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Opinion

What the Devil won't tell you

Az House Speaker Rusty Bowers was heroic in defying Trump's election conspiracy

Arizona lawmaker's testimony to Jan. 6 committee will have a political cost

Way to go Rusty Bowers. Arizona owes you one. America owes you one.

No doubt, the death threats are flooding your inbox and your political future just got more uncertain. Here come the allegations of betrayal. Here come the people who think their ability to lie about elections should have more weight in determining who serves in public office than the will of the voters.

Still, thank you for protecting Arizona's voters' sacred power to decide the direction of our government. I know rejecting the pressure to overturn the 2020 election was hard. That's the point.

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testified Tuesday before the Jan. 6 Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. His testimony explained the pressure put on him by former President Donald Trump's team to overturn the Arizona election and just hand our 11 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who lost the voters of our state.

Bowers was spectacular during the hearing. The Washington Post opinion page called Bowers' testimony the most compelling so far. They're even saying that in Canada. After the day's hearing Fox News anchor Martha McCallum finally broke and described the testimony as "huge, stunning and clear" evidence that there was no voter fraud.

And to hear his emotional tone as he seemed to summon the courage to stand firm, was as compelling as the words he spoke.

"It is a tenant of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired," Bowers told the committee. "It is one of my most basic foundational beliefs. For me to (overturn an election) just because someone asks me to .... I will not do it."

I would say "Testify!" but that's exactly what he was doing.

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Bowers shut down Trump's post-election drive to de-certify, overturn or generally cancel the voice of Arizona voters.

Now, for his part, Trump issued a deranged rant calling Bowers a "Republican In Name Only."

To which I say: "What are they putting in your ice cream down in Mar-a-Lago? Rusty Bowers has been driving Arizona liberals crazy for going on three decades. In the 1990s he was being what I then called a right-wing crackpot. You, Mr. Orange Has-Been, were donating to the Democrats and supporting a woman's right to choose."

Bowers, for his part, has been a right-wing conservative for decades, and has recently supported every bill in the push to restrict a woman's right to choose an abortion in Arizona. He's spread conspiracist fantasies about Planned Parenthood promoting sex education (which he called "state-sponsored pedophilia") to bolster its bottom line by spreading sexually transmitted diseases. He's had a copy of the Christian Nationalist "American Patriot's Bible" — which downplays the evils of slavery, praises Andrew Jackson, and includes prayers from Robert E. Lee —  on his desk at the Legislature.

I say that to vouch for Bowers bonafides in this current crisis, not to dampen my praise.

Bowers laid out the post-election plot during his testimony. After the 2020 election, Trump and Giuliani called him and asked him to throw out what they said were "rigged" election results. They said they had evidence. They never provided it.

In fact, in a subsequent meeting, Giuliani told several Republican lawmakers "We have a lot of theories, we just don't have the evidence."

Bowers then asked if they were supposed to overturn an election on a theory? Yes. He was told.

Think about it. All the Legislature needs is a single member with the ability to form words in their mouth that spit out a theory of fraud. That's enough to overturn an election. At that point, government exists at the sole whim of the people in power.

Faint praise

People on the Left have been troubling me for the last few years because they just can't welcome new allies in the fight to save democracy. 

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It's always gotta be "I disagree with them on everything, but ..." or "Liz Cheney is a terrible person on everything but on this one thing, she's doing the absolute minimum." I've been hearing this stuff since Trump got control of the GOP. Hell, the Left has been hating on the Lincoln Project, a group of former Republicans who abandoned the party over its gathering authoritarian imperative.

My favorite is: "You were wrong on Iraq. You are not allowed to be right now."

Folks, don't crucify the converts. Here's your sword. Here's your shield. Welcome to the fight.

When a soldier or a Marine receives the Medal of Honor, the authority who drapes it around their neck might describe the acts of valor that warranted the commendation. What they don't do is then start reading off a litany of the hero's moral failings: "Sgt. Brown charged the machine gun nest armed only with a can opener but he was kind of a jerk to his first girlfriend...."

Not so easy

I know, I know, I know. Bowers did the right thing and we should expect that. Why praise him?

I'll tell you why. He did the right thing when it was hard.

The Left suddenly has it in its head that the right thing has always been obvious and is always a simple act. 

Mmmm. (Clear throat). Excuse me.

It's not. The urgency in righteous action comes from the understanding that it's sometimes difficult. That's usually when it's most important.

Ask yourself this: When have you not done the right thing? Was it perhaps because it was more trouble than it was worth?

Democracy-loving Americans and the Left in general may want to embrace the idea of offering redemption to new allies. They might get more of them that way.

The cost

It costs an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamie Raskin, liberal podcasters or true-progressive Dirtbag Left tweeters nothing to describe the Jan. 6 insurrection as such. What am I out by whacking Republicans for fascist tendencies (OK, talk to me in five years)?

Bowers now says he has a new weekend routine.

"It is a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays," Bowers said. Armed Trump supporters threaten him and, for some reason, his neighbors. They drive trucks around his neighborhood with loudspeakers blaring that he's the one who's a pedophile. Fun stuff.

Bowers has spent a lifetime in Republican circles. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and served two terms before going up to the state Senate in 1996 for three more terms. Those were the days when they were trying to completely remake government to pre-New Deal configurations. I had phone calls where Republican lawmakers were describing themselves as modern day Ben Franklins and James Madisons, reinventing the social contract.

He's been running in those circles for decades. Republicans in the House elected him speaker in part because of the relationships he built with members.

His testimony about Trump's conspiracy to overturn the election could cost him his political career, as he seeks election to the Arizona State Senate. He may go down in the Republican primary against sitting state Sen. David Farnsworth.

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Everyone can have morals, until they get in the way. Yet that's precisely when you know you have ethical principles. 

What Bowers stood up for is our basic civic process: he brings his ideas to the debate, and his opponents also make their arguments. The people choose between them, and the public and candidates alike honor that decision.

That Democrats have been having difficulty in making racial, social and economic justice work as political arguments, frankly, says more about them then it does the Republicans who argue against them.

Meanwhile, Bowers is standing firm on the right to keep having the argument, and the duty of us all to protect that from those who would quell the debate and end our elections.

To hear Bowers tell it, he swore to preserve protect and defend the Constitution when he took public office. "I will not break my oath," Bowers told Congress.

Sounds easy, until it's hard.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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1 comment on this story

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197 comments
Jun 22, 2022, 11:39 am
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But he’ll still vote for tRump…

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Gage Skidmore

Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testified before Congress about how he stood up to former President Donald Trump's bogus election fraud claim.

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