My Congresswoman is Probably Replacing Liz Cheney in GOP Leadership.
As I’ve written about before, I happen to be from Northern New York. The “North Country”. The most rural, largest, and one of the poorest parts of New York State so close to the Canadian border you can literally see Canada while driving along certain routes and even — on a clear day — driving down waterman hill eighteen miles or so from the border. It’s in the beautiful Adirondack foothills with lots of rolling farmland, charming little towns, crab apple trees, and of course, the occasional Confederate Flag and even more abundant Trump flags and bumper stickers that continue to be proudly displayed going on five months into the Biden administration. The “North Country” I’ve called home since I was four years old also happens to be part of New York’s 21st congressional district, with none other than Elise Stefanik as our elected representative. The congresswoman who is now poised to replace Liz Cheney as the GOP party chair.
Amidst all the chaos coming from the GOP in the wake of the 2020 election, Elise Stefanik is exactly who you would expect to rise from it.
As Michael Kranish with The Washington Post pointed out, Stefanik wasn’t always a Trump loyalist. She voted against his Tax cut plan, said she opposed key parts of his foreign policy, opposed his immigration policy and called his border wall idea unrealistic. Kranish also pointed out in his piece that Stefanik was even identified as “liberal” by a conservative group. As a newly elected Republican from a previously fairly consistently liberal district back in 2014, Stefanik was proud to be considered a moderate, bipartisan GOP lawmaker.
And then the first Trump impeachment hearing happened.
To be fair, it was a couple of things going on at once. Stefanik, to her credit, could read a room. She saw how popular Donald Trump was among not just the Republican base overall, but among Republican voters in her district. Stefanik also happened to be running against someone whom I would consider probably one of the worst, most incompetent Democratic candidates I have ever witnessed. While Stefanik was embracing the sentiment of her base during her re-election campaign, leaning into Trump’s hold on the Republican party and using it to her advantage to catapult herself to GOP stardom, Tedra Cobb — who raised a million dollars off of Stefanik’s antics — was wasting the newfound attention on the race literally running ads about how she would stand up to the “radicals” in the Democratic party.
With this proven-to-fail strategy of running to the right in a previously blue district not once but twice and Cobb losing in an even more embarrassing fashion than she did the first time she ran, is it any surprise that my district has been adding new Republican voters at twice the rate of Democratic ones?
All Stefanik had to do was call Ms. Cobb, “taxin’ Tedra”, and she won.
Setting aside the fact that Stefanik’s rise has added to my frustration with the Democratic party and left me wondering what would have happened if she had faced a worthy opponent in recent elections, obviously it’s left me even more disgusted with Stefanik herself.
I wonder how many voters in our district who support her know that Cheney actually voted with Donald Trump more often than Stefanik did. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stefanik was thoroughly disgusted by Donald Trump and loathes everything he represents. But as is so often the case with lawmakers these days, politics is merely a useful tool for opportunists who want more power. Stefanik is quite literally indicative of everything that’s concerning about the modern Republican party. Rather than acknowledging this as a dangerously volatile moment in American history that could potentially send the country down an irreversible path towards authoritarian rule, Stefanik is merely interested in advancing her own career.
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about my congresswoman. Nothing that sets her apart from the rest of the Republican party. She is a standard, stereotypical, empty, self interested politician who happens to be young, a woman, and in this newfound position because she has decided to capitalize on the worst elements of the Republican base to elevate herself. Not quite as wild as Marjorie Taylor Greene, but every bit the Trump loyalist (at least rhetorically) that the party now expects.
Since the impeachment hearings I’ve been saying that Stefanik is someone to watch for. Her rise is further proof that in the battle between the traditional old Republican guard and the rising Trump loyalists, Trump has won. She will run for President in 2024 or more likely 2028, fall short, get a nice cabinet position in the next GOP White House, and run again with a much more likely chance of succeeding. It will be interesting to see what her meteoric rise on Trump’s coat tails will do for her in the district and beyond in years to come.