When Elise Stefanik was elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, she was hailed as the fresh face of the new GOP. Stefanik had run for office in her 20s, determined to modernize the Republican Party to attract more women and appeal to her fellow millennials. In her victory speech, she praised her opponents for their good-faith participation in the miracle of American democracy. “No matter their party, our democratic process is strengthened by those individuals willing to put forth their ideas,” she said on the night she became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Today Stefanik is still a politician on the rise, but for very different reasons. As soon as next week, she is widely expected to ascend to the position of House GOP conference chair, which would make her the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress. And she will have gotten there by lashing herself to a cause that undermines the same democratic process she once hoped to strengthen.
The opening for Stefanik to become the No. 3 House Republican has been created by the anticipated ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney, who has lost the support of her colleagues for insisting the party stop parroting President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. Rejecting Trump’s fictions about a stolen election is enough to make Cheney, a rock-ribbed conservative and daughter of a former vice president, an outcast in today’s GOP. “Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair,” Trump said in a statement. To replace Cheney with Stefanik would send a powerful signal: that anyone who refuses to carry water for Trump’s conspiracy theories cannot carry the Republican mantle.
But Elise Stefanik is no Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene. She was not always a MAGA warrior. Not long ago, she was a widely respected moderate Republican known for her embrace of facts, her trust in science and her push to build a more diverse party, highlighted by her successful efforts to recruit more GOP women to run for office. [Continue reading…]