As women have made strides towards equality with men, numerous elections have been dubbed “the year of the woman.” Or perhaps they should have been called “the year of 55% of the women,” because the triumphant female candidates have invariably been Democratic. Republican women have yet, as of now, to enjoy a moment of political ascendency, but that disappointment may yield to triumph in 2024.

The catalyst for their rise could be former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who announced her candidacy for president today. Haley has taken on the fearless–and thankless–task of being the first Republican to enter the primary against Donald Trump. She’ll inevitably face degradation and abuse from the malevolent ex-president. But what, throughout history, have women endured but these very indignities?

As a liberal, I’m no fan of Haley. But in her confidence and political skill, she offers a role model to women long marginalized within the Republican Party. Haley also practices a style of politics that may appeal to the affinities of Republican women. To wit, she’s no culture warrior, and women have always been less socially conservative than men. That’s part of why suffragists argued women would play a salutary role as voters from the beginning.

Nikki Haley’s potential niche among women voters becomes clear when one considers the tone we’re sure to see from the two Republican frontrunners. Both Trump and Ron DeSantis are inveterately aggressive, drenched from head to toe in toxic masculinity. While Republican women stayed loyal to Trump, many of them supported the former president only with deep qualms about his temperament and values. A sunnier and more stalwart woman Republican could draw them into her camp with a sense of relief.

The prospect of Nikki Haley becoming President of the United States is heartening only in its implications for women’s potential in this country. Her run, if powered by women voters could, however, have a highly beneficial effect on the Republican Party. Large parts of the GOP’s pathologies flow from the toxic stew of unrestrained masculinity in which the party marinates. By building a coalition of women to win the nomination, Nikki Haley could do our country a great service.


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