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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

ETTD: House Edition

Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections. It also discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good.  Cases in point: Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik.

Bill Thomas was Kevin McCarthy's mentor.  Robert Draper at The New Yorker

“The Kevin McCarthy who is now, at this time, in the House isn’t the Kevin McCarthy I worked with. At least from outward appearances. You never know what’s inside, really,” Thomas said. “Kevin basically is whatever you want him to be. He lies. He’ll change the lie if necessary. How can anyone trust his word?” He went on, “At some point, you have to look at where you started and how you got to where you are, and I would ask you, How do you feel about yourself? I know what his answer would be, but it wouldn’t be the truth.” What would the answer be? I asked. “It was all worth it.”

When McCarthy served in the California assembly, it was common knowledge among state pols that he had national aspirations. “I can’t recall a time when he came into the office to talk about a substantive political issue,” Thomas told me. “The political goal as he moved up the district structure” was “to build up” relationships. “He’s the guy in the college fraternity that everybody liked and winds up selling life insurance, convincing people they need it.”
At lunch, Thomas preferred talking policy to politics, mostly because he was passionate about the details, but also because it illustrated his conviction about the nature of true influence and longevity in Congress. A terminal of the Bakersfield airport is named for him, as is a large public fund financing ongoing construction of highways and freight corridors in the region. Thomas refers to legislation as “product” and so can sound like a drug dealer when discussing road-improvement programs. In his view, the business of legislating is foreign to McCarthy. “He’s already said, ‘As soon as I become Speaker, I’m going after the Attorney General,’ ” Thomas told me. “Why would you want to spend your whole life trying to be Speaker to go after somebody? What are you for?”
At WP, Ruby Cramer writes about Elise Stefanik:
It is true that Elise Stefanik has changed.

She set aside the posture of a moderate politician and pursued new ambitions inside Trump’s world. She set aside some of her optimism about the potential of politics and replaced it with the language of a hardened partisan warrior. In the halls of Congress, where she was once celebrated in magazines as the face of a more transparent, collaborative government, she now operates from a place of distrust, poised for a fight with the reporters she believes have or will attack her “in vicious, vicious ways.” The more effective she felt she was, the more she felt attacked. And the more attacked she felt, the further the change took hold. “The smears and the meltdown of the media,” she said, “sort of began this chapter.”
The change, and her path to “this chapter,” is what put her at the top of Republican leadership in Congress, where she will serve a second term as House conference chair, the No. 4 role in the GOP majority, climbing where others couldn’t survive in a party defined by its loyalty to one man. In January, when Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) steps down as speaker, Stefanik will become the most powerful woman in the nation’s legislative branch.

It is also true that the change has come at a personal cost. Behind the “moderate to MAGA” shorthand, a human transformation has taken place, too. Stefanik has lost friendships. She has lost ties to institutions that once mattered dearly to her. And she has responded in kind by making her world smaller and more insulated. She keeps her family life closely guarded and her inner-circle small: Outside her congressional offices, she has a set of male political advisers who have helped shape the scorched-earth language she wields with audiences she perceives as unfriendly. In the lingo of Stefanik’s orbit, someone is always “dude,” attacks are always “nasty” and the media is always “shameless.” On a scale of bad to worse, or, as they like to say, “a wipeout” to “a disaster,” someone can be “spiraling,” “imploding” or “combusting,” in that order. During our 40-minute phone call in November, Stefanik used the word “vicious” eight times to describe Democrats and the media. Reporters who sit down with her are advised not to show weakness; it will only bring out her one-word answers. In place of the openness she often once presented, Stefanik has developed a thick armor, smooth and hard, with no grooves or edges there to hold.

The week after we talked about the Instagram posts, I checked her page again. Where the old stories had been, there was now a blank space. Stefanik had deleted them all.