Rusty Bowers is the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. That’s the same position he held in 2020 when he and his family, including his dying daughter, endured what he called “disturbing” threats and harassment after Bowers refused Donald Trump’s request that he overturn his state’s certified election results.
Testifying before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, Bowers said, “It is a tenet of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired, of my most basic foundational beliefs. And so for me to do that because somebody just asked me to is foreign to my very being. I will not do it.”
Yet given the opportunity in 2024, what Bowers will do is cast his ballot for the corrupt, faithless man who tried to subvert that same hallowed Constitution.
“If he is the nominee, if he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again,” Bowers, a Republican, said after the hearing. “Simply because what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country. In my view it was great.”
Even before his malicious indifference to the pandemic’s toll became tantamount to a deadly variant, Trump was arguably the worst president in American history. Praising his cruel White House tenure as “great” is troubling enough. But Bowers experienced how Trump abused the power of his office and brought hell into the lives of those who defied his illicit ambitions. He witnessed firsthand why Trump is unfit to hold public office ever again.
That Bowers still supports Trump should make plain that the Jan. 6 hearings are unlikely to sway Republicans who remain devoted to the man who incited a violent coup against his own government. And, frankly, that’s fine.
To some extent, we were primed for Republicans to shrug off these hearings in 2016 after a leaked audio from a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape featured Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. Since he was already facing multiple and credible accusations of sexual misconduct, it should have been a death knell for Trump’s presidential ambitions. But the needle barely moved against him. A month later, Trump was elected as this nation’s 45th president.
Here was clear evidence that no matter how outrageous, sexist, racist, or even potentially criminal his behavior, Trump would probably always have a significant base mainlining his lies and standing by him.
In fact, they’re standing by their man now by downplaying the hearings. Many GOP lawmakers dismiss them as a showy partisan hack job by Democrats. Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the two Republicans on the nine-member House committee, have been lambasted by Trump and his minions as RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only.
It’s clear that Trump is watching — what else does a bitter twice-impeached, one-term president have to do? And he’s upset that more Republicans aren’t defending his indefensible actions in the weeks between the election and the insurrection.
Still, in numerous polls about 60 to 70 percent of Republicans continue to cling to Trump’s Big Lie about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election and deny that President Biden was legitimately elected. Texas Republicans even enshrined Trump’s lies in their party platform.
But convincing Trump’s base of his criminality is not the goal. The goal is to affix blame to Trump and his co-conspirators for their sweeping schemes to wreck this nation’s democratic foundation and also show that the coup continues.
“Our work must do much more than just look backwards. Because our democracy remains in danger,” said Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the House committee’s chairman, during the first televised hearing. “The conspiracy to thwart the will of the people is not over.”
In his testimony, Bowers recognized that ongoing threat. “I just think it is horrendous. It’s terrible. The result of throwing the pebble in the pond, the reverberations across the pond, have, I think, been very destructive.”
Yet Bowers would still vote again for the destructive man who started the reverberations shaking our democracy to its core. Ours is not merely a nation divided. Millions are living in a parallel universe where they await the return of the unrepentant grifter they’ve made white supremacy’s messiah. Even Trump’s own incriminating words can’t pierce their imperviousness.
This is what democracy is up against, but the Jan. 6 committee’s assignment is not to free the minds of the brainwashed. Its solemn duty is presenting evidence, sharing the testimony of witnesses — most of them Republicans — and demanding accountability for Trump’s crimes against America and redress for a badly shaken democracy still under assault.