South Asian American voters reflect on a Nikki Haley connection that never was 

Trending 1 month ago

South Asian voters watched Nikki Haley exit nan statesmanlike title connected Wednesday without overmuch fanfare. Many said they felt uninspired by Haley, who they said had a flimsy relationship to nan Indian American community. 

South Asian American voters are pointing to what they opportunity was Nikki Haley’s flimsy relationship to nan organization aft she exited nan statesmanlike title Wednesday morning. 

Indian Americans specifically, 68% of whom thin Democratic, said they struggled pinch her beingness connected nan run trail: A personnel of their organization made it truthful acold connected a nationalist stage, but they felt she didn’t correspond them.

The GOP superior run has been a roadworthy of mixed feelings for nan organization aft Haley and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy captured headlines and overmuch of nan spotlight connected statement stages. 

Supporters Nikki Haley astatine a run rallyHaley supporters astatine a run rally Sunday successful Portland, Maine.Scott Eisen / Getty Images

“I’m gladsome it’s over,” said Ashwin Ramaswami, 24, a Gen Z campaigner making his first bid for nan authorities Senate successful Georgia. “It was fascinating to watch.”

Experts opportunity Haley’s policies veered acold from nan priorities of Indian American voters. Though she presented herself arsenic a much mean replacement to erstwhile President Donald Trump, she fell short for South Asians connected issues for illustration guns, nan ambiance and reproductive rights, said Varun Nikore, nan executive head of nan nonprofit AAPI Victory Alliance. 

Haley's exit efficaciously solidifies Trump’s nomination. Her run did not respond to a petition for comment.

“Nikki was still successful nan extremist campy — frankly, successful nan Trump campy — connected each of those cardinal issues,” he said. “She is truthful acold retired of touch pinch South Asian Americans and nan immense mostly of AAPIs, arsenic well.”

Haley’s exit brings a operation of alleviation and worry, voters say. She didn’t correspond them well, they say, but a Biden-Trump rematch worries them, too. 

“Nikki Haley has travel up successful a batch of conversations amongst my South Asian friends and family and colleagues,” Nikore said. “And possibly a fewer of them were benignant of holding retired hope. I sewage a consciousness that galore of them were rooting for Nikki, not because of Nikki, but because they knew really utmost Donald Trump was.”

Still, Haley wasn’t moreover connected nan radar for galore Asian Americans. A poll conducted by AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC recovered that conscionable 23% of Asian American and Pacific Islander adults person favorable views of Haley, and nan plurality, 40%, said they didn’t cognize capable astir her to springiness an opinion. 

“She does not correspond my politics,” said Geetika Rudra, 31, an Indian American elector from New York. “I deliberation nan truth that she moreover dropped retired to maine indicates that she doesn’t correspond a batch of people’s politics.”

Identity and racism connected nan run trail

Some South Asian voters opportunity Haley ne'er made an effort to link pinch nan organization aliases afloat clasp her identity. Others opportunity it wasn’t until this predetermination rhythm that they moreover knew she was Indian. 

Harita Iswara, a 23-year-old from Washington, D.C., said Haley ne'er touched connected her personality successful a meaningful measurement that supported communities of color, saying she utilized it much often to perpetuate nan exemplary number myth. 

Instead, Haley and Ramaswamy scrambled to triumph complete a guidelines of achromatic Christians, she said, and ultimately, it didn’t salary off. Because of what she said are racist views successful nan Republican Party, she thinks neither of them stood a chance.

“I’m hoping it’ll make group recognize that pandering to these utmost Christian nationalist talking points and achromatic supremacist ideologies are not going to fly,” she said. “At nan extremity of nan day, it doesn’t matter really blimpish your views are. The Republican Party is truthful utmost now that you are conscionable different brownish personification to them.” 

Nikki Haley greets supporters Haley greets supporters astatine a run arena successful Des Moines, Iowa, connected Jan. 15. Carolyn Kaster / AP file

Throughout her campaign, Haley was taxable to racist attacks from different conservatives. 

In January, Trump promoted a birther conspiracy theory astir Haley, claiming she wasn’t eligible to beryllium president because her parents are Indian immigrants. Haley was calved successful South Carolina. 

In February 2023, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter went connected a racist rant astir Haley connected a podcast. “Why don’t you spell backmost to your ain country?” she said. “What’s pinch nan worshipping of nan cows? They’re each starving complete there. Did you cognize they person a rat temple, wherever they believe rats?”

Even Ramaswamy took repeated jabs astatine Haley for choosing to spell by her mediate name, “Nikki,” alternatively of her Indian American commencement name, Nimrata Randhawa. “An easy point for maine to do being a leader to travel this way is shorten my name, profess to beryllium a Christian and past run,” Ramaswamy said astatine a municipality hall. “Let’s beryllium honorable — it happens. Make Vivek ‘Vikki’ aliases whatever.”

Buttons supporting Nikki HaleyButtons supporting Haley successful Portland, Maine, connected Sunday.Joseph Prezioso / AFP - Getty Images

Rudra said nan aggravated attraction connected her personality from some nan near and nan correct was unwarranted. 

“I deliberation we tin disagree politically pinch her, and you should,” Rudra said. “I don’t deliberation it has thing to do pinch her identity.”

She took rumor pinch nan thought that Haley has “whitewashed” herself, she said, and she said younger generations struggle to understand nan unit to assimilate that older generations of South Asians faced. 

“I get nan consciousness that galore group deliberation that she’s betraying nan civilization aliases betraying nan organization by conscionable being a Republican,” she said. “And I deliberation that is emblematic of wherever a batch of nan South Asian diaspora successful nan United States is — concentrated connected nan coasts.”

Looking beyond Haley, Ramaswami, nan Georgia authorities Senate candidate, sees a caller defender of South Asians successful authorities emerging. He said that it’s admirable Haley stood up to Trump for arsenic agelong arsenic she did but that caller voices are desperately needed.

For Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, they were nan only 2 not conscionable Indian Americans but South Asians successful that room,” he said of nan superior campaign. “I saw them arguing and I felt for illustration ‘my position is not really represented present astatine all.’ It’s really unfortunate. It would beryllium astonishing to spot a statesmanlike campaigner who’s South Asian and besides represents my values.”

For much from NBC Asian America, sign up for our play newsletter.

Sakshi Venkatraman

Sakshi Venkatraman is simply a newsman for NBC Asian America.