If we were coming up on deadline in the next few weeks and had the “Saratoga 20” in hand, which ultimately landed on newsstands and our website on May 30, 2018, I would’ve strongly objected to it being published the way it was. The feature was meant to celebrate the magazine’s 20th anniversary, and it included 10 men and 10 women from Saratoga and the region that we argued were shaking things up in a good way. One of the people we included on the list was New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who represents New York’s 21st Congressional District, which includes a portion of Saratoga County, and at the time, she was not only the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, but also an elected official known for her ability to reach over the aisle, points our staff believed were worthy of her making the list (another New Yorker, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, would take her place in the record books the following year as the youngest woman elected to Congress).
In the lead-up to publishing the story, it was my duty, as executive editor, to interview Rep. Stefanik, and when she came into the Saratoga Living offices, I sat down directly across from her and interviewed her, exchanging niceties and lobbing her softball questions. She joked with me about teaching the elder statesmen in Congress how to use Instagram and emphasized that she would be making a concerted effort to reach across the aisle and work with her Democratic counterparts in Congress. “Regardless of where one is on the political spectrum,” she told me, “I think both parties agree that we need more people working together to deliver results for the American public.”
That runs in stark contrast to the 843-word statement Stefanik published today (January 6), explaining to her North Country constituents—and really, anybody who would listen—why she would be actively objecting to last November’s presidential election results, which have long since been certified in President-elect Joe Biden’s favor. Stefanik specifically singled out the results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, arguing that “tens of millions of Americans are rightly concerned that the 2020 election featured unprecedented voting irregularities, unconstitutional overreach by unelected state officials and judges ignoring state election laws, and a fundamental lack of ballot integrity and security.” Of course, if you’re at all tapped into reality, all of those conspiracy theories about rampant voter fraud and the like have been refuted time and again by both Democrats and Republicans. None of what she’s arguing has any merit.
However, what I don’t believe Stefanik predicted was that her ability to stretch the truth to fit her own narrative about the election results—which sadly, is one shared by more than 100 of her colleagues—could’ve turned into what it did this afternoon. Rioters, angry that their candidate, the sitting president, had lawfully lost the 2020 election—and being spurred on by messages just like the one Stefanik made—stormed the US Capitol, causing mayhem. Rioters unlawfully trespassed in Congresspeople’s offices, damaged the Capitol building itself, and one protestor was shot and killed. Eventually, a curfew was put in place. Maybe Stefanik assumed that the “thousands of constituents who have reached out to me in the past few weeks” wouldn’t be reckless enough to act on her message of falsity?
Ironically, Stefanik tweeted later that she was “safe”—as in, the protestors hadn’t harmed her or vandalized her office, as they did Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s—and that she “[condemned] the dangerous violence and destruction to the Capitol grounds.” She added: “These actions are unAmerican.” In a way, I guess, she was ultimately doing what she told me she’d do back in 2018: play both sides.