Political Animal


May 06, 2013 3:35 PM Feeding False Equivalency

By Ed Kilgore

Retiring South Carolina Democratic chairman Dick Harpootlian, who has a history of dubious comments about the opposition, gave Nikki Haley and Palmetto State Republicans the going-away gift of a speech suggesting that Democrats “send Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from.” Haley, as you probably know, is an Indian-American (or more precisely, a Sikh-American).

That’s borderline obnoxious, since it could refer to Haley’s relative lack of experience before being elected governor in 2010. It’s also a bit unlikely, insofar as the politician scheduled to “send Nikki Haley back to wherever she came from” is former state legislator Vincent Sheheen, who is an Arab-American (or more precisely, a Lebanese-American). But still, it’s a gift to a Republican Party, in South Carolina and nationally, that is hungry for any material that could enable it to claim victimization and play the “so’s-your-old-man” card when its own officials forget it’s no longer cool to be the White Man’s Party.

So Peter Beinert is right that Democrats ought to strongly repudiate any intentional or unintentional slur of Haley or any other politician in either party. It’s the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do. Lord knows I’m no fan of Nikki Haley, but her racial/ethnic background has zero to do with the case for sending her back to Lexington (the Columbia suburb she represented in the legislature) or Bamburg (her birthplace, about 50 miles away).

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • low-tech cyclist on May 06, 2013 4:08 PM:

    Yeah, this is definitely one comment that all good Dems should publicly repudiate. I see Harpootlian is still has his foot "firmly entrenched where a molar should be," as Deborah Harry used to sing.

    (Nitpick - that's Bamberg. Used to pass through it with some frequency on weekends when I was working on my doctorate as USC, and my then-fiancee, now my wife of 22 years, was an instructor at Georgia Southern.)

  • MuddyLee on May 06, 2013 4:21 PM:

    Glad to see Harpootlian is retiring - with friends like him...as the saying goes. Maybe he should have said "let's retire Nikki Haley so she can get an OFFICIAL job working for the Koch Brothers instead of doing their bidding without compensation." Sheheen would make a much better governor for South Carolina - he could be the best one since Dick Riley (another Democrat). I was not a fan of Jim Hodges, who was the governor before Mark Sanford and who was also a Democrat - he was too close to the video poker and state lottery "industries".

  • gregor on May 06, 2013 4:49 PM:

    I don't know if Sikh-American is more precise.

    Is Catholic-American more precise than Irish-American?

  • c u n d gulag on May 06, 2013 4:50 PM:

    He's a schmuck.

    The Democrats need him to sit down, and drink a big cup or STFU!!!

  • Bob on May 06, 2013 6:47 PM:

    Harpootlian is an embarrassing, egotistical loose cannon.

  • giantslor on May 07, 2013 10:32 AM:

    Gregory: Yes, Sikh-American is more precise. Sikhism is a de facto ethnic religion, unlike Catholicism.