Have you always been a Republican?
Arizona Republican: "I want my party back"
"Be careful with this stone, do you see these holes? A rattlesnake lives here," warns Linda Rawles. It is better to make a lot of noise to drive away the, in the worst case, fatal animal.
Make a lot of noise. That is Rawle's motto for life in these remaining months before the presidential election. Make a lot of noise to prevent bad and worse things from happening in November.
Like so many Americans of her age group, the 61-year-old lawyer is fighting by all means against a second term in office for Donald Trump. She is fighting a president she is ashamed of. For his racism, misogyny, immigration policy and the rowdy way he offends decades-old allies, she says.
But above all she fights against the man who destroyed her political home.
Republican through and through
Linda Rawles is a Republican. Thoroughbred Republican. The woman, who lives with her husband in Carefree, a part of Phoenix in the state of Arizona, has been involved in this party since she was 13. Has repeatedly campaigned for party friends at local and regional level, and in 1994 fought for a seat in Congress himself. It wasn't enough for a win. Nevertheless, there is a mixture of pride and sadness in her voice when she bends over the old campaign brochures.
Rawles got involved in her party as a teenager, and even fought for a seat in Congress in 1994
"I still stand for the same values," she says. The United States of America was finally founded for a free market. And for individual responsibility. "In my opinion, the government should leave your wallet and bedroom alone."
But after four years of Donald Trump there was nothing left of all this: "He turned the party from a party of freedom to a party that pays homage to dictators and destroyed the legal basis." Rawles finds harsh words for the president, speaking of a "mentally disturbed sociopath."
Arizona has long been a safe bank
Arizona was a safe bet for Republicans in the presidential election for decades. Election researchers say that may change this year. Above all, women like Linda Rawles, who live in the well-off suburbs, are decisive for who wins the battle for the White House in the end.
One factor in this: the coronavirus. The state of deserts and cacti in the southwestern United States has been hit hard by COVID-19. According to official information, more than 2,400 people have already died from the virus here. The Republican Governor Doug Ducey followed Trump's announcement early on and eased the short-term security measures again.
"Trump has blood on his hands"
New infections are now exploding, and more and more hospitals are lacking beds to enable adequate treatment. COVID-19 patients are discharged far too early and infect more people. The morgues are no longer sufficient to cool the dead before they can be buried in the desert heat.
Temporary morgues in the United States (New York, late April 2020)
"Donald Trump has blood on his hands, he ignored the virus because he was politically embarrassed," says Rawles. "He convinced our governor to reopen everything way too early - and now people are dying." Because good economic figures are more important to him than a hundred thousand or more dead. It is not at all possible to separate the pandemic and the economy. "One thing is very closely related to the other," says the lawyer.
Exchange entire leadership
More and more Republicans are dissatisfied with the government's crisis management, Rawles said. And yet it is almost impossible for many to openly turn away from Trump. "When you've been so adamant about something, it's hard to make that mental change," she explains. "It's hard to say: I was wrong. It takes a lot of courage." As proud as they are of the former Trump supporters, who are now openly speaking out against their former preferred candidate, they despise the party leadership, which continues to hold the rod to the president.
The president wants a second term - many US citizens don't want that
She is convinced that the Republicans have only one chance of surviving as a party and returning to their core values if the entire leadership team is replaced. Anyone who continues to be a fan of Donald Trump also shares his moral compass, and she no longer trusts these people. "I want my party back," says Rawles. In the end, it's about what kind of person you want to be: someone who obeys the law and respects his counterpart, or someone who locks children in cages at the border.
Start a new party?
Even if Linda Rawles largely rejects Joe Biden's policies, she will vote for him this fall. At least he is a decent and mentally healthy person. And everything is better than Trump. In the long run, however, she wants her own political home again. A more traditional party that represents its economic views and is not as far left as the Democrats are.
Joe Biden - a better choice for some traditional Republicans too
But can Republicans overcome their existential crisis even if Trump loses the November election? Linda Rawles has great doubts. Maybe in the end the whole party system will have to be changed, she says - or even found a new party.
But all of this is something for the future. Now you have to fight with all your might first. And make a lot of noise. Like the big stone in her front yard.
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