Arizona Republican who crossed Trump sees bad omens

Arizona Republican who crossed Trump sees bad omens


In three decades of his involvement in conservative politics, Rusty Bowers has never been more concerned with the gap between perception and reality that currently plagues the Arizona Republican Party.

Ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections, masked poll watchers, some armed, bent over ballot boxes to prevent a repeat of the vote-rigging they believe took the presidency away from Donald Trump in 2020.

Such a conspiracy does not exist, Bowers says, and a party that was once more pragmatist than propagandist is now utterly doomed to off-kilter theories — and that’s dangerous.

“It’s intimidating,” says Bowers — the 70-year-old Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives — of the men and women in paramilitary gear who have camped at ballot boxes in parts of the southwestern state.

“If you take away the elections and make them unsafe and increase the violence, that to me is fertile ground for fascism,” he told AFP in an interview at the Arizona State Capitol.

On Tuesday, a judge this week ordered the self-appointed election observers to keep their distance from the drop boxes. But a toxic political climate that has changed since the last election lingers and entangles Bowers.

In November 2020, after campaigning for Trump in the presidential campaign, Bowers watched in dismay as Joe Biden’s Arizona vote tumbled past that of the incumbent GOP.

Just 10,000 ballots separated the two candidates, but under first-past-the-post rules, the state’s electoral college votes all went to Biden, helping to tip the Democrat over the national line and into the White House.

Multiple investigations, including a recount organized by the Republican Party, found no evidence of wrongdoing; nothing to question the results.

In accordance with his constitutional duty as Speaker of the House, Bowers prepared to confirm the findings. And that should have been it.

On the other end, Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, went about reassuring Bowers that an old Arizona law — which he never found — allowed the Republican-controlled convention to change the state’s electoral colleges who vote for the formal election the President are responsible for the election, despite the referendum.

“I said, ‘Mr. Trump, I voted for you, I walked for you, I fought for you, I campaigned with you, but I will not do anything illegal for you,'” he recalled.

“When they asked me to break my vows on the Constitution, it was like saying, ‘We want you to throw away your religion, your beliefs, the basis of who you are.'”

– ‘RINO coward’? –

Bowers stood by his guns, and the Arizona Electoral College votes went to Biden.

As with others before and since who defied Trump, this decision turned his world upside down.

Bowers is not a stunted liberal; he is fiercely anti-life, wants the southern US border to be tightly controlled, and wears his Mormonism proudly.

Ever since Trump vilified him as a “RINO coward” — a Republican in name only — Bowers has been hit with death threats and a spate of abusive emails.

The father-of-seven has been called to Washington to testify before the investigative committee into the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol about the pressure he faced to rig the election.

For weeks, Trump supporters and far-right militiamen demonstrated in front of his house, sometimes armed, sometimes with signs accusing him of pedophilia and other insults favored by QAnon conspirators.

Even when physical intimidation subsided, Bowers became the target of political assassination.

Like many who cross Trump’s path, he faced a far-right challenge in the Republican primary for a seat in the state Senate.

But until he leaves office in January, Bowers says he will fight on.

A Republican state bill introduced at that session would have given the Arizona House the power to summarily overturn the results of a popular election, Bowers said, calling it “dangerous legislation.”

“It doesn’t say they can ‘if…’, it doesn’t say they can ‘when…’ or why. Nothing, no criteria,” says Bowers.

“I killed it,” he says.

Whether it stays dead is another matter.

Arizona voters are being offered Republican candidates for governor, secretary of state and US senator, all of whom fully endorse Trump’s electoral denial.

“The strength of the leadership of the current party is just anger,” says Bowers, adding that it “leans toward the Mussolini model,” which refers to Italy’s WWII-era fascist leaders.

And that is not good for the country as a whole, whose community is hanging by a thread.

“It’s a very superficial civilization,” he says, gesturing with his thumb and forefinger firmly pressed together.

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