By Nikki R. Haley
Where does the Republican Party go from here? The party that abolished slavery, won the right to vote for women, and beat Soviet communism must continue to be strong and principled to move America forward.
But the liberal media doesn’t care about that. It wants to stoke a nonstop Republican civil war. The media playbook starts with the demand that everyone pick sides about Donald Trump —either love or hate everything about him. The moment anyone on the right offers the slightest criticism of the 45th president, the media goes berserk: Republicans are trying to have it both ways! It’s a calculated strategy to pit conservatives against one another. It’s also a ridiculous false choice. Real life is never that simple. Someone can do both good and bad things.
People feel strongly about Mr. Trump, but we can acknowledge reality. People on the left, if they’re honest, can find Trump accomplishments they like—a coronavirus vaccine in record time, Middle East peace, more accountability from China. People on the right can find fault with Trump actions, including on Jan. 6. Right or left, when people make these distinctions, they’re not trying to have it both ways. They’re using their brains.
Just as important, they’re proving people are more than their party affiliations. If we can’t make judgments beyond whether someone is Republican or Democrat, then America can’t face its biggest challenges. We separate into two camps that always hate each other. We become estranged from family and friends over politics.
Is that really what the anti-Trump media wants? Maybe. Hatred and polarization draw attention, ratings and clicks. But what’s good for them is bad for America. Some Never Trump and Always Trump Republicans also attack anyone who doesn’t join the all-or-nothing chorus. That’s not how I saw Mr. Trump conduct himself when I worked with him in the White House, where he engaged in internal debates, welcomed disagreements, and at times changed his mind.
If the media gets its way, the GOP will dissolve into endless warfare, ensuring extreme liberal government for years to come. Instead, Republicans need to be honest about what worked and what didn’t over the past four years.
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We can’t go back to the pre-Trump GOP. Those days are over, and they should be. But we lost our majorities in the House and Senate, and we’ve lost the national popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections. Surely there’s room for improvement as a party. We should embrace the successes of the Trump presidency and recognize the need to attract more support.
Here’s my take: Most of Mr. Trump’s major policies were outstanding and made America stronger, safer and more prosperous. Many of his actions since the election were wrong and will be judged harshly by history. That’s not a contradiction. It’s common sense.
Mr. Trump’s legal team failed to prove mass election fraud in court. But election security is still urgently needed. If you have to show photo ID to buy Sudafed or get on a plane, you should have to show photo ID when voting in person or by mail. Again, these statements don’t contradict each other. They’re obviously true.
So is this: Mr. Trump brought millions of new voters into the Republican Party, for which he deserves great credit, but the party also lost millions of voters.
These are facts. Admitting them, even when it hurts, is the only way to achieve progress. Denying them and dismissing those who disagree with you on even one thing is a surefire way to go backward. That’s true for Republicans who demand people praise everything Mr. Trump did. It’s just as true for liberals who demand everyone hate everything he did.
I will gladly defend the bulk of the Trump record and his determination to shake up the corrupt status quo in Washington. I will never defend the indefensible. I didn’t do that when I served alongside President Trump, and I’m not going to start now.
If that means I want to have it “both ways,” so be it. It’s really the only way forward—for the party and the country.
Ms. Haley served as governor of South Carolina (2011-17) and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2017-19).