Rusty Bowers is headed for the exit. After 18 years as an Arizona lawmaker, the past four as speaker of the state’s house of representatives, he has been unceremoniously shown the door by his own Republican party.
Last month he lost his bid to stay in the Arizona legislature in a primary contest in which his opponent was endorsed by Donald Trump. The rival, David Farnsworth, made an unusual pitch to voters: the 2020 presidential election had not only been stolen from Trump, he said, it was satanically snatched by the “devil himself”.
Bowers was ousted as punishment. The Trump acolytes who over the past two years have gained control of the state’s Republican party wanted revenge for the powerful testimony he gave in June to the January 6 hearings in which he revealed the pressure he was put under to overturn Arizona’s election result.
This is a very Arizonan story. But it is also an American story that carries an ominous warning for the entire nation.
Six hours after the Guardian interviewed Bowers, Liz Cheney was similarly ousted in a primary for her congressional seat in Wyoming. The formerly third most powerful Republican leader in the US Congress had been punished too.
In Bowers’s case, his assailants in the Arizona Republican party wanted to punish him because he had steadfastly refused to do their, and Trump’s, bidding. He had declined to use his power as leader of the house to invoke an “arcane Arizonan law” – whose text has never been found – that would allow the legislature to cast out the will of 3.4 million voters who had handed victory to Joe Biden and switch the outcome unilaterally to Trump.
Bowers has a word for that kind of thinking. “The thought that if you don’t do what we like, then we will just get rid of you and march on and do it ourselves – that to me is fascism.”
Come January, Bowers will no longer be an Arizona politician. He can now speak his mind. He did just that, for more than two hours in an interview with the Guardian this week.
He spoke his mind about the phone conversations he had with Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the height of the stolen election mayhem in 2020. He spoke about the “clown circus” of Trump loyalists who tried to bully him into subverting the election, and about the “emotional violence” that has been embraced by increasingly powerful sections of the Republican party in Arizona and nationally.
He spoke his mind too about the very real danger facing democracy in America today – to his astonishment, at the hands of his own party.
“The constitution is hanging by a thread,” he told me. “The funny thing is, I always thought it would be the…