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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Did Nikki Haley Help Kill Cap-and-Trade?

The big development in non-election news from Washington this week has been the collapse of bipartisan negotiations for cap-and-trade legislation, caused by Sen. Lindsey Graham’s defection. Said defection has been a long time in the making; earlier Graham broke off longstanding negotiations with Sens. Kerry and Lieberman on climate change, allegedly because he was angry with Harry Reid for hinting that immigration reform might come first in the Senate. Now that Reid’s backed off that idea, Graham’s been forced to more or less flip-flop entirely on climate change, and is now backing a far less ambitious bill introduced by Richard Lugar that would have no cap on carbon emissions.
The CW has suggested that Graham’s happy feet on climate change is the product of pressure from his Republican colleagues in Congress who don’t want any “cap-and-tax” bill and basically don’t want any cooperation with the Obama administration and congressional Democrats. But I think the problem may be a little closer to home for Graham.
Earlier this year, a couple of Republican county committees down in South Carolina raised eyebrows with censure resolutions aimed at Graham for his support for cap-and-trade, comprehensive immigration reform, and TARP. One of those committees was from Lexington County, which happens to be the residence of Nikki Haley, who then became the only gubernatorial candidate to embrace Graham’s censure for ideological heresy.
Now maybe it’s a coincidence that Graham threw in the towel on cap-and-trade the day after Haley became a national political rock star in the wake of her strong (49%) performance in the SC Republican gubernatorial primary, but maybe it’s not. Graham won’t be up for re-election until 2014, but as Bob Dylan once said (though not in the context of climate change): “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
I bring this up in part as a reminder to progressives who are naturally sympathetic to Haley as a woman and as a minority member who has been accused without much evidence of being a cheat and a liar, and called a “raghead” to boot. That’s all well and good, but don’t forget she is also a serious hard-core conservative who eagerly identifies herself with the Jim DeMint, take-no-prisoners wing of her party, and who may have just played a role in blowing up what was once a promising effort to deal with one of the most important challenges facing the country and the world. To be sure, she should be judged on her ideas and record and not subjected to gender-based double standards or sexual innuendo. But make no mistake, her “ideas” are really bad from any progressive point of view. She’s only a breath of fresh air in SC politics if you think, like she does, that the good ol’ boys who’ve been running things are dangerously liberal.

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