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Wanted: College President. Must be able to solve all the problems the world can’t solve.

Salary: Good. Job Security: Nil

A word, if I might, about Elise Stefanik, the Republican representative whose rant against three college presidents went viral and has resulted in the Penn president resigning her position. The other two are under fire, their positions tentative. (They may be gone when you read this.)

Elise Stefanik was elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, on the belief that she would modernize the Republican party to attract more women and appeal to her fellow millennials. On election night, she saluted her opponents and said, "No matter their party, our democratic process is strengthened by those individuals willing to put forth their ideas." In 2014, the Republicans were still smarting from the Obama whupping of 2012 and fearing the complete demise of their party...which would happen sooner than they expected.

As for the 2014 model Stefanik, she became obsolete in a heartbeat. In 2021, Donald Trump, newly minted as an ex-president, tweeted—as Ms. Stefanik was about to supplant Liz Cheney as Republican Conference Chair—"Elise Stefanik has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement." 

Since then, she has voted to deny the 2020 electoral results and been a staunch supporters of the same conspiracy theories that make laughing stocks of Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene. The difference is that those two started at the bottom and remained there. Stefanik had farther to fall as a woman of reputed principle but did so anyway, trading her well-established and almost revered integrity for the occasional pat on the head from Donald Trump, the man who would be hard-pressed to spell the word.

I cannot pretend to know her motives going into last week's inquisition of the three college presidents, but I do know she was spoiling for a fight and also that the college administrators' answers to questions on campus anti-Semitism were inadequate and unconvincing. But I also know an ambush when I see one, and I know that part of the new Republican strategy (new after October 7 of this year) is to exploit supposed Democratic weakness on anti-Semitism and to equate major colleges with so-called Democratic elitism. The hypocrisy is so typical of the Republicans that it hardly bears mentioning, but at the risk of preaching to the choir, it was Donald Trump who blessed the Nazis at Charlottesville in 2017. "Good people on both sides," he said, when one of his good people, between shouts of "Jews will not replace us" ran over a woman and killed her. Trump's party continued to support him...and continues today. The window into the soul of the modern GOP opened during a white supremacist rally in Virginia six years ago; it hasn't closed yet. It was wide open when Nick Fuentes, the avowed neo-Nazi, dined with Kanye West and Trump last year. Elise Stefanik may very well be disgusted by the rise of anti-Semitism, as we all are, but to claim her viewpoint is that of GOP leadership is laughable as long as Donald Trump is the standard bearer.

Although I have no influence, I hope the other two college presidents hold their positions and continue to treat free speech like the muddle it is—filled with gray areas that don't play into a world that suddenly demands black-and-white clarity. The women have apologized and explained; in fact, they have done everything except declare what we all know to be true—the questions were meant to divide, not elucidate—to underscore (1) the Republican drift toward authoritarianism when free speech will be reduced, restricted, and finally eliminated. We have already heard Trump threaten to lock up journalists in his second term. Even though Stefanik may not agree with that, marching along in lockstep with Trump does not illustrate her interest in a democratic republic.

Her party does not care about Jews, Muslims, Catholics, or Protestants—its behavior while in the thrall of Trump has shown no underlying moral code of any kind other than to win. I know there are Democrats who have also called for the ouster of these three college presidents. I'm disappointed, but I hope their decision is one based on principles, not on who can garner more votes in 2024.

In the early history of America, i.e., before 2016, citizens could agree on certain moral tenets, compromise for the greater good, and even treat each other with humanity despite glaring political differences. But an America that behaves publicly like a banana republic has lost its power to influence—at home and abroad. Much of the unrest in the world, including that in the Middle East, rages because the United States has lost that moral authority. Admittedly, we have been the world's policeman too many times, but sometimes you need a cop.

To think that firing three college presidents is even a baby step toward a solution is inane.

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1 comentario

27 dic 2023

Everything from you turns into a Trump hate rant.

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