“I. Do. Not. Like. Bullies.”

Published: September 16, 2022

By Jim Lichtman
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Photograph: Adam Riding/The Guardian

That’s Arizona Republican and Speaker of the House . . . correction, former Speaker of the House, Rusty Bowers who had been abruptly shown the door by his own Republican Party after Bowers refused to accede to Donald Trump’s wishes and overturn the will of 3.4 million Arizona voters who voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Bowers testified at the January 6 House committee about the illegal attempts by the Trump team to overturn the election.

“The thought that if you don’t do what we like,” Bowers told Britain’s Guardian, “then we will just get rid of you and march on and do it ourselves – that to me is fascism. The constitution is hanging by a thread.”

In an interview with Ed Pilkington, Bowers “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.”

And Republicans like Liz Cheney and others have been punished by constituents because they choose to stand up to a bully and stand by the constitution.

“Core values were instilled in him as a child growing up within a conservative Republican tradition,” Pilkington writes.  “Family, faith, community – these are values at a very core level. You don’t survive out here, on land like this, alone,” Bowers said.

Bowers voted for Trump in the last election.

“I campaigned for Trump, I went to his rallies, I stood up on the stage with him,” he said.

Somewhere along the line, however, Bowers could see the shift. He described the split “between his old-school Republican values and those of a new cadre of activists who were energized by Trump and his embrace of conspiracy theories and strongman politics.”

As Trump allies claimed fraud, pressure mounted for a recount. Bowers himself watched the recount process.

“I saw incredible amounts of protocols that were followed and signed off by volunteers – Democrats, Republicans, independents. Yes, Republicans for crying out loud! And they did it by the book.”

But for Trump and his allies, “by the book” only matters if Trump wins.

During a phone call from Trump and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, Bowers was told of an “arcane Arizona law” that would permit the Republican majority Arizona legislature “to throw out Biden’s electors and send Trump alternates to Congress in their place.

“‘I’m not a professor of constitutional law,” Bowers said, “but I get the idea. They want me to throw out the vote of my own people,” he recalls thinking. “I said, ‘Oh, wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait. So now, you’re asking me to overthrow the vote of the people of Arizona?

“I took an oath to the American constitution,” Bowers told Trump and Giuliani, “the state constitution, and its laws. Which one of those am I supposed to break?”

When The Guardian reporter asked if his values had been tested, Bowers said, “I never had the thought of giving up. No way. I don’t like bullies. That’s one constant in my life: I. Do. Not. Like. Bullies.”

Asked if he would do it again, Bowers said, “in a heartbeat. I’d do it 50 times in a row.”

America is at a crossroads: we either sit under the thumb of an authoritarian bully and his allies, or we stand by the constitution as Americans. We can’t do both.

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