She Started Out Moderate, Then Went Full MAGA

'WaPo' profile examines 'bewildering and sudden' shift of New York congresswoman Elise Stefanik
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 1, 2023 5:00 PM CST
For Elise Stefanik, a 'Bewildering and Sudden' Shift to Trump World
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, is seen on Capitol Hill on May 14, 2021, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

After Mitt Romney lost the presidency in 2012, Elise Stefanik, a budding young Republican from upstate New York who worked for his campaign, helped put together an "autopsy report, a document urging more inclusivity and openness in the GOP." So writes Ruby Cramer in her profile of Stefanik, now a US congresswoman, for the Washington Post. Then in her late 20s, Stefanik was known at the time as a moderate politician—a sharp contrast from the MAGA-centric stance she's taken since as an acolyte of former President Trump, whom she initially supported "with many caveats, and then, later, with none at all," per Cramer.

It's a turn that's "come at a personal cost," writes Cramer, who speaks to those who've known her over the years to try to unpack how and when she made her "bewildering and sudden" shift toward MAGA world. Nearly everyone Cramer talks to—from former classmates, friends, and teachers to her current top adviser—agrees Stefanik has always been conservative and ambitious. But she also didn't seem the type to adopt Trump's "grievances"; she voted for John Kasich in 2016.

But Stefanik's arc slowly started leaning toward Trump, and the 2019 impeachment hearings against him "radicalized" her, according to aides. "As her support for Trump grew and as more scrutiny followed ... her view of sexism hardened in step," leading her to rail against the media, Democrats, and anyone else she perceived as crossing her, Cramer writes. Despite friendships lost and ties to respected institutions severed, "in place of the openness she often once presented, Stefanik"—who, in her second term as House conference chair, will assume the GOP's fourth-highest role—"has developed a thick armor, smooth and hard, with no grooves or edges there to hold," per Cramer. (More here.)

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