Nikki Haley refused to condemn Donald Trump for saying that people he doesn’t like should be killed, a chilling sign of how the Republican Party is starting to embrace authoritarian violence.
Trump went off the deep end two weeks ago, accusing former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley of treason and implying the now-retired general should be put to death. Republicans have been quick to echo Trump’s call.
In a Sunday night interview, Haley tried to avoid explicitly condemning Trump himself. “I just think it’s irresponsible,” she said blandly, when asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker if Trump should be disqualified from the presidential race over his statement.
“You don’t need to say things like that,” Haley continued, with all the force of reprimanding a mildly misbehaving toddler. “I think that any man or woman that has served our country deserves the highest respect.… They sacrifice a lot, their families sacrifice a lot, and we should honor them every chance we get.”
It should go without saying, but Trump making comments like this is incredibly dangerous. His followers have shown themselves quick to spring to action. Hundreds of January 6 defendants have said they descended on Washington because Trump personally called on them.
The fact that Haley refused to give a straightforward answer (which would have risked angering Trump and alienating his supporters) is a sign of how much influence Trump still holds over the Republican Party. And this is just as dangerous as his statement about Milley.
“Apparently the idea of executing Milley is now the Party Line,” historian and authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat tweeted about Haley’s interview. “We are living through real-time preparation for an authoritarian crackdown.”
“We are in [the] phase of ‘getting the public used to the idea of violence.’ Having authoritative voices like Haley endorse violence is key.”