Personal ambition matters more than taking a moral stand
Whatever else you might say about our representative Elise Stefanik, there is no denying that she is a very intelligent person. I’d also argue that she sees and understands things for what they are.
Stefanik knows, for example, that Donald Trump has no interest in the truth, only in stories that feed his ego and keep his supporters worked up. She knows that Trump’s definition of “fake news” is any story that makes him look bad.
Stefanik knows that Trump does not care about the well-being of his countrymen. Recent headlines that he has been misleading the American people for months about the seriousness of the coronavirus surely came as no surprise to her. She knows that Trump’s lies have cost American lives.
Stefanik knows that Trump loves dictators because he’d love to be one. Stefanik also knows that Trump has taken a submissive posture toward Vladimir Putin since day one in office. When intelligence reports surfaced recently that Putin had placed bounties on the heads of American troops, Trump stayed silent. So did Stefanik.
Stefanik knows that recent news stories where Trump described fallen soldiers as “losers” and “suckers” fit with everything she already knew about Trump. This includes exploiting others for personal gain, using charities to enrich himself and the total absence of service or sacrifice in Trump’s long public history.
Stefanik knows that Trump is a demagogue. If you’re not familiar with the term, here’s Wikipedia’s definition: “A leader who gains popularity in a democracy by exploiting emotions, prejudice, and ignorance to arouse some against others, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation.” Stefanik also knows that Trump has fanned the flames of racism, both because he believes it is a winning strategy and because it reflects his own prejudice.
Stefanik knows that Trump has no real understanding or love for our Constitution and that he only seeks ways to grab power however he can. She likely also knows that the rise to power of a demagogue was the Founding Fathers’ greatest fear for our democracy.
Stefanik knows all these things but she doesn’t care. That’s because she is a rising star in Trump’s version of the Republican party and her personal ambition matters more than taking a moral stand. Yes, Stefanik is smart but she has failed the real test of leadership and has failed it badly.