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Cruz, Mast, Stefanik: All We Should Not Be

By Caroline S. Engelmayer
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Many donned Trump flags as capes. Some, zip ties in hand, wore paramilitary garb. But blame for the attempted coup at the United States Capitol this Wednesday extends beyond the cast of pro-Trump extremists who violently breached what should’ve been among the most secure sites in the nation.

Responsibility for the sacking of the Capitol — which has left five dead and several others injured — lies at the feet of lawmakers who, for months, peddled fabrications of election fraud: especially those who, even after the Capitol’s desecration, voted against certifying Biden’s electoral victories, partaking in a desperate bid to rewrite the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Three Harvard affiliates — U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), U.S. Representative Brian Mast (R-Fla.), and U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.), a former Crimson editorial editor — are among these coup voters.

Part of what drove us to this point — part of why a cornerstone of American democracy found itself collapsed by violence — was the lack of sharp, unambiguous censure of the president's conduct by elected officials and social media platforms. So let us be perfectly clear: we unequivocally condemn the insurrection and its perpetrators. For a democratic leader to attempt to subvert the very democratic institutions that brought them to power is unacceptable. This should be evident and non-partisan — however, the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn election results Wednesday make clear it is not.

Every Trump supporter enabled the Capitol insurrection. Donald Trump would not be a powerful man — one capable of crippling the peaceful transition of power as he has — without those who choose to follow him. Though not all conservatives are Trump supporters, and not all Trump supporters championed election fraud lies or directly supported Wednesday’s events, the president’s followers all bear some responsibility for this dark chapter of our political history. From the voters who, after four years of sustained, well-documented anti-democratic conduct, chose to cast their ballots for the soon-to-be-former president; to the Harvard Republican Club, who chose to endorse Trump in 2020 after rebuking him as a “threat to the survival of the Republic'' in 2016; to the public officials who used their platforms to peddle disproven conspiracy theories propping up the paper-thin fantasy of a stolen election. All continued to support Trump despite his engagement in hateful, delusional lies and, in doing so, set the groundwork for this tragedy.

When you convince millions of Americans that their vote has been stolen, legitimizing baseless conspiracies and riling up their basest, most reactionary instincts, you can only expect that some of them will fight back against the falsified wrong.

That multiple Harvard affiliates fanned these flames with such ferocity that it led them to baselessly vote against the certification of Biden’s win election results strikes us as a plain, knowing betrayal of our democracy – an attempted coup in and of itself.

The Harvard affiliation Senator Cruz and Representatives Stefanik and Mast boast almost certainly helped them attain the positions of power from which they cast their anti-democratic votes this week. Ultimately, a degree from Harvard signifies more than just a completed education. It grants graduates authority, prestige, and social capital that can be leveraged to gain access to the world’s highest positions of authority. It may be surreal to imagine that the people we meet in class today will become tomorrow’s representatives, senators, or even presidents. But this is precisely what happened to Kelby Hagar, a Harvard Law School graduate and former classmate of Cruz. On Wednesday, Hagar wrote his former classmate the following message: “[I am writing you this letter] to provide a warning from someone who you knew years ago, when we were mere students, full of ideals and lacking power: You have lost your way.”

Though there is no single definition of what a Harvard student “should” be, Cruz, Stefanik, and Mast provide a clear portrait of the prestige Harvard can confer being used as it absolutely should not be: in the relentless pursuit of political influence at a glaring cost to morality. The authority Harvard confers should not be used to peddle unfounded conspiracies designed to undermine faith in our elections. Harvard students should not be glowering threats to American democracy. In other words, Cruz, Mast, and Stefanik exemplify the worst of what we could be.

Today, we’re just students — more or less bright-eyed, all lacking deep political prestige. But in the future, some of us may be seated in the very halls of power that today’s affiliates like Cruz, Mast, and Stefanik have helped ransack. At the very least, we will all find ourselves wielding the strange gifts the Harvard name allots us. Not debasing ourselves and this country the way they have is a small way we might help our clearly bleeding republic.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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