Today, the House G.O.P. selected a new leader for their Conference to replace Liz Cheney. Rather than a divisive conspiracy theorist or a decrepit senior member, they went with newcomer and relative unknown Elise Stefanik, a moderate representing New York’s border North Country.
But who is Elise Stefanik — really? Well, here are a few things you should know.
First and foremost, let’s talk about the office she’s taking over. The Chair of the House Republican Conference is the third most powerful member of the minority party in the House, being responsible for day-to-day operations and scheduling. Where the Leader’s office sets policy and the Whip keeps the members in line (making deals, exchanging favors and election support for votes), the Chair acts as a mediator, keeping people on-message and coordinating release of information through the Legislative Digest.
(As such, it’s hardly surprising that Rep. Liz Cheney was removed from her position earlier this week; it wasn’t her job to set the message but instead to disseminate it. She’ll be far more effective as an outsider, and anyone else would be better as Chair.)
But why Stefanik? Nobody seems to know about her outside of upstate New York, right?
Well, that’s not really true. She’s been working in party politics since the Bush Administration, starting as a staffer just after her graduation from Harvard. Afterward, she worked for think-tanks and in campaigns until running herself in 2014. In her spare time, she founded the now-defunct blog “American Maggie”, a forum for female conservatives which hosted articles from contributors ranging from Sarah Palin to Christie Whitman. Presently, she helps run Elevate PAC, a committee dedicated to supporting the election of more Republican women to Congress.
During her time in Congress, she’s been seen as a moderate, often voting against Trump policies while remaining a vocal supporter of his presidency. (The Bipartisan Index ranks her as the 19th most bipartisan House Member; the Nunes Committee puts her at #3.) She’s pro-life, but not purely; she’s anti-immigrant, but not entirely; she’s pro-LGBT and pro-Post Office, and tends to support reform as opposed to nationalization when it comes to healthcare. She could well be termed a moderate maverick; her most quoted sound bite is “I wasn’t asking for permission” — and she was talking to her own party’s election coordinator when she said it.
There are some who might take alarm at her stance on the Trump election conspiracy. She’s vocal about her conviction that the 2020 election was won unfairly by Biden, but her reasoning in many respects is startlingly cogent and disagrees with the standard Republican narrative. Nevertheless, she’s been censured by Harvard for what they termed “deliberate mendacity” on the subject, and Trump himself endorsed her to replace Liz Cheney, in part due to statements she made on a Steve Bannon podcast earlier this month.
But the bottom line is, she’s a fresh face in Congress and a leader in the new wave of Republican women. Her connections with powerful party members like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, John Behner, and Bill Krystol are enough to guarantee her continued rise in power (so long as she doesn’t screw up, that is), and her willingness to adapt to the party’s narrative makes her far more suited to this position than was Cheney.
It’s worth noting that former influential Conference chairs have become Vice President three times in recent history. Truth be told, the country could do a lot worse — and frequently has.
TL;DR: TNFN Editorial Position is generally positive, with some reservations.
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