Nikki Haley is trying to occupy that as-yet unobtainable sweet spot in female GOP electoral Venn diagram where strong, motherly and fascist intersect

The New York Times, being “respectable,” isn’t putting it quite that way. NYT is calling it “the treacherous road for GOP women.”


The early days of Ms. Haley’s campaign, which she announced on Tuesday, quickly illustrated the challenges facing Republican women. For decades, female leaders in both parties have struggled with what political scientists call the double bind — the difficulty of proving one’s strength and competence, while meeting voters’ expectations of warmth, or of being “likable enough,” as former President Barack Obama once said of Hillary Clinton during a 2008 primary debate.

But for Republican women, that double bind comes with a twist. There are conservative voters who harbor traditional views about femininity while expecting their candidates to seem “tough.” Several strategists suggested Republican primary voters would have little patience if a female candidate were to level accusations of sexism toward another Republican. And Mr. Trump, who remains a powerful figure in the party and is running again, has already attacked Ms. Haley with criticism some view as gendered.

Even before she entered the race, Mr. Trump dismissed Ms. Haley as “overly ambitious,” which struck some observers as sexist. And soon after her official announcement, he suggested her appointment as U.N. ambassador was less a reflection of her credentials than of his desire to see her male lieutenant governor take over as governor. She also confronted a male CNN anchor, who asserted that Ms. Haley and women her age — 51, decades younger than Mr. Trump or President Biden — were past their “prime.”

Ms. Haley, who could be joined by other female contenders, including Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, is operating within a G.O.P. that has often dismissed debate about identity as the purview of the left, and has, in many corners, increasingly lambasted discussions of gender and race as “wokeness.”

What the dynamic has turned out to be, of course, is that GOP women — Elise Stefanik, Kari Lake, Nikki Haley — need to out-fascist the male fascists to have any chance whatsoever.

It’s been weird to watch as competent Republican women, whom I long ago fantasized as the would-be saviors who get fed up with the nonsense and eventually wrest control from the male Tea Party fanatics, are all turning out to be the kinds of people who would have been goose-stepping down the Champs-Élysées in 1940 marveling at the manliness and leadership qualities of Monsieur Hitler.

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