On Wednesday 15 March 2023, US Vice President (VP) Kamala Harris was heckled and screamed at as she left a taping of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Armed with a supply of iPhone cameras and American nationalism, crowds crammed themselves as close as they could get to the politician and chanted the phrase: “Lock her up.”
Three words that were once entirely synonymous with the anti-Hilary Clinton campaign of 2016, ‘lock her up’ has now become a mantra used primarily by Republicans to discredit, attack and intimidate female politicians in the country.
From the videos, it appears as though the protesters were concentrating on directing their anger towards Harris regarding the US’ involvement in the war in Ukraine, and clearly the ‘lock her up’ political chant suited their purpose.
The VP has been subject to a mass amount of criticism since her inauguration in 2020. Harris is not only the first-ever female second-in-command, she’s also the second-ever person of colour to serve in that post—making her a prime target for bigots and white supremacists.
Women have always faced obstacles when it comes to public office. Often deemed overly emotional, incapable of strategy, and inherently out of place—women in positions of political power are persistently required to justify themselves and their actions in manners their male counterparts are not.
For those of you who might not remember, the person who originated the infamous ‘lock her up’ chant was none other than former President Donald Trump. During the 2016 election campaign, Trump repeatedly tried to turn voters against Clinton by both implicating her in her husband’s multiple sexual assault allegations and insisting that the controversy surrounding her private email server leaks warranted her arrest.
However, what started as a chant regarding Clinton’s potential criminal acts quickly turned into a hate-filled slogan aimed at tearing down powerful women.
So, after videos of the Harris protests began to circulate online, the Twitter vitriol began to bubble over and pretty quickly, the ‘lock her up’ aspect of the clips led to some highly misogynistic and racist posts.
While some of the posts were highly unoriginal—lots of “get her!” and “fascist!”—some individuals provided some entertaining commentary. For example, one user stated: “They are all going to jail. We don’t want to hear any crying when it happens. It’s going to happen.”
Hate to break it to you @Cainly1, but I think Trump might be slightly higher on the wanted list.
Another individual posted: “She should be locked up for protecting Planned Parenthood, for the illegal selling of baby body parts and pointing out the journalist who uncovered it!!!! Just corrupt AS HELL!!!!”
Political slogans are powerful motivators, and “build the wall” and “make America great again” are two more prime examples of how Trump’s ascendancy is still massively impacting and shaping the current political climate and conversation. His face may no longer be at the forefront of people’s minds, but his rhetoric certainly is.
For some of us, it feels as though it was only yesterday that Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump and officially—and legally— snatched the US Presidency out of his hands. But in reality, that highly momentous election was over three years ago and with 2024 only a hop, skip and jump away, we’re now being confronted with the next highly anticipated race to the White House.
And while former President Trump might be planning a political resurrection, he’s going to have to face a challenger who is determined to make her mark on the Republican party and on the country.
Although Haley has been a prominent voice in US politics for over a decade, she’s remained relatively unknown among the general public. First rising in the Republican ranks in 2010 when she became the youngest Governor in the US, Haley quickly established herself as a conservative underdog with plans to reinvent and rejuvenate the Grand Old Party (GOP).
According to the BBC, Haley—who was South Carolina’s first female and Asian-American Governor—had a slow start to her campaign, however, she gained traction when she received high-profile endorsements from Mitt Romney and former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.
The politician is considered a mainstream conservative, holding predominantly right-wing fiscal and social beliefs. Haley has described herself as pro-life and has repeatedly supported legislation in South Carolina designed to curb access to abortion. Moreover, she signed a bill cracking down on illegal immigration in her first year as Governor and has since criticised President Biden’s border control policies. Haley has publicly confirmed that she supports—and would defend—gun rights.
As recognised by a number of political pundits, Haley’s most defining moment as Governor happened in 2015 when a white supremacist brutally murdered nine black worshippers in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
The shooting was one of the most heinous and racist attacks in US history and its impact reverberated throughout the country—particularly in South Carolina, where conversations around race and identity began to increase rapidly.
Haley’s initial response was to immediately condemn the attack and, after pictures emerged of the gunman carrying the Confederate flag, she called for it to be removed from the Capitol building. In fact, during the passing of the motion to take it down, she stated: “There is a place for that flag. It’s not in a place that represents all people in South Carolina.”
The Confederate flag of course has become an enduring symbol of racism within the US, having been adopted by hate groups and white supremacists.
While Haley’s initial actions following the shooting was deemed commendable, it was ultimately short-lived. In 2019, while appearing on a conservative radio show, Haley stated that the Confederate flag symbolised “service, sacrifice and heritage” for some people in her state until the Charleston shooter “hijacked” it, as reported by The New York Times.
The politician went on to note that the national media had wanted to define the shooting on their own terms. “They wanted to make this about racism. They wanted to make it about gun control. They wanted to make it about the death penalty,” Haley argued.
Her statements received major backlash online, particularly from those who felt as though she’d completely contradicted her own celebrated move to remove the flag four years prior. Indeed, it doesn’t take an expert to see how insensitive and problematic it is to claim that the flag was a symbol of sacrifice prior to the shooting, when in reality it’s been a stark physical representation of oppression and racism for over a century.
When it comes to Trump, Haley’s been both a proponent and critic. As reported by NBC News, when Trump first rose to power, Haley deemed him an “irresponsible” and “angry” voice, even going as far as to say that “I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK. That is not a part of our party. That is not who we are.”
So, from this you’d think that Haley was very much anti-orange. However, not even a year into Trump’s administration, the South Carolina politician had definitely changed her tune. In November 2016, Haley accepted the position of ambassador to the United Nations. And at the 2020 Republican National Convention, the Governor stated: “Donald Trump has always put America first. And he has earned four more years as president.”
But wait, there’s another twist in the story. Following the 2021 Capitol riots, Haley was overwhelmingly critical of Trump and insisted that his actions and involvement with the violence would be “judged harshly by history,” as disclosed by Politico.
Trump is facing a far harsher political landscape going into the 2024 election cycle, and his chances are hard to quantify. He’s going to have to rebuild his image in the minds of both the Republican establishment and the conservative public. Although, as much as we’d like to, it would be unwise to underestimate the sheer influence of Trump—despite his endless list of flaws.
Will Haley become the new right-wing sweetheart? Or will she simply remain to be another one of the GOP’s misguided cronies, attempting to rid the world of what they like to call extreme liberal wokeism?