Protesters shared the home address of Arizona House President Rusty Bowers on social media. They started a hashtag calling him a traitor. They went to his house honking and shouting until the police arrived.
And they were members of his own party.
When Arizona, a longtime Republican stronghold, voted for President-elect Joe Biden in November, President Donald Trump’s staunch supporters cried foul. After the state’s Republican-led government certified Biden’s victory, the Arizona Republican Party split along Trumpist lines, with Bowers and the state governor calling for reason, and more right-wing members calling for war – often against their party comrades.
After days of back and forth that saw the party’s official Twitter account suggest human sacrifice in the name of the doomed electoral effort, and one prominent elected official at least briefly appears to wish the governor dead, there is no end in sight. And the old guards are more and more afraid.
“I’m of the opinion that any rhetoric that invites violence under the guise of patriotism will find Timothy McVeigh of this generation,” Paul Charlton, Republican and former Arizona attorney general, told The Daily Beast.
The evolving crash is not exactly a traditional ideology. Bowers, for his part, is not a fan of Biden.
“As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election,” he wrote in a statement last week. “I voted for President Trump and I worked hard to re-elect him. But I cannot and will not accept the idea that we are breaking current law to change the outcome of a certified election.
The statement came as dozens of Republican state officials signed a letter urging Arizona to decertify Biden’s election victory.
Even with his endorsement of Trump, Bowers’ statement amounted to betrayal among the president’s most die-hard supporters. On Speak, a popular right-wing political social media platform, other Trump supporters launched a hashtag calling the conservative politician a “traitor,” with one person photographing him in a collage that compared him to Japanese bombers at Pearl Harbor during World War II.
All political parties have their fringes. But the attacks on Arizona Republicans are coming from inside the house – and the rhetoric keeps getting more and more savage.
“DO NOT CERTIFY A FALSE ELECTION!” The party’s current pinned tweet, from late November, reads, falsely alleging a voter fraud conspiracy.
Earlier this week, the official AZ GOP Twitter account tweeted one of the biggest peddlers of the electoral fraud conspiracy theory, who said he was “ready to give my life for this fight.”
“He is,” AZ GOP wrote in its quote tweet. “Are you?” He then tweeted and deleted a clip from the film Rambo with a caption about dying for the cause.
The party, whose spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, previously told the Daily Beast it did not approve of violence. But concern over what appears to be an endless cycle of extremist rhetoric continues to mount.
“This individual is going to see this language as an invitation to hurt someone,” said Charlton, the former state attorney general. “I don’t think you have to look very far to see clear enough examples. One example is one of President Donald Trump’s lawyers who indicated that an official should be taken out at dawn and shot. Arizona Republican Party tweets tolerating someone’s desire to die over voting matters. Use violent images from films. All these words, all these images will appeal to a certain sector of our population.
He noted recent examples of alleged plots of political violence, such as a ploy by militia groups accused of planning the kidnapping of the Democratic governor of Michigan.
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey became a favorite target for his own party after the state certified his election results.
Following AZ GOP’s bizarre promise to die for Trump, Ducey appeared to be trying to recover some sanity. “The Republican Party is the party of the Constitution and the rule of law,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “We put public safety, law and order first, and we respect the law enforcement officers who keep us safe. We don’t burn anything. We build things. “
Kelly Townsend, a newly elected Republican state representative to the state Senate, quoted him tweeting with a picture of the words “mene mene tekel upharsin” written on a wall. The words referred to a biblical story in which the words appear on a wall in front of a Babylonian king, who are said to mean God found him missing, and his days are numbered. The king was killed later that evening. Townsend later tweeted that his tweet was meant to express his disappointment with Ducey, not threaten him.
On several occasions this week, AZ GOP’s official Twitter account has referred to Ducey as a coat. At times these attacks got personal, with AZ GOP’s Twitter account accusing Ducey of trying to overthrow party president Kelli Ward.
“How come the Governor of Arizona (@dougducey) was able to go to the crowd and ditch our great president, while working behind the scenes to undermine and get rid of our brave and beloved president @ kelliwardaz? No loyalty! The account tweeted Wednesday night, followed by a photo of Ducey with the caption “Betrayed!”
Ward’s own connections to “Stop The Steal” conspiracy theorists are complex. In addition to personally claiming that Trump was the rightful election winner (he is not), Ward is also the former employer of two directors of a massive, now-deleted Facebook group, “Stop The Steal,” which has emerged shortly after the loss of Trump. . Ward did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Complaints from some State Republicans about their peers led one of these colleagues to be doxxed. After Townsend complained that Bowers would not be holding a special session on the cancellation of election results (in fact, he had canceled the in-person sessions due to COVID-19), someone responded to his tweet with Bowers’ home address and asked the Arizonans to “show up” there for a protest. Other Trump supporters have shared Bowers’ home address on popular channels with far-right conspiracy theory QAnon.
Townsend tweeted that she does not tolerate this person’s actions. The protesters still came, according to AZ Family. The outlet reported that people honked and shouted at Bowers’ home until police arrived. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to the Daily Beast that they received a call for a suspicious person or vehicle, but there was no evidence of a crime.
Charlton, the former state attorney general, has sounded the alarm that organized militia groups and lone violent actors appear to be on the rise and are ready to respond to calls for violence from officials.
“We have now seen a dramatic increase in these groups and individuals,” he said. “I fear that people who use language of a violent nature will be – I think to put it politely, naive – if they think they are not going to incite this kind of violence in the future.”
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