Dana Milbank: The Sad Story of Elise Stefanik

Lisa R. Parker

Dana Milbank tells the unhappy story of Elise Stefanik, a promising average who was elected to Congress from Upstate New York. But when electricity beckoned, she threw aside character, ethics, and basic principle to join the Trump brigade. For this when-moderate member of Congress, there are no bounds to her willingness to go entire MAGA. She echoes the Wonderful Donald, going for walks in lockstep with him and his Significant Lie, even endorsing the “great replacement theory” that terrifies MAGA-Carlson voters but influenced a massacre of 10 innocent Black persons in Buffalo. A week right after the massacre of small children and instructors in Uvalde, Texas, Stefanik reported she opposes gun manage, but favors much more funding for psychological overall health. Everything for the foundation. Nearly anything for electricity. Unfortunate.

When John Bridgeland left a senior place in George W. Bush’s White Household and joined Harvard’s Kennedy Faculty of Govt in the fall of 2004, an eager undergraduate got assigned to him as a scholar fellow and facilitator of his seminar.

“She was so psyched due to the fact I was a single of the several Republicans” then at the school’s Institute of Politics (IOP), Bridgeland explained to me this 7 days. He remembered her as “extremely bright” and “through-and-by means of general public-assistance-oriented.” She was so outstanding in the seminar that he chose her to do a task with him promoting Harvard students on the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other service alternatives. “I thought the planet of her,” Bridgeland said.

The younger woman’s name was Elise Stefanik.

Bridgeland secured her a occupation in the White House when she graduated in 2006, individually interesting to Main of Personnel Josh Bolten and other former colleagues to employ the service of her. Bridgeland afterwards encouraged her to run for Congress, which she did, properly, in 2014 — and the New York Republican quickly founded herself as a leading average. “I was so amazingly pleased and happy,” Bridgeland reported. “I seen her as the dazzling mild of her generation of leaders. She was crossing the aisle. She was targeted on challenge-fixing. She experienced the highest character.”

And then, he claimed, “this change went off.”
Nowadays, the planet sees a a lot various Stefanik. This earlier 7 days, just after the racist massacre in Buffalo, attention turned to her articulation of “great replacement” concept, the white-supremacist conspiracy beliefs stated to have propelled the alleged killer. Right before that, she experienced been a distinguished election denier, voting to overturn the 2020 effects right after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and then utilizing the problem to oust and swap Household Republican Meeting Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) since she refused to embrace President Donald Trump’s election lies.

Now, Stefanik has thrown her assistance, as the No. 3 Residence GOP chief, behind a proposal to “expunge” Trump’s impeachment for his position in the insurrection. She has joined a small team of extraordinary backbenchers as co-sponsors of the resolution, which casts doubt once again on Joe Biden’s “seeming” earn, citing “voting anomalies.” The resolution has no reason (there is no constitutional way to expunge impeachment) other than to sow further distrust of democracy.

It is a story advised a thousand situations: Bold Republican formal abandons basic principle to progress in Trump’s GOP. But probably nobody’s drop from assure, and integrity, has been as amazing as the 37-year-outdated Stefanik’s. “I was just so shocked she would go down this kind of a darkish path,” reported her former winner, Bridgeland. “No energy, no situation is worthy of the total loss of your integrity. It was just completely alarming to me to observe this transformation. I acquired a great deal of notes saying, ‘What occurred to her?’ ”
The remedy is easy: “Quest for electricity,” Bridgeland stated. “But electric power without the need of theory is a really dim spot to go. She desired to climb the Republican ranks and she has, but … she’s climbed the ladder on the back of lies about the election that are undermining believe in in elections, placing people’s life at hazard.”

As a prospect in 2014, Stefanik refused to signal Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge, a Republican purity exam. Then the youngest lady ever elected to Congress, she turned a co-chair of the Tuesday Group of Republican moderates. She boasted about becoming between the most bipartisan lawmakers. She criticized Trump’s “insulting” therapy of gals, his “untruthful statements,” and his proposed Muslim ban and border wall.

But Trump’s big recognition in her upstate New York district adjusted all that. She grew to become just one of Trump’s most caustic defenders all through his initial impeachment. Soon after Trump’s 2020 loss, she embraced the “big lie,” creating a stream of false statements about voter fraud, court docket steps and voting machines, and urging the Supreme Court docket to reject the final results.

When Bridgeland observed his former protegee’s lies about the election, “I was shattered. I was actually heartbroken,” he instructed me. Alumni of Harvard’s IOP petitioned to clear away Stefanik from its advisory committee, and Bridgeland signed it. “I had to,” he reported, “because Structure very first.” Stefanik called her removal a “badge of honor” and a conclusion on the school’s section “to cower and cave to the woke still left.”

Bridgeland, a career-very long coverage innovator who still considers himself a Republican, retains a flicker of hope that his previous college student may well return to her early guarantee, recant the lies, and confirm legitimate Ralph Waldo Emerson’s belief that if a “single guy plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge environment will arrive round to him.”

“People come to be thoroughly ruined by their failure to stand up for the superior and the real, but I do think she has the spark nonetheless and could awaken to it,” Bridgeland claimed. “It’s not much too late.”

For our country’s sake, I want I could consider that.

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