Last month, Rusty Bowers, the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, testified before the January 6 committee. The longtime Republican answered questions under oath about the immense pressure he’d received, as an elected official in a state that Trump had lost, from members of the Trump administration to decertify the 2020 president election.
Bowers, a Trump supporter, reiterated what he told Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, at the time: that he had no such cause nor authority to do so.
“Just do it and let the courts figure it all out,” Giuliani responded, according to Bowers.
Bowers further testified that Giuliani, after failing to provide repeatedly promised proof that the election had been stolen, admitted that Trump’s legal team had “lots of theories, we just don’t have the evidence.”
Also memorable from Bowers’ testimony were his accounts of the enormous public backlash he received from fellow Republicans for not violating his oath and the law to do what Trump and his team had asked of him. That backlash included MAGA protesters showing up at his house, arguing with his neighbors, and accusing him of being “a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician,” the display of which upset Bowers’ deathly ill daughter inside; she passed away just weeks later.
In December 2020, as Bowers dealt with political hostility and personal hardship, he wrote down his thoughts in his journal. He read an entry from it at the hearing:
It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor. I may in the eyes of men not hold correct opinions or act according to their visions or convictions. But I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner, or a vengeful manner. I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to, with any contrived desire towards deflection of my deep foundational desire to follow God’s will as I believe he led my conscience to embrace. How else will I ever approach him in the wilderness of life, knowing that I ask this guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course he led me to take?
By any objective measure, Bowers did the right thing following the election — morally, ethically, lawfully, and patriotically. And when summoned by the January 6 committee to testify under oath about what happened, he did so.
This week, he paid yet another price for his integrity. The Republican Party of Arizona formerly censured him, and called on Republican voters to “replace him at the ballot box,” declaring that he is “unfit to serve” and is “no longer a Republican in good standing.”
It’s a punishment the state party, led by Chairwoman (and fierce Trump loyalist) Kelli Ward, has exacted on other notable Republican officials (and even non-officials) who had the audacity to get on Donald Trump’s bad side before and after the 2020 election. This includes former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain (the late Sen. John McCain’s widow) who supported Joe Biden’s candidacy, and current Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who (like Bowers) resisted pressure from Trump to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.
Of course, as was the case with Ducey, the Arizona GOP claimed that the censure was about other things, unrelated to Trump, and that the timing was mere coincidence.
Just about no one is buying it, and Ward herself isn’t even trying all that hard to prop up the illusion, actively campaigning for Bowers’ Trump-endorsed primary opponent in the state senate race.
“What we’re getting is a purity test,” former state representative Kirk Adams (R) said last year of the state party’s censures, “and that purity test is simple: are you loyal to Donald Trump no matter what? If you’re not, we’ll censure you.”
We’ve seen that same purity test conducted by other GOP state parties, of course, including in Wyoming, where Jan. 6 committee co-chair Liz Cheney (who received roughly 70% voter support in both the primary and general election in 2020) will almost certainly lose this year’s party-primary to the Trump-endorsed candidate (who’s been paying lip-service to the “stop the steal” hoax).
Like nearly all of the congressional Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January 2020, as well as others deemed insufficiently loyal to the former president, Bowers recognizes the doing the right thing in the aftermath of the election (in his case, just by upholding state law) will likely end his political career. He told a reporter the other day that it would be a “miracle” if he survives his primary.
While there have been hopeful signs in recent months (at least in some parts of the country) that the Republican Party is inching closer to finally moving on from Trump (a guy who has cost them far more politically than any of the Republican incumbents the Arizona and Wyoming GOPs are focused on purging from office), one has to wonder, once that page has finally turned, what the party will look like.
After all, when truth, honor, and standing up to a vile attempt to overturn U.S. democracy are considered grounds for political termination, what’s the price of political “success”?
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