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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

How does Nikki Haley's presidential bid fit into GOP efforts to be more diverse?

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Republicans are working to appeal to more voters of color. The efforts were evident during last year's midterms, and this week, a candidate that some called a leader from a new generation of Republicans, Nikki Haley, officially launched her 2024 presidential run. Our colleague A Martínez asked conservative commentator Tara Setmayer about how Haley's bid fits into GOP efforts to present a more inclusive face.

TARA SETMAYER: So to see Nikki Haley reemerge now as a presidential candidate feels a little hollow to me, as far as the Republicans' efforts to continue diversifying, given the positions that she took and was accepting of working under the Donald Trump administration.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

So you consider her part of the old guard of the GOP.

SETMAYER: Correct. They're saying they want to move in a new direction, but they're resurrecting figures of the past. Her announcement speech felt very 2000 or 2004, didn't feel as though it was representative of what the 2023 Republican Party represents because Donald Trump is still the titular head of it. So he's the elephant in the room - no pun intended - that they claim they want to move on from, but are still afraid to name him, and yet he yields still so much power within the party that he cannot be ignored.

MARTÍNEZ: You left the Republican Party in 2020. Can you tell us what prompted that decision?

SETMAYER: Absolutely. After 27 years with the Republican Party, as I saw the embrace of Trumpism overtaking the Republican Party that I initially joined, I recognized that there was no longer a place for someone like me in the party. After everything that had taken place during the Trump administration and now on top of his threatening our free and fair election system, questioning our constitutional order and party leadership, not fully rebuking that, I decided I could no longer be a part of such an illiberal organization.

MARTÍNEZ: If the Republican Party were to, say, disavow Donald Trump, would that be the last or only big obstacle to really having an effort by the Republican Party to try to diversify?

SETMAYER: It has to start there. We've seen the xenophobia. We've seen the racism. We have seen how hostile Trumpism has been to diversification in this country, to minorities, to immigrants. The idea of America first has been very exclusive; it's not inclusive. And until the Republican Party has a full repudiation of that, there's no credible attempt at saying that this is a party that is inclusive and that they're welcoming of diversity. There's a fine line between being inclusive and tokenizing minorities. Just because they put up a couple of brown faces and a few women, that does not mean that the party as a whole and their policies and the behavior of people within the party is in line with being inclusive.

MARTÍNEZ: For you, as a woman of mixed heritage yourself, when you were a Republican, how did you see yourself represented in the Republican Party?

SETMAYER: You know, for me, it was less about racial identity and more about ideology. My mom was a single parent and had me very young and taught me at a very young age to never be a victim of my circumstance. So I was attracted to the Republican Party's idea of individual empowerment, of less government intervention, of providing the ladders of success, the opportunity. My goals of becoming involved in Republican politics were to take those conservative principles and bring them to communities that would not necessarily be open to listening to those policies because they were so used to certain types of messengers and it coming from the same people, and I represented something different.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, the United States is projected to be majority nonwhite by 2045. So how critical, Tara, would you say, is outreach to the GOP's survival to voters of color?

SETMAYER: It's absolutely critical to the health of the party. And their most active demographics are dying off, their older voters over 65. They have to course correct in some ways to attract different demographics into the party, or else it will wither on the vine. It's counterintuitive to what they're embracing, though. You have a party that is embracing ideologies and embracing policies that are existential threats to our democracy. Until the Republican Party stops that, they really do not have a credible chance of expanding the party and being a healthy party once again in this two-party system.

MARTÍNEZ: That's political commentator Tara Setmayer. Tara, thanks a lot for your time.

SETMAYER: I appreciate it. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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