Arizona Is the Viral Breeding Ground of Republican Sickness
This isn’t John McCain’s party anymore, or the same state he represented. The Southern Strategy is back, with a vengeance.
If you want to understand how the GOP will subvert democracy to achieve minority power for white Christian supremacy, you need to pay attention to Arizona, which has emerged as a fecund laboratory for the radicalized, weaponized death cult spanning the A to Z from assholes to zealots.
That might seem hyperbolic in light of President Biden’s historic win, becoming only the second Democrat to take Arizona’s 11 electoral votes since 1948, and the election of two Democratic senators—former astronaut Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, who at the time of this article is apparently still a Democrat in Denim despite obstructing her party’s ambitious agenda.
However, look a little closer, and you’ll see the ideological tiki-torchbearers of former senator and life-long racist Barry Goldwater, seeking to burn our democratic norms down to the ground. Goldwater was the godfather of “the Southern Strategy” that successfully manipulated white rage and white anxiety over civil rights progress and feminism to win over white voters. The strategy, refined by Nixon, perfected by Reagan, and fully radicalized and realized by Trump, also courts white evangelical Christians, seeks to destroy social welfare programs, and is now aggressively paving the way for Trumpism and authoritarian rule.
The Arizona GOP is no longer the party of “moderate” John McCain, who was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, or roughly a million years ago. Now? Even in death, he’s the target of GOP mockery and contempt. His “RINO” family has been cancelled by MAGA acolytes because they didn’t bend the knee for Trump, who released a statement last week ridiculing Meghan McCain’s departure from The View and referring to her as a “bully” and a “lowlife.” Last January, the Arizona Republican Party officially censured Cindy McCain, Governor Doug Ducey, and former senator Jeff Flake, simply because they opposed Trump’s failed coup.
Kelli Ward, the head of the Arizona GOP, continues to be one of the most active promoters of the “Big Lie” that inspired violent insurrectionists to overrun the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. She stands by the lie even after Cyber Ninjas, an inexperienced outfit hired by Republicans to do an election audit of Maricopa County, found that Biden actually won by even a larger margin and there was no fraud. Trump, the cult leader, still barks “Fraud!”—which means that Ward and Arizona Republicans still jump and repeat the dog whistles. Earlier this week, Ward called for election audits in all 15 Arizona counties. Republican leaders across the country are doubling down on these time and money-wasting “fraudits” to rile up their radicalized base, degrade their faith in democratic institutions, and mislead them with conspiracy theories that the “deep state” is somehow oppressing their votes and liberties. Meanwhile, Arizona Republicans, who are masters of hypocritical projection, have been driving the GOP’s unprecedented voter suppression bills to make sure people of color and Democratic voters don’t deny them another election.
Just in case voter suppression doesn’t work, Trump and Republicans are banking on Arizona congressman Mark Finchem to help them throw out the state’s electoral votes if, God forbid, the state votes against Trump in 2024. Finchem, who actively promotes the Big Lie, will do what Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refused to do, which is to succumb to Trump’s demand to “find votes” and overturn the results. Raffensperger, a life-long Republican, is now purged from the GOP, much like the McCains and even Rep. Liz Cheney, who voted for Trump’s agenda 93 percent of the time and was the party’s No. 3 in the House. Why? They put their country and democracy over the authoritarian impulses of a corrupt vulgarian.
Finchem will have no such ethical and legal qualms and pangs of conscience. He’ll be fine overthrowing the government if needed, because he is a proud and open member of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing, anti-government militia movement composed of thousands of law enforcement officials, veterans, and, according to leaked emails, at least 28 current elections officials. This week, Rolling Stone identified 40 people who’d used their government emails to register with the anti-government group that had a large and violent presence at the Jan. 6 insurrection, where Finchem was there alongside them.
He was also in Las Vegas last week, where he openly participated in a QAnon conference entitled “For God And Country Patriot Double Down,” featuring an incendiary and batshit speech by actor Jim Caviezel, who took lines from Braveheart and finished by saying, “By God we must live, and with the Holy Spirit as your shield and Christ as your sword may you join Saint Michael and all the other angels in defending God and sending Lucifer and his henchmen straight back to hell where they belong!!!” The irony of this being said in a casino in Las Vegas, the city of sin, was lost on all of them. The speech was nonetheless heard by Arizona state Reps. Leo Biasiucci and Wendy Rodgers, and state Senator Sonny Borelli. The man who was accused of being behind the “Q” account, Ron Watkins, was also in attendance where he announced his intention to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in—you guessed it—Arizona.
It’s worth remembering that QAnon fully radicalized Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a police officer as she illegally tried to break into the Speaker’s Lobby on Jan. 6 despite repeated warnings. Rep Paul Gosar of Arizona reframed her as a “martyr” and falsely accused the police officer of “executing her.” This lie was parroted by Trump, and she joins kooks and killers like Kyle Rittenhouse and war criminal Eddie Gallagher in the GOP’s new pantheon of heroes.
Gosar promotes the Big Lie, pals around with white nationalists, and promotes their slogans on social media. When asked if America is heading into civil war, the leader of the Arizona Oath Keepers movement claims Gosar replied, “We’re in it, we just haven’t started shooting yet.”
Although the violent, pro-Trump mob didn’t shoot on Jan. 6, five people died that day. According to one of the organizers, far-right activist Ali Alexander, Gosar helped him plan the “Stop the Steal” rally, along with Rep. Mo Brooks, who conveniently wore a bulletproof vest, and Rep. Andy Biggs, who also hails from Arizona and is the head of the House Freedom Caucus, which is the Justice League of GOP nuts, racists, and conspiracy theorists.
Gosar also reportedly encouraged people to attend by saying they would receive a “blanket pardon” from President Trump. The same anonymous participants in the insurrection who said that also said that they’d talked beforehand with Rep. Andy Biggs and five other sitting Republican officials, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who in a news interview cited the Constitution to justify overthrowing “tyrants.” Brooks has denied any role in planning the insurrection, but added he’d be “proud” if his staff had a role in the violent event.
All of the individuals are still in Congress. None of them have been rebuked by GOP leadership. They are praised and encouraged by Trump. And in Arizona, Gosar and his ilk are plotting and planning their coup and assault on democracy in open daylight, like a movie villain who reveals his nefarious plot in the first act, supported by a conservative base that will bring it all down to preserve power by any violent and undemocratic means necessary.
Goldwater couldn’t have hoped for more from his ideological progeny.