A little over one year out from the Presidential General Election of 2024 and, while much remains unclear, there are some certainties. For instance, despite the ambiguity in the primary field today, this race will almost surely be decided by a small number of voters in a smaller number of swing states; and the competition for those voters will be as fierce as a Texas Thunderclap.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that we need someone who will prioritize the widening gap of our social divide, or we risk reentering the drowning partisan waters of years past. During the Eisenhower administration, there existed deep fractures in the American populace over controversial philosophies such as sending troops overseas in peacetime to defend our European allies. And on March 4, 1861, about five weeks before the Confederates bombarded Union soldiers at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, Abraham Lincoln used his First Inaugural Address to speak to the nation at perhaps the most divisive time in our nation’s history, a speech that will long be remembered for calling upon “…the better angels of our nature,” to help close the divide.
Given our current situation, there is (and should be) great concern for the future of our nation. We stand at a crossroads, and the decisions we make now will ripple for generations. But, while today we stand far apart with a seemingly widening fissure dividing us, there is both hope and precedence for reconciliation.
Last week I had the great privilege of spending a little time with Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2017-2018) and South Carolina Governor (2011-2017), and I came away with the distinct impression that she may well be the community catalyst that our people need.
I suppose there are many at this time that would consider her a longshot. But if the last two Republican debates have proven anything, it is that when offered a national opportunity to distinguish themselves, not a single candidate has stood out. And this is great news for a candidate like Nikki Haley, who is not afraid to take a bold and courageous stance against the poor decisions made by her own party, as she did in the first debate when pointing out the hypocrisy of her party demanding a stop to the astronomical spending of the Democratic Party, when in fact, the $2.2 trillion COVID stimulus bill was likewise passed by the Republicans.
If you are looking for a candidate that brings a commonsense approach to both managing and leading the country, the country would be doing itself a tremendous favor by deep diving into the ideas and philosophies of Nikki Haley. She boasts a level of foreign policy experience that almost no other candidate can match and is advocating for policies that, I’m quite certain, would receive overwhelming bipartisan support of the people, including congressional term limits, cognitive testing of elected officials after a certain age, and suspension of salaries until a reasonable budget is approved. It’s worth noting that initiatives that receive considerable support from the people and would also tend to provoke significant negative reactions from elected officials (like, for instance, term limits), are also the proposals that generally end up on the congressional cutting room floor. Nikki Haley is adamant that her administration will prioritize the will of the people.
The other thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that, of all the candidates who have taken part in the past two debates, Nikki Haley, in fact, has the best resume of them all. So, in addition to being smart and capable and classy and engaging, she also brings considerable international credibility and political know-how to the role. She exudes a certain moral clarity that may well influence both rural and urban voters and could (and should) lift her above her opponents and set her on a direct course to the White House.
Ultimately we, as a nation, have options. We can choose to unite by following the practices of leaders like Dwight Eisenhower, Abraham Lincoln and Nikki Haley, or we can choose to elect officials who would rather remain divided in the House and Senate Chambers and refuse to collaborate with each other, despite the fact that any refusal to work together is directly contrary to that which is in the best interests of their constituency and their country.
We need elected leaders with the proven ability to unite a group of diverse individuals for the good of the whole. We need elected leaders who appreciate and recognize the command that a president like Abraham Lincoln had when delivering a message. And, above all else, we need elected leaders who realize the value that is placed on collective success above individual praise. In other words, times of such turmoil and disunity can only be overcome once we’ve identified (elected) the best people we have. Once we’ve identified (and elected) our “better angels.”
And after the time I spent with her last week, I am convinced that Nikki Haley fits the bill.
Arun Agarwal is the CEO of Nextt, A Textile Company.