrage. Haley was doing the Lord’s work here, criticizing Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the country. In fact, given the context, she might have meant to refer not to immigrants at all, but merely to people visiting the country on ordinary visas—in which case she didn’t really say anything wrong at all. Either way, though, she did nothing worse than betray an incomplete knowledge of American history while talking off the cuff. It’s hardly a big deal.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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