What The Gosar Family Tells Us About Our Broken Political Culture
Six siblings of Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar are starring in political ads against him. This is just another unfortunate example of the extent to which our political culture has been ruined by hyperpartisan polarization.
Six of Congressman Paul Gosar’s siblings are starring in a political ad for his Democratic opponent:
It might seem like family dysfunction or a very bad case of sibling rivalry.
Six of nine brothers and sisters of Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, publicly endorsed his Democratic opponent in the midterm elections in videos on Friday, in what one of them said was nothing short of a moral imperative.
The siblings were alarmed at what they saw as the congressman’s increasingly extremist views on immigration, health care and white supremacists, one of them, David Gosar, said on Saturday.
“I’m just hoping either in this election cycle or next, the people get the idea that he’s just not fit for that office and he needs to be removed,” he said.
The Democratic candidate, Dr. David Brill, released the videos on Friday, drawing astonishment at the rare public display of a family fighting over political views (though it was not the first time this year) as well as jokes about what a Gosar Thanksgiving gathering might be like.
The videos show the siblings attacking the congressman on health care and Social Security, among other issues, and expressing disdain for him.
Dr. Brill said there were more videos to come, though he wouldn’t specify how many.
David Gosar, a lawyer in Wyoming, identifies as a progressive, though he said he is not a registered Democrat. Three of the siblings have donated to the Democratic candidate’s campaign, Dr. Brill said.
Paul Gosar did not respond to requests on Saturday for comment but in a series of tweets Saturday afternoon, he wrote, “You can’t pick your family.”
“My siblings who chose to film ads against me are all liberal Democrats who hate President Trump,” he wrote.
He then called his siblings “disgruntled” supporters of Hillary Clinton, saying they “are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family. Stalin would be proud.”
He added: “To the six angry Democrat Gosars — see you at Mom and Dad’s house!”
Reached at her home in Wyoming, Bernadette Gosar, the siblings’ 85-year-old mother, said that she was unaware of the videos until she was contacted by The New York Times. Once they were described to her in detail, she said she was “shocked” and “crushed.”
She said she had a “wonderful family” but that the Gosar children in the videos did not relate politically to Paul Gosar or herself. She said from what she knew about Dr. Brill, “He doesn’t have a chance.”
“I share the same philosophy and policies that Paul does,” she said. “He’s done a hell of a job for Arizona, and they love him.”
Mr. Gosar first won election in 2010, his first foray into politics, with the support of the Tea Party.
The congressman’s brother David caught the eye of Dr. Brill’s campaign through his criticism of Mr. Gosar on Twitter. David Gosar said he keeps the Twitter account solely to publicly admonish his brother, alternately referring to him as “Wease” or “Weasel.”
He said a staff member on Dr. Brill’s campaign called him and delved deeper into the familial rift, and then asked the siblings to be in the campaign videos. Dr. Brill said the effort was “collaborative.”
“This is the Gosar siblings coming forward for the good of our country,” he said.
The Brill campaign said the siblings were not paid.
Apparently, this has been a long time coming:
Seven brothers and sisters had previously written a letter to a local Arizona newspaper, The Kingman Daily Miner, condemning their brother’s suggestion in a Vice News interview in October that the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., was backed by George Soros, the billionaire who is a donor to liberal causes.
“It kept building and building,” David Gosar said. “He’d just keep getting nuttier and nuttier.”
It wasn’t always that way. He said the 10 siblings were tight-knit growing up in a small town in Wyoming, playing sports or cards.
“It was absolutely a blast,” he said.
As the siblings moved to different parts of the country and started families of their own, they met less frequently but still talked on the phone, he added. Then Paul Gosar, the eldest sibling, started gearing up to run for Congress in 2010, and said that he believed, incorrectly, that President Obama was born outside the country.
That was the last time the two of them spoke, David Gosar said. Attempts to reach the other Gosar siblings were unsuccessful on Saturday.
In another comment on the ad, Congressman Gosar somehow manages to find a way to blame former President Obama for all of this:
Rep. Paul Gosar blamed former president Barack Obama for the feud with six of his siblings rooted in Gosar’s controversial political style.
After appearing defiant over the weekend and touting his mother’s support for his “philosophy and policies,” the Arizona Republican admitted in an interview with KFYI-AM radio in Phoenix that it “does sting” to be rejected by three of his brothers and three of his sisters in a series of four attack ads released by his Democratic opponent’s campaign.
He pinned blame for the rift on Obama’s shoulders.
“It always hurts, Mike. You know, blood is supposed to be thicker than water,” Gosar told host Mike Broomhead. “But, you know, this actually details exactly what the left, what Barack Obama actually asked progressives to do, is to get into family and friends, in their face, and not let up.”
“It’s intervention time,” Tim Gosar, a private investigator, said. “And intervention time means that you go to vote and you go to vote Paul out.”
David Gosar, who has a Twitter handle that he told Buzzfeed he created for the express purpose of denigrating his brother, said that the Gosars in the ad had to “stand up for our good name.”
Gosar alluded to Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” a 1971 book that people on both the left and right have used as a framework for organizing political movements, when describing his siblings’ tactics on the airwaves.
“You know, using Alinsky’s ‘Rules,’ trying to marginalize somebody in regards to trying to call them bad names and ‘you’re sick’ and this other kind of crap,” Gosar said. “But you know the thing about it is, I have worked my district and my district knows me. I’m a very coherent and very accomplished member of Congress, so I don’t have to explain myself to six radicals.”
David Gosar said he’s not surprised his brother is trying to flip the narrative to make his siblings seem like the political radicals.
“He’s capable of saying anything. It’s par for the course,” David Gosar told the Arizona Republic.
“He’s so extreme that his take on this is that we’re so extreme,” he said. “Here’s a guy who wants to block transgender people from using the bathroom of their gender identification. Here’s a guy who wants to kick DACA kids out of the country, who’s marching with white nationalists in Britain.”
Here are the two ads:
As noted, Gosar responded on Twitter:
My siblings who chose to film ads against me are all liberal Democrats who hate President Trump. These disgruntled Hillary suppporters are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family. Stalin would be proud. #Az04 #MAGA2018
— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) September 22, 2018
You can’t pick your family. We all have crazy aunts and relatives etc and my family is no different. I hope they find peace in their hearts and let go all the hate.
To the six angry Democrat Gosars—see you at Mom and Dad’s house! #AZ04 #MAGA2018
— Paul Gosar (@DrPaulGosar) September 22, 2018
While there has been much understandable joking about all of this since the ads came out, it also speaks on some level to the extent to which political dysfunction and hyperpartisanship has infected our culture, our personal relationships, and our family. Political disagreements are as old as the country, of course. They existed at the time of the Revolution, during the debate over the Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787, and across George Washington’s Cabinet table as Thomas Jefferson and Alexandar sparred in an argument that would eventually lead to the creation of the nation’s first political parties. Political divisions were at the heart of what remains the nation’s bloodiest war, in which 600,000 men fighting for the Union and the Confederacy gave their lives, and countless more were injured, in a war that, at its base was spurred by a political division over the existence and expansion of slavery. Those divisions have ebbed and flowed over the years, but fortunately, they’ve never gotten as bad as they were during the Civil War and years that preceded it.
As I’ve observed in the past, things seem to have gotten worse in recent years. Maybe it’s because of the always-on nature of the news in general and political news in particular. Maybe it’s because of the fact that the availability of a wide variety of news sources has led people to hibernate inside their own political bubbles where they rarely are exposed to ideas and arguments. Maybe it’s because of social media and the ease with which it’s possible to get into online arguments with people that we don’t know personally at the drop of a hat. Maybe it’s a combination of all of this plus the fact that politicians have become particularly adept at exploiting political polarization for their own advantages. Whatever the reason, it certainly feels as if we are in an age where agreeing to disagree on political issues is becoming more and more difficult, even among family members.
I don’t know what the family dynamics in the Gosar family are. It’s possible, indeed probable, that there was bad blood between these siblings that predates this ad and the rhetoric that has been traded between them. Whatever the backstory is, though, there’s something sadly unfortunate and symbolic about the fact that the Congressman’s brothers and sisters would choose to come out against their brother in such a public manner. And it’s equally unfortunate that Congressman Gosar would be led to compare his brothers and sisters to Josef Stalin. Additionally, I’ve got to call out Gosar’s opponent here. There are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed in politics, and bringing family into the argument used to be one of them. No doubt there have been many, many people who have run for office who have had family members who disagree with them. I don’t recall ever seeing a situation like this, though, and I think that Gosar’s opponent should have thought better than to exploit family differences for a little political gain. If there’s anyone to feel sorry for in this situation, it’s their mother, who was apparently unaware of the ads that had been posted until contacted by the media. While she apparently supports her son politically, it obviously can’t be easy for her to see her children fighting like this in public. Unfortunately, this is just another example of the extent to which partisanship has divided our nation.
I’m not saying we have to accept every political disagreement, of course. There are obviously some disagreements that are more serious than others. Other than being a conservative Republican, though, my admittedly limited review of Congressman Gosar’s record doesn’t reveal him to be any more radical than other Arizona Republicans. While he may have disagreements with some of his brothers and sisters, it seems rather shocking that those differences would go so far as to give them a reason to make commercials such as these for his opponents. They’re free to do so, of course, but as an only child, it strikes me that there are some things that are more important than politics, and one of them is family. It reminds me of a conversation I had with an old friend around the time my father passed away and he told me he had not spoken to his brother in years. I didn’t delve into the reasons behind that, but at the time it struck me as kind of sad. And that’s how I feel about these ads and about the Congressman’s attack Tweets. Just, sad.
As for Congressman Gosar, it’s unlikely that this ad is going to have much of an impact on his political fortunes. After narrowly winning his seat by defeating Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick in 2010, Gosar was re-elected in 2012 by nearly 60,000 votes, re-elected in 2014 by roughly 80,000 votes, and re-elected yet again in 2016 by roughly 120,000 votes. His district, which stretches from the Phoenix suburbs to the far western and northwestern parts of the Grand Canyon State, is solidly Republican. He’s going to be re-elected in November, but the damage to his family relationships by the behavior on both sides is going to be longer lasting, and that’s unfortunate. What’s even more unfortunate is what this episode tells us about the kind of nation we’re turning into.
I don’t think it’s just hyper-partisanship, it’s that the Republican Party has morphed into something genuinely dangerous to American democracy. People of conscience, patriots, are compelled to speak up. The Republican Party is a cancer on the United States, sitting back and letting the disease progress would be unconscionable.
OT…the world laughs at us.
Yes, we have reached a point of hyperpartisan difference, but let’s understand what happened. The Congressman is, per the above, racist, anti LBGT, and a conspiracy theorist. What part of this is the fault of liberals or his siblings? The real problem is the symbiotic relationship between GOP politicians, who cannot get elected except with lies and cultural war, and RW media who make a living providing the lies and culture war. They have created a Bizzaro world in which Obama is a Kenyan, tax cuts lower the deficit, Soros funds RW rallies, and Trump is the opposite of what he shows himself to be every day. The Gosar sibs are not being hyper partisan, they are defending objective reality. Their brother is off in the ozone and they feel a duty to say so.
Please don’t bothsides this stuff. I have any number of complaints against Dems, but they’re still generally reasonable, largely mainstream, and often evidence based. The Republican party has gone nuts all by itself.
I look forward to being able to criticize Democrats for many things. But if I may quote from America’s most reliable news source:
As soon as we can climb down from Condition Orange we will be able to, you know, talk politics. Like grown-ups.
Not at all…you are off base here.
It speaks to the radicalization of the Republican party.
We have a morally bankrupt political party that simply denied the ability of the other party to appoint a SC judge.
This party – the party of law and order order and rabid constitutional views has, at it’s head, a man who thinks he is above the law…and he has a congress who intends to guarantee that.
This party – party of family values has, at it’s head, a man who has been married three times, sleeps with porn stars, admits to serial sexual assault…and, with the help of his suppine congress, he will install a man also credibly accused of sexual assault to the highest court in the land while barely questioning those accusations.
This party – the party of national security has, at it’s head, a man who is being openly and brazenly laughed at, to his face, by other world leaders.
These are not normal times. This is not your normal “both sides do it”. One half of our political system is off the rails, and at such times patriots must rise up and do whatever it takes to get things back on track…even if that means going against family.
Come on. Blaming Charlottesville on Soros as a red flag operation- that’s as ape crazy as it gets- not to mention other stuff- if he were my sibling I would call him on that.
If we had a functioning Republican Party, nut-jobs wouldn’t be winning primaries and elections.
The whole point of a political party is to organize candidates around particular positions and validate to the voters that the candidates of the party have been vetted and will (a) support the positions of the party and (b) aren’t crazy nut-jobs and can be trusted with power.
Paul Goser is a conspiracy theorist and a bigot. Good citizens are supposed to stand up and denounce such individuals – even, if not especially, if they are family.
@Michael Reynolds: lol
In other words, I need to find out where one of my neighbors got her new bumpersticker: Make America Not Embarrassing Again
Seriously, if I had a brother supporting white nationalists and conspiracy nuts, I’d speak out against him. I’d do it because I care more about keeping a dangerous nutjob from a position where he can affect public policy in my country more than I care about family harmony. But I’d also do it for a purely selfish reason: I wouldn’t want anyone to think that just because we were related, I supported any of that or, worse, thought the same way.
Dude…you are OK with Russia attacking us, you supported Roy Moore – a credibly accused child molester, you support Dennison – an admitted serial sexual assaulter, and now you support Kavanaugh – a credibly accused sexual assaulter.
Your comments regularly and firmly position you as a traitor, a bigot, and a misogynist.
You cannot take those stands and then cry when someone calls you deplorable…because you are, in fact, fvcking deplorable.
On the other hand, maybe if Ivanka and Don Jr and the rest had spoken forcefully against their philandering patriarch, we’d all live in a better world today.
Seems reasonable to point out that amongst all the furor over Judge Kavanaugh there has not been any mention about the fact that Pres Trump’s sister Maryanne Barry is an ‘inactive’ member of the Third Circuit.
Would we be a better country if she had warned us in advertising that we better not vote for her brother?
Can’t it just be because he’s nuts and they don’t like him? Or plain old family drama? They’re not the first family members to do an add for the opposing side – they just happen to be more numerous (not everyone has 8 siblings you know). The fact that it was only 6 out of 9 deciding to say something makes you wonder where the other 3 are.
It’s interesting his response was ” all liberal Democrats who hate President Trump. These disgruntled Hillary suppporters” They weren’t saying don’t vote for Trump, they were saying don’t vote for their brother. If anyone’s being hyperpartisan, it’s him dragging in the big names for brand association when all they are doing is saying they support his opponent over him. That happens in famines, you know – not everyone supports their run or politics. Frankly, it’s normal to disagree but he’s the one making it about big name politics, not them.
What? Since when? Didn’t I just see family members get trotted out as props by Kavanugh and Cruz to prove they’re human beings? Don’t they count as “being brought into it” when they are used as positive props instead of telling family to GFTO?
Seriously, in the last decade at the very least it’s been normal politics to drag family in when it suits the dirt thrower and get outraged when it hurts them. Michelle Obama has plenty to say if you ask her about getting dragged into arguments, as does the Cruz family not being defended by their patriarch from Trump’s slander. Just yesterday, Ashley Estes Kavanaugh had to sit next to her husband in that stupid FOX interview solely to make him look good and wholesome. He dragged her into it to bolster him image, not because she really, really wanted to be there.
Like it or not, this has been the new normal my entire lifetime. The only difference is they were able to get the vast majority of his siblings on camera- which should tell you more about Gosar’s ability to piss off more then half his family that badly then the process itself.
That’s not the first instance of siblings and other relatives being used by a political oponent(There were various instances) and something that would be unthinkable in other countries, but that’s far from being the worst thing of US politics.
Thinking more on this, I remembered that, while they were cousins, not brothers, Marshall and Jefferson were fairly intense and hated rivals. Family disagreements aren’t a new thing in this country (and we all know about the literal wars fought among family members in monarchies).
Oh, it’s not half. It’s 42% on a good day. But yes, you and your ilk, are deplorable. Happy now?
I wish he hadn’t lead with this example when David described how “extreme” his brother was. I’m guessing that 50+% of Gosar’s constituents agree with him, which makes his voting record the exact opposite of extreme.
Of course those of us with open minds who have thought about the issue and are actually aware of real transgender people disagree with that stance, but it’s not extreme. People’s views are evolving, let them do it without being insulting.
As for the rest of the stuff, claiming Obama was born elsewhere, keeping company with racists, yeah that stuff should obviously be called out. No excuses.
It would be nice if we had a system that pushed the parties toward the median voter instead of rewarding extremists. Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to happen as it would mean popular election of the president and a different configuration in the House.
“Thinking more on this, I remembered that, while they were cousins, not brothers, Marshall and Jefferson were fairly intense and hated rivals.”
John Randolph of Roanoke as well (cousin to both and hated both).
Not even…42% of the voters…but only about 19% of the country voted for this dumpster fire.
Not exactly sure of the numbers, but about 1/4 of the population considers themselves Republicans and about 1/4 consider themselves Democrats or roughly ~90 million each.
How, exactly, do you propose to excise this disease?
I don’t see many alternatives and most of them would be well, undemocratic.
I understand the frustration and sadness of this episode. I don’t want to visit family anymore because the stress of it all makes it very unpleasant. Everybody is always on pins and needles trying not to say the wrong thing.
I also see it in our neighborhood. We have a pretty good one, stable with lots of families and kids. No one talks politics anymore. There are no yard signs. It is an unspoken agreement so as to not be unpleasant. Very sad in some ways. The hyperpartisanship has honed my skills in getting my point across (if cornered) in the most bland, benign way that doesn’t come close to attacking the person themselves. But no one wants to go into politics anyway.
In some ways, this reminds me of history in the pre Civil War days where families and friends were torn apart over slavery. We are not close to that and I pray we don’t get there.
As undemocratic as gerrymandering? Or the electoral college? Or the way that senators are apportioned?
Interesting how in both cases, it was primarily Southerners (slaveholders in the former, Gingrich and his ilk in the latter) who put this country on these parallel tracks…
@Andy: Actually the difference is statistically significant–32% Democratic to 23% Republican according to Pew. When you add leaning “independents,” the numbers are 48% Democratic to 39% Republican.
Your question is still valid; just not because the affiliation is balanced. The tilt is at the root of Dr. Taylor’s assertion that the system as it stands now is not particularly “democratic” in practice.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
The statistical balance is debatable and ever changing and also irrelevant to my question.
Calling tens of millions of our fellow American citizens a “cancer,” a “disease,” and “genuinely dangerous to American Democracy” is pretty serious stuff.
One can’t make these millions disappear and calling them names does not seem like an effective means to change their views, so that’s out. Is this sentiment an actual conviction or mere words? If the former, what measures are justified to rid America of this disease?
Well, Doug, maybe Republicans shouldn’t have opened that nasty can of worms …
@Michael Reynolds: hillary said half of trump supporters were deplorable. So 20-something %. TardMonkey#1’s comment was a dumb lie. Trump and TM01 are birds of a feather.
@gVOR08: Look at the sorry state of the mainstream “news” media that seems to want to keep people divided and enflamed. The news networks used to be professional and respected. They gave both views. Now it is sensationalist propaganda, with the hosts hollering at guests and each other. They are too busy on the latest “dirt” then reporting the varied news events of the day. I had to go to other sources to get full coverage of the eclipse, the Hawaii volcano, the earthquake, and Hurricane Florence. Did anyone see some of those phony on the scene hurricane weather reports?
We did not see this sort of junk years ago when Conkrite, Brinkley, and Charles Kuralt were around.
Most of my crew were Democrats about ten years ago. Now most are Republicans or independent. Sets up for interesting talks during the holidays. Most of them don’t remember the solid Democratic South of years ago.
Chemotherapy: stop the spread, inhibit growth, allow the tumor to wither.
Oh, and ‘Party’ is not necessarily synonymous with ‘nominal members,’ but no surgery necessary. Old age, education, the increasing power of women, urbanization, secularization… Pretty sure we won’t need concentration camps, just time.
@Tyrell: Most of them don’t remember the solid Democratic South of years ago.
Maybe you should educate them as to why the Democrats lost the South (hint: might have just a little to do with the Civil Rights/Voting Rights Acts).
Thanks, that sounds a lot more reasonable.
I’m not sure time is enough.
We also need tweaks to our political system that more equitably balances power between rural and urban population centers (and populous and non-populous states).
And we need tweaks to our electoral and governing institutions that provide less power to fringe/extreme minority factions.
Without those in place, it’s difficult to see a path out of our current partisan acceleration. Especially since maintaining party control becomes tied to placating the fringe component of either party.
Unfortunately, for that same reason, no party is particularly interested in reforming institutions and, even if they are, it’s really easy to use procedure to gum up those efforts.
Ranked choice voting and multi-member districts in the House would be very helpful here. Also, a much larger House. Ranked choice voting in the Senate and in all special elections would be helpful too. Primaries could be eliminated; they contribute a lot to the extremes we see.
@Moosebreath: Indeed. Randolph referred to TJ as “St. Thomas of Cantingbury.”
Ding ding ding. The pseudonymous wit just wants to burn a dude, not measure him.
Agreed on all points.
Add algorithmically-drawn districts at both the state and congressional level.
There are also a lot of other provisions I’d suggest making voting easier (for example: automatic restoration of felon’s voting rights once they complete their sentence — heck I question the entire disenfranchisement thing in the first place, but that’s not a hill I’m willing to even consider trying to take, let alone die on).
Bust, it’s okay for Republicans to call tens of millions of (non-conservative, non-Republican) Americans a “cancer,” a “disease,” and “genuinely dangerous to American Democracy”?
I’m tired of singling out Democrats for not being nice when it comes to criticism of the 62 million people who continue to support this malevolent Republican Party.
Seriously, I am curious as to why Democrats are held to a higher standard than Republicans when it comes to street fighting and political battle. Why?
@mattbernius: Yes, we’re in agreement. I would settle for independent commissions to draw the lines. The multi-member districts thing by itself does a lot to remove geography from the results. Not entirely, but a lot.