That’s not the right answer, Nikki

Nikki Haley got asked a straightforward question: “What was the cause of the United States’ Civil War?” She staggers back, stalls for time, and finally coughs up, I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was going to run. The freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do. She just couldn’t spit up a statement about how slaves were denied those freedoms, and instead tried to turn it into some variation of a state’s right excuse.

The questioner was inaudible, but said something about slavery. Haley says What do you want me to say about slavery? and then fails to say anything…Next question.

It’s a perfect example of why the Civil War isn’t over yet, and how the Republican party has inherited the mantle of the Confederacy.

Oh, good. Someone transcribed the whole exchange, including the inaudible bits I couldn’t make out.

“In the year 2023, it’s astonishing to me that you’d answer that question without mentioning the word ‘slavery.'” That about sums it up.


  1. hemidactylus says

    The south did rise again, by subverting the party of Lincoln. The Solid South shifted from a Democratic voting bloc to Republican. We’ve gone from bogeys of the hated carpetbagger and scalawag to the RINO and mythical groomer.

    To acknowledge slavery would make a white person feel guilty which is a “woke” thing to do and is verboten.

  2. billseymour says

    They just mentioned this in the headline part of Today.  I guess this’ll be a national story that we’ll hear more about.

  3. billseymour says

    About ten minutes into the Today show (after the weather report and preparations for the new year celebration in Times Square), they did a couple of minutes on Haley’s comment.  I don’t recall anybody saying anything substantial.

  4. wzrd1 says

    What is ironic is, Lincoln was a Republican.
    Of course, one can easily draw parallels between the GOP of today and the dying Whig party of Lincoln’s day, for precisely the same nativist bullshit self-immolation. The nativists hijacked the Whig party, destroyed it from within via the same methods the GOP is being destroyed today by nativists, complete with Protestant – Catholic insanity that resulted in violence that included artillery being directed against churches. The end result, the core of the Whig party forming a new Republican party. And when their Presidential candidate won the election, some Lincoln guy, a civil war. That spelled the death of the new Native American Party, aka Know Nothing Party and very nearly a nation.
    Not that the currently hijacked GOP is calling for a return to slavery… Unless, of course, one has abnormally high frequency hearing response and can actually hear their blown dog whistles.
    Ironically, Lincoln actually had no inclination to prohibit slavery, the emancipation proclamation was just another weapon to destabilize the Confederate Army and that destabilization worked well enough to gain a few battalions for the Union. Lincoln was initially a status quo leaning individual, but the agitators had to agitate until the wheels flew off, eventually resulting in many of their own deaths in the ensuing violence.
    An acid test for that theory would be for the GOP to fold and create a new party. If the maniacs currently hijacking the party then formed their own insane party and kept agitating and spurring violence, especially religious warfare in city streets, we’d quite literally be replaying history.
    Which makes sense, as it’s literally the same retrobate forces that want to make everyone live under their minority rule, breaking everything they don’t like along the way, nation and lives be damned. To which I say, let them. Just ensure that Reconstruction lasts a century or longer and has literal Hunger Games, since they couldn’t learn their lesson the first time. The alternative is a Punic lesson, they get to be Carthage…

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    NH: What do you think the cause of the Civil War was?
    Q: I’m not running for president. I wanted to hear your view on the cause of the Civil War.

    Nicely handled.

  6. says

    “An acid test for that theory would be for the GOP to fold and create a new party.”
    Or they could do what has happened a couple of times in Canada now, once in Alberta and once federally. Form a new party further to the right, have an election that devastates the main party, then merge to form another new large party where the fear of centrists or even slightly left leaning parties having power forever haunts the so-called “moderates” who become more willing to go further to the right.
    This worked even better in Alberta where the NDP broke over four decades of one party rule in the province when the splinter group drained enough votes from the old guard and conservatives lost their shit. It was nice though for a brief moment to have a provincial government that actually mostly represented me (being Alberta though, they still had to be pro-pipeline).
    Federally, we’re going to make a far right swing in the next election because voters are tired of Justin Trudeau and the media keeps them scared of voting in the NDP at that level, and people aren’t properly terrified at the prospect of a Pierre Poilievre government.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 4

    Not that the currently hijacked GOP is calling for a return to slavery…

    Sure they are. It’s called “capitalism.”

  8. raven says

    The freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do.

    Ironically, she isn’t wrong here.

    The Civil War was about freedoms.
    No, you can’t own people as slaves and buy and sell them.
    Black people have the same freedoms as everyone else.

    Although this isn’t what she meant.


    “I think it always comes down to the role of government, and what the rights of the people are,” Haley said. We need to have capitalism, we need to have economic freedom, we need to make sure that we do all things so that individuals have all the liberties,…

    She isn’t answering the question here at all.
    She is answering an entirely different question.

    The Civil War had nothing to do with capitalism or economic freedom or individual liberties for US citizens. It had everything to do with freedom and liberties for the slaves of the south.

    She could have just answered the question and moved on.
    Not impressed.

  9. Matt G says

    The ORIGINAL Big Lie: that slavery was not the reason for the Civil War. Are these people honest about anything??

  10. laurian says

    Don’t know why Nikki beat around the bush on this. The voters she is courting favor human bondage and this time not just for Black people.

  11. Jake Wildstrom says

    The funny thing is that the tediously common Republican answer of “states’ rights” is correct in exactly the opposite of the way they mean it. What were the flashpoints of governmental action leading up to the Civil War? The Dred Scott decision and the Fugitive Slave Law, first and foremost. Those two decisions were notably federal overruling not of any slave states’ autonomy to keep slaves, but of free states’ autonomy to not acknowledge enslavement and to presumptively assume liberty for all within their borders. Active abolitionism, in the sense of abolishing slavery throughout the nation, was, even on the eve of the war, not a policy with the sort of support in the North which would make it law any time soon. The passive sort of abolitionism of not allowing people to be slaves within their borders emphatically was popular in the North and considered in urgent need of establishment, and that’s what the South saw as threatening. The grievances in the Declarations of Secession aren’t in defense of the southern states’ rights to keep slaves within their borders; they’re in opposition to the northern states’ rights to liberate any within theirs.

    AFAICT, the presumption that “treating black people as inferior” is a states’ rights issue (which was then anachronistically projected back onto the Civil War) came out of the civil rights developments of the late 20th century, which mostly were federal mandates specifically limiting the autonomy of the states. So when people say “states’ rights”, it’s really pretty obvious, if you look at when and where the federal government took action, that they’re talking about the 1960s, not the 1850s.

  12. microraptor says

    Jake Wildstrom @12: And the Confederacy’s constitution was much less concerned with states’ rights than the Union was. The Confederacy heavily concentrated power at the federal level.

  13. Doc Bill says

    Shortly after the end of the Civil War when I was in the 7th Grade, we spent most of the semester studying the conflict from the events leading up to the secession, through the war and into Reconstruction. We were presented facts, not opinions. The causes of the Civil War were not the “views” of Mrs. Alford, our social studies teacher. We read the text of the Constitution of the Confederacy, the Missouri Compromise and other documents.

    Either Nikki Haley is actually ignorant of American history, or she is pandering. I’ll go with Door Number 2, Alex, for $500.

  14. bcw bcw says

    She wouldn’t answer the question because she knows the GOP base is deeply racist and resentful from the fear of losing their power to control and suppress other people.

  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    They say the victors write the history. Seems to me that while Lee signed the traitor’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, it was the Union that lost because we’ve allowed this “lost cause” bullshit to fester.

    This is why you NEVER show mercy to fascists.

  16. chesapeake says

    Whenever someone says the civil war was not fought over slavery I point out that each of the states in the confederacy wrote a,proclamation stating why they were seceding. In each case slavery was described as essential to the economy of the state.
    Here is the beginning of the statement from Mississippi
    ;Confederate States of America – Mississippi Secession
    In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
    Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

    Later in the statement:
    We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    The South fought the Civil War to preserve/extend slavery; the North fought it to preserve/extend the nation. (Had the Confederates won their independence, many in the US worried that the western states would also break loose, aided by British agents.)

    Only after large numbers of Union troops penetrated and occupied the South (and discovered/publicized the actual conditions of the slaves, as compared to the false images assiduously spread by plantation owners and their flacks) did abolition become a serious Northern motivator.

    Incidentally, quite a few of the surviving letters/diaries/etc from that era’s Southerners describe Yankees as a “race” – the concept is that flexible (and meaningless).

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    Update: Nikki Haley tries to clean up Civil War flub: ‘It was about the role of government’

    On Thursday, Haley brought up the subject without being prompted at a campaign event.

    “Last night I was asked about the Civil War,” she insisted. “And what I think of the Civil War, what was the cause of the Civil War? Of course, the Civil War was about slavery.”

    “We know the Civil War was about slavery,” she continued. “But it was also more than that. It was about the freedoms of every individual. It was about the role of government.” …

  19. F.O. says

    Beau of the Fifth Column reading the founding documents of the Confederacy.

    TL;DW: “[The Confederates] told you in the first paragraph it was about slavery”.

  20. says

    Followup to comment 20.

    Update: Hoping to undo some of the political damage done by her answer, Haley appeared on a New Hampshire radio program a few hours ago and said, “Of course the Civil War was about slavery. We know that. That’s the easy part of it. What I was saying was what does it mean to us today. What it means to us today is about freedom. That’s what that was all about.

    “It was about individual freedom. It was about economic freedom. It was about individual rights. Our goal is to make sure, no we never go back to slavery but what’s the lesson in all of that. … I’m from the south. Of course you know it’s about slavery.”

    The Republican presidential hopeful added that she believes the person who asked the question was “a Democrat [sic] plant.”


    Video at the link.

    Of note:

    […] Indeed, in her own home state, South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession referenced slavery in its opening sentence and pointed to the “increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” as a reason for leaving the Union.

  21. says

    She’s the former governor of South Carolina, the first state to actually secede following Lincoln’s election. Which means that to get elected, she had to at least avoid irrevocably offending the Lost Cause idiots. Given that, is anyone really surprised?

  22. raven says

    “We know the Civil War was about slavery,” she continued. “But it was also more than that. It was about the freedoms of every individual. It was about the role of government.” …

    ” It was about the freedoms of every individual. It was about the role of government.” …
    Oh really?
    How was the civil war about the role of government in ensuring the freedoms of every individual?
    If you asked her that, she wouldn’t have an answer, just more word salad meaning nothing.

    She is just Making Stuff Up here.
    The Civil War had nothing to do with the freedoms of every individual.
    Or the role of government except the role of government in maintaining slavery.

  23. Trickster Goddess says

    So the South went to war to protect Capitalism and they lost so Capitalism died 150 years ago?

  24. nomdeplume says

    “We need to have capitalism, we need to have economic freedom…” there’s an oxymoron, right there.

    and “We need to have capitalism” is the problem with both parties in America.

  25. Artor says

    “We need to have capitalism…” [citation needed]
    “We need to have economic freedom…” isn’t that just about the opposite of capitalism?
    “It’s about the role of the government…” yes, should the government be able to say you can’t own people as property? Discuss.

  26. StevoR says

    @26. Trickster Goddess : “So the South went to war to protect Capitalism and they lost so Capitalism died 150 years ago?”

    Also slavery is capitalism and, it kinda is, using it without question shamelessly in the past and, of course, relying on wage slaves and low paid labourers working with terrible conditions and using those as an incentive to keep others wages down by threat of replacement and deterring unions, etc..

  27. chrislawson says

    State’s rights? A quick read of the history of the Missouri Compromise and the Bleeding Kansas war proves the slave states never gave a flying fuck about state’s rights.

  28. Alan G. Humphrey says

    Early US capitalism, like that practiced by Thomas Jefferson, was as pure and total as possible. The land, all of the buildings and structures, all of the equipment, and all of the livestock on that land were owned by one individual. Private ownership of the complete means of production.

    note – the most valuable livestock on a plantation was the African descended slaves and there are extant records showing that classification along with horses, cattle, etc.

  29. says

    No she’s saying she was “set up” by a Democratic “plant.”

    When you’re calling it a gotcha question, that’s basically an admission that they gotcha. I don’t see (what’s left of) her campaign recovering from this…

  30. chesapeake says

    What is the worst she can be accused of doing? Trying to avoid offending those voters who believe the Civil War was not about slavery but states’ rights. She should have known that she would have to backtrack and state the truth, which she did, more or less. So she is trying to get elected so tries to avoid saying certain thing she think will lose her votes. Is that so terrible? Maybe it is. I don’t like it but wonder how bad it is.

  31. says

    Actually, chesapeake, if you look at her record, she’s done far worse things, and at least paid lip-service to far worse policies, than not answering a straight question about the Civil War. (Which, I suspect, included whitewashing the whole racism/slavery thing in her state’s US history textbooks.)

  32. says

    Also, she’s just now promised to pardon Trump if he’s convicted of anything. She’s totally establishing herself as a “moderate,” just like Gerald Ford. What could possibly go wrong?

  33. StevoR says

    John Oliver has a brilliant 22 minutes long youtube piece on the Confederacy here which is both funny and relevant here. Especuially the part from the 4 minutes 30 secs mark where the fact that the Confederacy were fighting specifically for race-based slavery gets hammered home clearly. Pity, more Americans don’t know or choose NOT to know and understand their history here. Horrific that all too many of them actually seem to want to repeat it including some in power or seeking to be in power like Nikki Haley and some other Repugs.