Republicans throw around words such as “cancelled” so casually, it can be easy to forget what the terms are supposed to mean. Objectively, at least with regard to culture and politics, to “cancel” someone is to withdraw support in ways that impose professional costs on a target.
With this in mind, it was odd, to put it mildly, to see House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik tell Steve Bannon yesterday that she believes she was “canceled” in the wake of his partisan antics last year.
“During the election security and the electoral college votes, again, we were smeared, canceled, I was proud to be a leader standing up for the Constitution. We saw significant overreach in a number of states, which all of the viewers know about: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, etc.”
When the host asked whether Harvard tried to take her degree away, the New York Republican responded, “You’re remembering correctly, Steve, I was canceled by Harvard.” After claiming that “they” started “discussing” revoking her degree, Stefanik added, “I am proudly canceled.”
To the extent that reality still has meaning, let’s quickly note for the record that while the congresswoman was removed from a Harvard advisory committee early last year, there’s no evidence of anyone affiliated with the school trying to take her degree away.
But putting details like these aside, there’s a larger takeaway that’s more important: Stefanik wants to be seen as a victim, despite what actually happened.
Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane. As regular readers may recall, Stefanik used to be a relative GOP moderate who, as recently as 2016, was reluctant to even say Donald Trump’s name out loud for fear that voters might see her as a Trump ally. It was around this time when the congresswoman encouraged voters to see her as one of Congress’ "most bipartisan" members.
The New Yorker eventually concluded, however, that to get ahead in GOP politics, she would need to put her principles aside and start embracing partisan nonsense. By 2020, the congresswoman had adopted an entirely new persona as a hard-liner and Trump loyalist.
With this in mind, after the 2020 election, Stefanik joined with the far-right and urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn election results she didn’t like. Weeks later, she also voted against certifying election results.
To hear her tell it, Stefanik, who was certainly criticized for engaging in such radicalism, was “canceled.” What actually happened, however, was that she was promoted: Then-House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney insisted on defending her democracy and the legitimacy of election results, so GOP lawmakers ousted her from her leadership position and handed the job to Stefanik.
If anyone was “canceled” as part of these developments, it was Cheney, not her successor.
More than a year later, Stefanik not only believes her efforts to undermine our democracy were the right call — she hasn’t hinted at any possible regrets — the House Republican leader also suggested that she’s somehow been punished over her abuses.
But she wasn’t. When a rank-and-file member of the House is elevated to a leadership post, that’s not an example of being “canceled,” it’s the opposite.
The implication seemed to be that Stefanik took umbrage to being criticized, simply because she joined with her radical colleagues as part of a partisan plot to undo the results of a free and fair election. Listening to her complain yesterday, it was as if the GOP lawmaker effectively argued, “A bunch of people gave me a hard time just because I tried to throw out a few million Americans’ votes for no reason.”
The fact remains, however, that if Stefanik was “canceled,” then the word has no meaning.