Elise Stefanik, John Katko and a Snowflake in Snow Country
Elise Stefanik showed her allegiance to the Freedom Caucus and Trump at the Impeachment Hearings last week. She showed that she could talk trash to Adam Schiff, who is heading the hearings, but who is a Democrat. She was as disrespectful as those in her party like to be and they have been in Congress for far longer than she has. She proved she could be “one of the boys.” Perhaps she handled the moment when Adam Schiff held her to the process rules in such an unprofessional manner, even though they had been agreed upon in advance, because she is new to her role as a disrupter and she just reacted as the young person she is. But everyone certainly noticed her and she had her 15 minutes of fame, and may it be the only 15 minutes she gets. It is far too simple, if you are Republican, to join the Trump cult and to find yourself unable to disapprove of anything our creative and criminally-minded leader thinks up even if he breaks every rule America tries to live by and every rule Ms. Stefanik has sworn to uphold.
Elise Stefanik represents the NY 21 district which stretches from the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario (Watertown) over to the Vermont border (Plattsburg), from Albany to the Canadian border. Much of the region is mountainous and rural, sprinkled with a few resorts and tourist spots, a few wealthy suburban enclaves, some farmers, some Amish residents, some colleges, the Adirondack Preserve, and the seat of NY State government. Summers are spent near water and winters are snowy, long, and very cold. Her parents own a successful business and Stefanik has a degree in government from Harvard. She has stuck to her goal to work in government ever since beginning with the Bush 43 administration.
Some of northern NY is very similar to the Rust Belt, with factories that once offered lifelong employment folding or moving elsewhere. It was not obvious before Stefanik was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2014 that many in the north country would be backing Trump in the 2016 election. Although Stefanik said she was a moderate Republican she helped Paul Ryan, a Tea Party favorite, prepare for the 2012 election. She has also worked for two groups, Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Foreign Policy Institute – two organizations that claim to be nonpartisan, a claim that is considered questionable. Since Stefanik’s district abuts mine to the north I knew that she became a Trump backer in the 2016 election. Many people in the north country who do not support Trump have no current local representation in the House since Trump supporters almost never vote with the Democrats.
So here I am, a libtard, a snowflake in snow country, surrounded by Republicans who toe the party line. I have Stefanik in NY 21 and then I have John Katko in NY24. John Katko came to Congress through law enforcement. He worked for the DOJ as a senior trial attorney at the US-Mexican Border (he has a degree in law from SU) and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and as an assistant US attorney in Syracuse, NY where he helped prosecute gang members. He is a good man, except for the fact that his ideology is old and his law and order approach is currently being questioned.
Syracuse, NY has popped up in recent research as one of the places in America with the most stubborn pockets of poverty and segregation. Policies pursued in the get-tough-on-crime years have done nothing to change this situation in Syracuse (and many other cities). John Katko has proven to be a hard worker, but inflexible in his belief that tougher is better. He also sees no reasons to work across the aisle although he occasionally votes with Democrats when it suits him. He does not want to listen to other points of view. If you write him he answers, however he says he understands what you are saying but he cannot agree with it and he must vote his conscience (not exactly the way one would expect a representative to think). It is incomprehensible how he can stomach someone like Trump as he is a very straight-arrow Catholic. But his inability to be flexible, both in terms of policy and sociological remedies, is the biggest argument against him. John Katko and Elise Stefanik are both members of a conservative group in the House called Tuesday Group.
So I am living in the midst of one district full of Trump supporters (and Katko has many in the district who agree with him), and I am bordered on the north by another Trump district. I have to hope that Dana Balter will win in NY24 (by magic) and that Tedra Cobb will win in NY21 (she has a bit more financial backing) and it appears that both of these House seats are very unlikely to be overturned in 2020. Slick ads for John Katko have already begun to appear, but I have seen no ads, slick or otherwise, for Democrats. And while I understand the rigor and purity of grassroots funding, I find it almost impossible to accept that it can win a national race in the age of Citizens United.