Jon Huntsman and Nikki Haley: New voices in a new political environment

Certain Republicans, even youngish ones, mistake conservatism for orthodoxy. They seem out of touch, as if they were selected by a Republican College of Cardinals, like George W. Bush actually was. So former China Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr.’s call for “new thinking” at the University of South Carolina, where he gave the commencement speech, should be heeded. We need “new thinking.” We need new generations. And new ideas always need new packages.

"Our system needs new thinking,” he said. "We need a fresh generation of innovators, leaders, risk takers, entrepreneurs, scientists and activists — that's you!"

In contrast, the orthodoxy finds representation by Dick Cheney, who, like the Officer in Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony,” nostalgic for the torture machine of the old days, said he would reinstate waterboarding if he were president. Cheney is poison to any Republican hopeful.

At no time since 1963, when Jack Kennedy spoke words similar to Huntsman’s about “a new generation” at the Democratic convention in LA, have we so urgently needed new people and new ideas. Huntsman is thankfully free from that paternalistic attitude of the cloistered partisans. And no one on the horizon this season represents the new thinking better than Huntsman and South Carolina’s new governor, Nikki Haley.

After a week when President Obama had about the best day an American president might have had since Yalta, Republicans might let go of the old baggage and consider new directions.

Nikki Haley’s South Carolina might be seen as the paradigm for the world striving to break free to the new as the butterfly breaks free from the caterpillar. Haley single-handedly busted out of an “old South” good ol’ boy conservative State Legislature that long prided itself on denial of the world outside. It was somewhat like North Carolina before Gov. Terry Sanford and the post-war greats who followed W.J. Cash’s vision of a vital new South supplanting a long legacy of autocratic pig barons, recalcitrant Confederates and wealthy tobacco farmers. North Carolina and much of the South boomed under this new system and became one of the great places to be, a place that drew the most dynamic new immigrants, like Haley’s family. At one time in the mid-’80s they even started talking about the “Southernization of America” in a positive and optimistic way, but South Carolina proudly remained behind in the valley of the moon. Haley’s campaign for governor last year faced ugliness in the legislative body that the South hadn’t witnessed since the 1950s.

What was interesting was that the people did not support the curmudgeons. They supported Haley.

The South Carolina presidential debate last week was pleasantly incongruous. None of those who took part will be president. And those who will enter now just ahead could bring that pleasant shock of the new which Bill Haley and the Comets brought to the post-war period. That spontaneity and creativity seems to come naturally to Huntsman. Texas Gov. Rick Perry belongs there too and so does Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, complimented recently by Standard & Poor’s for "strong financial management practices” and for raising Louisiana’s rating.

The year behind brought the end of things we were familiar with; Charlie Sheen, Oprah, maybe Donald Trump and hopefully Dick Cheney. Some of them refused to go into the quiet night, but go they will. A more optimistic year looms. Potentially it will be the year of Animal Kingdom, the swift delight who went in at seven-to-one odds and won by a length.


Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.

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