Nikki Haley Clocks In

The new governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, was sworn into office this morning.  The overlapping fallout zones from the Tucson atrocity, and Sarah Palin’s video address on the topic, unfortunately drew attention away from an interesting inaugural address.

After saluting the previous governor of South Carolina and his wife, who are remarkable for entirely different reasons, Haley reminisced about her state’s history of “fierce independence,” including the pivotal role of South Carolina militia in the Revolutionary War.  “Tax protests, tea parties, the grassroots beating the professionals – it does have a certain ring to it,” she said with a wink.

Wait a second.  Did she say “fierce?”  And “beating?”  Good Lord, how could she pour such violent fuel into the gas tank of hateful right-wing politics?  I’d better go work off my violent rage on the heavy bag.

Okay, I’m back.  Haley used her family history to make a concise, and uplifting, statement about the eternal human struggle to overcome prejudice: “I stand before you today, the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. Growing up in rural, small town South Carolina, my family experienced this state and this country at its best. No, not every day was perfect. No, we were not always free from the burdens faced by those who look and sound different.  But we counted our blessings, and my parents reminded me and my brothers and sister every day how blessed we were to live in this country.  We saw the constant example of neighbors helping neighbors.  For us, happiness existed in not knowing what we didn’t have, and in knowing that what we did have was the opportunity to better our lives through hard work and strong values.”

This is an important point about our personal responsibility for interpreting, and responding to, the world around us.  Haley and her family refused to allow the bad to obscure their view of the good.  Each of us must decide what we see as a challenge, and what we take as an insult.  The cup of bitterness comes with unlimited free refills.  You decide when to stop drinking from it.

“I will always be the proud daughter of immigrants,” Haley declared.  “I will always cherish our family’s experience.  And I will always strive in my actions and in my words to make South Carolina a place where all of our children, regardless of race or gender, know that unlimited opportunities for happiness and success await them.”  Unlimited guarantees of happiness and success never work out very well.  True equality comes in the form of opportunity.

The new governor acknowledged her state’s fiscal problems, which include an $829 million budget shortfall.  Her remarks today didn’t cover any specific items on her agenda, but everyone knows budget cuts are coming. “In our coming actions, we must recognize that we will not produce the jobs our people deserve by placing higher tax burdens on our workers and our small businesses,” Haley said.  “And we will not reach prosperity by increasing state government’s share of our economy.  Be assured, however, that I have every confidence we will achieve a much more prosperous place.  And we will do so by going back to that spirit of independence that fueled South Carolina’s leading role in defeating the strongest nation on earth two centuries ago.”

There she goes with the militaristic language again.  Back to the heavy bag!  Writing this post is burning a ton of calories.

It will be important to watch Haley’s progress in South Carolina, which is hungry for the same kind of spending cuts and reforms vitally needed in Washington.  Haley and her Republican allies have virtually complete control of the state government, so expectations are high.  The governor just clocked in to a very demanding job, in which – as she put it – failure is not an option.