The Invention of Elise Stefanik

Ms. Stefanik marveled to buddies on the flood of cash. Contributions from her management PAC to different Republicans would quadruple by the tip of 2020. With Mr. Trump’s blessing, she might faucet right into a nationwide base of MAGA followers. Out of roughly $4 million she raised on WinRed this election cycle via late October 2022, simply 4 p.c got here from her personal district, in keeping with a Instances evaluation of marketing campaign finance data.

Ever her personal greatest adviser, Ms. Stefanik dictated the ways and message. As she milked the MAGA base for cash and visibility, she started articulating a brand new, nearly passive conception of her function as congresswoman, by which her job was to reflect her constituents, not take principled votes they may dislike. In 2014, her defenders have argued, her district wished a Bush-style Republican; within the Trump period, it wished a Trump-style Republican. “There’s no shift,” mentioned Mr. Pileggi, the previous marketing campaign aide. Who might say she was fallacious if the voters mentioned she was proper? The discredited gatekeepers of the mainstream media? The small papers again house that fewer and fewer folks learn? Requested in a current interview whether or not she had chosen her ambition over her values, she merely prevented the query. “I’ve chosen my values,” she mentioned. “And I’ve chosen my constituents.”

She moved shortly into Mr. Trump’s circle, readily accepting the compromises it entailed. In spring 2020, she flew with the president on Air Pressure One to witness the SpaceX rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Aboard the airplane, in keeping with a former White Home official who was there, the president made a derogatory remark in regards to the intercourse lifetime of considered one of his most loyal and senior feminine aides. Ms. Stefanik had as soon as criticized Mr. Trump’s demeaning feedback towards girls; now she merely plastered a smile on her face. “Nobody mentioned something. Neither did I,” the previous official recalled. “It was an indication that she knew who he was.” Ms. Stefanik’s spokesman denied the account, saying it “by no means occurred.”

In public, nevertheless, Ms. Stefanik’s new political self was most blatant on Mr. Trump’s favourite social media platform, the place she started to favor his random capitalizations and conspicuous exclamation factors. Within the years since his first impeachment listening to, she has attacked political opponents or journalists as “sick” or “sickening” greater than three dozen instances — language she had by no means earlier than used on Twitter. She edited away elements of her outdated on-line persona that may grate in opposition to the brand new. Because the 2020 elections approached, in keeping with a Instances evaluation of Twitter information collected by ProPublica, Ms. Stefanik deleted a pair of tweets from that March praising Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the general public face of the federal Covid response. “America ❤️s Dr. Fauci!” she had written. In 2021, with Dr. Fauci firmly established as a right-wing punching bag, she expressed a distinct view. “Hearth Fauci,” she tweeted. “Save Christmas!”

After Mr. Trump’s election defeat, as he fomented a deluge of lies and conspiracy theories about dishonest and voter fraud, Ms. Stefanik shortly fell in line. Mr. Trump had made his election lies a litmus take a look at for fellow Republicans, and Ms. Stefanik was unwilling to fail it, whilst election officers and judges dismissed or refuted nearly each declare made by the president or his authorized staff. Repeating a string of already debunked assertions, she claimed that native officers had counted the votes of lifeless folks, or tossed out procedures supposed to stop fraud, or illegally counted late-arriving votes. Having lied to her personal constituents, fanning their fears of a rigged election, she then claimed their suspicions as a casus belli. “Tens of thousands and thousands of People are rightly involved that the 2020 election featured unprecedented voting irregularities,” she mentioned in an open letter to her district on the morning of Jan 6.

That night, after the Trump-inspired mob was cleared from the Capitol, she joined different Republicans to vote in opposition to certifying electors from Pennsylvania. The following day, she obtained a textual content from Mr. Tucker, the Arkansas lawmaker and Harvard pal. “I can not put into phrases how dissatisfied I’m in you,” he wrote. She had squandered a “historic alternative to basically strengthen our nation and democracy,” he advised her. “You’ve accomplished this all for, what precisely?” Disgusted, he joined tons of of different Harvard alumni and college students on a petition for Ms. Stefanik’s elimination from the Institute of Politics board. So did Ms. Grizzle, her fellow Republican, who had lived a lot of the 12 months in Pennsylvania: One of many ballots Ms. Stefanik had tried to invalidate was her personal. “You possibly can’t promote democracy for those who’re throwing out folks’s votes,” Ms. Grizzle mentioned.

A couple of days later, the dean of the Harvard Kennedy College, which oversees the institute, requested Ms. Stefanik to step apart. When she refused, he introduced her elimination. She had disqualified herself, the dean mentioned in an announcement, via repeated false statements in regards to the election. Ms. Stefanik responded with the type of bristling efficiency her former buddies had come to anticipate. Her alma mater had determined to “cave to the woke Left,” she mentioned; getting kicked off the board was a “badge of honor.”