Trump’s Pardon of Arpaio Salutes Institutional Racism

Each week under the Trump administration feels like a dog year by its conclusion, with its avalanche of warped misinformation. With such an unconventional figure as Donald Trump, it’s debilitating to witness the weekly bungling this administration manufactures. Seven months in and it gets harder to be surprised, but Trump again managed to leave most scratching their heads with his pardoning of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

In the wake of Charlottesville, with Hurricane Harvey lashing the Texas coast, Trump decided this was the appropriate time to issue his first presidential pardon, and of course it was on a guy like Sheriff Joe, a convicted criminal, racist, and bigot.

I do not understand all the hate Trump has internalized. He is a successful businessman, with all the trappings to enjoy a privileged life, and could act responsibly to help many others less fortunate. Yet at every opportunity his actions and rhetoric harm the less fortunate and enable fringe right groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis.

There wasn’t a better way for Trump to thumb his nose at the Republican establishment, the U.S. Constitution, and the judiciary than by pardoning Arpaio. This is a law enforcement supervisor who publicly defied a 2011 court order to stop racially profiling people, particularly Latinos, based on suspicion of their immigration status, not probable cause. This earned Arpaio a guilty verdict for criminal contempt of court.

Trump has enjoyed a kinship with Sheriff Joe going back to 2011-2012, when both teamed up to push the hateful Birther allegation against President Barack Obama. Trump said in a tweet from July 18, 2012, “Congratulations to @RealSheriffJoe on his successful Cold Case Posse investigation which claims @BarackObama’s ‘birth certificate’ is fake.”

Trump and Arpaio played the Birther card so innocently. They had no proof, but insinuated it would be worth looking into if America’s first black president was illegitimately holding office. The overt nod to the white nationalist crowd was heard loud and clear.

Arpaio came to national prominence from a series of controversial methods used for handling individuals under his incarceration, such as hogtying prisoners, forcing inmates to wear pink underwear, housing people in a tent city in 115 degree heat, and shackling pregnant women while they gave birth.

Arpaio was first elected sheriff in 1992. Between then and his re-election defeat in 2015, Arpaio and his Maricopa County office racked up $142 million in legal fees, settlements and compliance costs for cases, including two wrongful death lawsuits and millions for civil rights and discriminations suits.

A Friday editorial in the Arizona Republic had this to say, “By pardoning Arpaio, Trump made it clear that institutional racism is not just OK with him. It is a goal.”

“That should trouble every American who believes that our duty as a nation is to continue working on behalf of equal justice.”

America has a long and complicated history of racial inequality. We continue to be amidst a struggle over violations of civil rights of minorities by law enforcement, and right-wing conservatives are working diligently to place stumbling blocks intended to suppress people’s ability to vote.

Trump secured the presidency with his talk of banning Muslims and building border walls. This campaign bombast is stubbornly becoming policy behind Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, a big thumbs up going to white supremacists in Charlottesville, and the pardoning of Arpaio.

Who does Donald Trump respect other than his white power buddies, corporate America, and Russia? Apparently those like Arpaio, who embrace Trump’s warped historical vision that somehow America has lost its true heritage and culture. To get that back Trump intends to “Make America White Again.”

I’m sure guys like Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, who are deeply implicated in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, are encouraged by Arpaio’s pardoning. Loyalty is a big thing to Trump, so long as it serves his betterment, and this was a signal to those that might be called to testify by Mueller that Trump has their backs. But is that the signal, or is this the first in a series of pardons that ultimately is a public confessional to condone and forgive Trump’s own insatiable greed and racist beliefs.

With Trump now attacking members of his own party with regularity, Republicans in growing numbers are signaling they have had enough of this train wreck as no end appears in sight or any decency evidenced in this president.

Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, weighed in recently to offer a damning prediction, saying it is “uncertain that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration.”

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