One reason to have very little faith in the future of American democracy is that even the minority of Republicans willing to stand up to Trump have been negatively polarized into moral bankruptcy:
Finding signs to worry about the future of American democracy is not hard, but few are quite so painful and acute as the cognitive dissonance displayed by Rusty Bowers this week.
Bowers, the Republican speaker of the Arizona State House, was the star witness during yesterday’s hearing of the U.S. House’s January 6 committee. Bowers calls himself a conservative Republican, and he has the record to back that claim up. Like most Republicans, he supported Donald Trump in the 2020 election, but when Trump and Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure him to assist in their scheme to overturn the results of the election in Arizona, where Joe Biden narrowly won, Bowers refused.
He recalled telling Giuliani, “You are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it, and I also swore to the Constitution and the laws of the state of Arizona.” Speaking slowly and carefully, he later added, “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—I will not do it.”
Bowers’s testimony was powerful because it was somber, serious, and clearly heartfelt. This is also why it was threatening to Trump, who issued a statement before the hearing even began, attacking Bowers and claiming he’d agreed with Trump that the election was rigged. Under oath, Bowers said flatly that Trump’s account was false.
And yet in an interview with the Associated Press published yesterday, Bowers also said he would back Trump if he runs for president in 2024. “If he is the nominee, if he was up against Biden, I’d vote for him again,” Bowers said. “Simply because what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country. In my view it was great.”
One thing worth noting here is that, for the right, the ideological stakes of the 2024 presidential election are exceedingly modest. They have a stranglehold on the federal courts and are almost certain to have a large Senate majority starting in 2025. A Democratic president wouldn’t be able to get much of their cabinet or any appellate judges confirmed, let alone sign any kind of ambitious agenda into law or be able to enforce existing laws in any way that the typical Republican judge disapproves of. Despite this, Republicans will be in lockstep support of Trump in 2024, and are more likely to do whatever it takes this time.