A great deal of ink has been devoted to the fact that America today is deeply divided. Most people blame the problem on “partisanship.” Inevitably, each party has its extreme fringes. Yet our two major parties are no longer remotely comparable. Democratic “extremists” want to fund healthcare, education, and prescription drug relief. GOP extremists want to reduce voting rights, women’s rights, minority rights, and advocate violent insurrection— including attacks on the FBI, the IRS, the CDC, and so on.
The recent performance of Rusty Bowers, Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, reveals a deeper division. Bowers testified before the House committee investigating the Trump-inspired January 6th Capitol insurrection.
In his testimony, Bowers showed himself to be a man of deep convictions. He is clearly a devout Christian who earnestly believes that the US Constitution was a divinely inspired document and that the vision of America’s founding fathers was worth defending. Shortly after the 2020 election, President Trump called him. Bowers recounted how Trump suggested that he (Bowers) should use his power to overturn the legitimate election results and how Trump tried to persuade him to ignore his belief in the US Constitution, the Arizona State Constitution, the rule of law, the solemn oath he had taken to uphold these laws, and his own deep religious convictions. Bowers was clearly disgusted by Trump’s repeated pleas that he should ignore all this and simply embrace the “big lie” that the election results could simply be overturned at Trump’s request. To his credit, Bowers refused. He had voted for Trump. There was nothing partisan about his choice. Bowers was upholding the Constitution, while Trump was trying to subvert it.
Here comes the real “great divide.” In interviews a few days after his damming testimony established that Trump was a person completely lacking in moral scruples- Bowers said he would be willing to vote for Trump again. He didn’t want to, but he would, if the choice was between Biden and Trump.
This points to the real problem. Bowers and Biden have a great deal in common. Both are men of deep faith. Both have spent most of their lives in public service. Both are devoted family men. Biden has almost no record of scandal, corruption, or personal impropriety (Trump’s life is rife with them). Yet in his post-testimony comments about Biden, Bowers showed a level of disdain and disrespect for Biden that verged on hatred. As for Trump, Bowers said he didn’t want to vote for Trump but “someone like him.” Wow. What does that mean? This is a line that many Republicans are taking and is worth examining.
Presumably, someone “like Trump” would still be a rich, entitled, offensive, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, autocratic, power-hungry, narcissistic egomaniac bent on maintaining himself in power even if it means turning our nation upside down.
Bowers claimed he like Trump’s “policies.” These policies included a massive tax-cut giveaway to the rich, extremist rhetoric of all kinds, and a blind eye to the Covid-19 crisis that killed over a million Americans and left the economy in shambles. From Afghanistan, to Covid, to NATO, to the economy, to his final days trying to mount an insurrection to overturn a legitimate election, Trump’s polices were a disaster. By contrast, in a mere two years, Biden has dealt ably and responsibly with all that. It is hard to understand why a man of faith in God and the Constitution would waver in a choice between Trump and Biden. But Bowers does…
A psychologist might say that Rusty Bowers is experiencing “cognitive dissonance.” He is divided against himself. People in this condition suffer from anxiety, which can express itself as anger, irrational behavior, and even violence. This is a pretty good description of many in the GOP today. A layman might say that somewhere in their lives these people got hold of the wrong end of the stick and have been going in the wrong direction ever since. They just can’t admit it. They just keep beating other people with their stick.
It is appalling to realize that 1/3 of the current US supreme court justices were chosen by Trump. In their confirmation hearings, under oath, they all solemnly testified that Roe v. Wade was established legal precedent. Then they reversed themselves. Apparently, they all perjured themselves. It is the first time that the court has taken an established right away from the American people. Bowers apparently approves.
The old saying “united we stand, divided we fall” applies to individuals as well as nations. Until voters themselves face up to the danger that Trump or “someone like him” represents, the great divide will only deepen.