Gage Skidmore / Flickr joe arpaio...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The reaction to the news that Trump has pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio seems to be that it is not only yet another attack on the Constitution by this President but also potentially laying the groundwork for pardoning anyone and everyone, including himself, in the Russian investigation. And that analysis is entirely correct. Trump may be abusing the Constitution in a more open and direct manner, but the Republican party has been attacking the judiciary and ignoring judicial rulings for nearly a decade now. In this regard, Trump is merely an extension, admittedly an extreme extension, of the Republican party.

In addition, Arpaio was essentially a racist and this pardon again reinforces the notion that the GOP has become a white nationalist party. I assume the usual GOP suspects will be “concerned” about this action, but not enough to do anything about it. (Maybe Gary Cohn can draft another resignation letter he won’t send…)

The pardon of Arpaio is particularly egregious because the sheriff blatantly ignored a 2011 judicial ruling that he stop illegally targeting and detaining people simply because he thought they were in the country illegally. That eventually led to Arpaio’s conviction of contempt of court. Arpaio was terrible in so many ways, but the crime for which he will be pardoned is blatantly ignoring a judicial ruling. And, with his pardon, Trump is signaling that disregard for judicial oversight is now acceptable.

But, as I said, this is not unique to Trump, it is a Republican phenomenon. As an example, take a look at the Texas voter ID law, versions of which have been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional five times in the last six years. Or North Carolina where continued illegal racial gerrymandering has led to certain, mostly minority, voters having their ballots diluted by being forced to vote in districts subsequently ruled unconstitutional since 2012. While Republican legislators in those states and others did not overtly defy the court orders, they engaged in delaying tactics or claimed that the judicial remedy required had been implemented when it clearly wasn’t or essentially passed virtually the same law when one was struck down. And let’s not forget that the theory of nullification has been floating around the fringe elements of the Republican party since the culture wars began and the GOP opted to take in the racists with the “Southern strategy”.

The pardon of Sheriff Arpaio is not an anomaly that can be laid solely on Trump. It is merely an extreme extension of the Republican party’s approach to unfavorable judicial rulings over the last decade and, in reality, since the 1960s.

Originally published at on August 26, 2017.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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