That's Elise Stefanik, above, standing out in red. Red as in "Republican" red. Stefanik is a Republican Member of Congress who represents a more or less rural district in upstate New York. People where I live, on the West Coast, may or may not be paying any attention to Stefanik, but The New York Times definitely is.
In the Monday, January 2, 2023, edition of the newspaper, The Times ran a long article on Stefanik. In the hard copy version, the story was titled, "'I Am Ultra-MAGA': Invention of Elise Stefanik." Online, the article is titled, more simply, "The Invention of Elise Stefanik." The Times' article began on the first page of the print version of the paper, and then continued to a full two-page spread, inside, and then continued on to another full two-page spread. Lots of newsprint!
I fear that The Times' paywall will prevent any non-subscriber from reading the whole story, but if you can get access (and if you have some time on your hands), I definitely invite you to click the link, and to find out more about Elise Stefanik. The gist of the story is this: Elise Stefanik is consumed by her overwhelming political ambition, and will do anything necessary to acquire political power.
Stefanik is not, really, a "rube" from some rural, cow country, district in New York state. She began her political career at Harvard University, where she was an undergraduate student, and where she scrambled for recognition and advancement in the university's "Institute of Politics." The I.O.P. is associated with the Harvard Kennedy School and was established in 1966 as "a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy."
Currently, Stefanik is the "Conference Chair" of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, having replaced former Congress Member Liz Cheney, and it appears that Stefanik was interested in becoming Speaker of the House, had Kevin McCarthy failed in his own effort. Stefanik is, as the hard copy headline in The Times proclaimed, "Ultra-MAGA," and is absolutely and totally devoted to advancing former president Trump back into the presidency.
Or, maybe not! According to The Times, our former president doesn't trust her!
As already indicated, what really appears to be the truth about Stefanik and her political views is that she is overwhelmingly consumed by her desire for personal advancement within the world of politics. I am commenting on Stefanik, and the article, for this reason. The kind of "politics" we need to practice is not a politics of personal advancement. Politics is supposed to be a "we're in this together" activity.
According to The Times, shortly after having won a primary election in 2014, in that upstate, rural district, Stefanik reserved the website name, "Stefanikforpresident.com." She also reserved website names that would be appropriate for someone running for the United States Senate. She did this before having actually been elected to Congress - although she was, subsequently, elected to Congress in the general election in 2014, and was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, as of that time.
Many people believe that Stefanik is "typical" of those who seek political office. Even Bob Dylan might be thought to have propounded that view. In "Pay In Blood," Dylan gives us this painful perspective on the "political world" in which we live:
Another politician pumping out his piss
Another ragged beggar blowin’ ya a kiss
Life is short and it don’t last long
They`ll hang you in the morning and sing ya a song
If we allow our politics to be turned into an arena in which personal ambitions are fought and decided, shame on us. The Times, clearly, is sending us a warning, by telling us the story of Elise Stefanik. Stefanik has been supporting George Santos, another person elected to Congress as a Republican from New York state. Santos just won office in the most recent election, and with a resume that appears to be, largely, "fiction." Stefanik is definitely not alone in turning politics into an arena of personal ambition.
I would like to suggest, though, that those who conclude that Stefanik and Santos are "typical," and that they are "representative" of those who run for office (and sometimes win), are not actually right about that. I like politics. I want others to like it, too, because if we don't like it, and get involved in politics ourselves, then our system of "self-government" will wither and perish.
Some think that this is exactly what is happening to politics in the United States. Again, I would like to suggest that this is not so - but the question is not really one about "observing" politics, it's a question about how we decide to "act." The Stefanik-Santos brand of politics as personal advancement will be all that's left if we ordinary folks decide that politics is just too "dirty" and "compromised" to warrant our personal involvement.
Here's a final thought. It's an environmental adage that works, too, in the realm of politics. It's not exactly an elevated thought, but it's true:
The Solution To Pollution Is Dilution
You can click the following link for a refresher course on "Gresham's Law."
Let's not let the bad drive out the good in the political world in which we most immediately live!
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