Today begins the second week of hearings of the US House of Representatives Committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection. During the first week, there was a major New Jersey focus, namely the videotaped testimony of former 2020 Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien. His climb to national prominence as a GOP campaign guru accelerated as a result of his previous service as manager of Chris Christie’s successful 2009 campaign for New Jersey governor.
I have known Bill Stepien for 21 years, and I am not a fan. Still, his testimony in his videotaped deposition appears to be honest, and it constitutes compelling evidence of the falsity of Trump’s claims that the election was stolen from him. I must say that in his testimony, Bill Stepien fulfilled his fundamental governmental obligations as a citizen, regardless of any other feelings I have regarding him.
Yet while Stepien’s testimony constituted dissent from Trump’s Big Lie claims that the election was stolen from him, it hardly constitutes repudiation of the Donald. Most relevant on this score is Stepien’s continued service as campaign consultant to Harriet Hageman, who is seeking to unseat Liz Cheney, the leading national Republican hero of democracy, in her Congressional reelection campaign in Wyoming.
Hageman, endorsed by Trump himself, is a flagrant enabler of Trump’s Big Lie of a “stolen election,”. Specifically, she has stated, “we don’t know” if President Biden was legitimately elected.
Given Stepien’s role as Hageman’s campaign consultant., it is clear that if he is not supportive of the Big Lie, he certainly is willing to profit from it. Under these circumstances, Stepien’s testimony of disagreement from the Big Lie constitutes a carefully worded dissent from The Donald, but not a repudiation.
Stepien is a very intelligent, skillful, and well-informed political operative. He is hardly a political naif, and he took on the role of Trump 2020 campaign manager knowing full well of the Donald’s tolerance of hate groups, exhibited flagrantly during Charlottesville, and he also had full knowledge of the authoritarian core of Trumpism. And he knew that Trump has a long record of refusing to condemn White Supremacist entities.
I do not think that Bill Stepien is a racist or authoritarian. Yet as campaign manager, Stepien was a prime promoter of the reelection of a president whose core was Trumpism, a brazen agenda of hatred and authoritarianism.
If Stepien sincerely was regretful and repentant of his furtherance of Trumpism and seeking of redemption, he could have resigned as campaign manager after the second Biden-Trump debate, when Trump proclaimed his alliance with the hate group, the Proud Boys, with the words, “stand back and stand by”. Leaders of the Proud Boys would later be charged with seditious conspiracy regarding the riots of January 6, 2021.
At his deposition, Stepien sought to downplay his connection with Trumpism, claiming that he was part of “Team Trump Normal.” The phrase “Trump Normal,” however is an oxymoron. There was and is nothing normal about Donald Trump and Trumpism and the threat they continue to pose to American democracy.
And Bill Stepien has yet to express a mea culpa for his promotion of Donald Trump, whose reelection we now know from these hearings would have been a mortal threat to American democracy. Accordingly, given Bill Stepien’s lack of repentance for his Trumpist role, there can be no political redemption of him.
Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.