By: Emily Guerra, Contributor
Former-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” was convicted of criminal contempt in late July. He was guilty of disobeying multiple orders from federal courts and disregarding the constitutional rights of multiple Americans citizens. Arpaio committed illegal searches and seizures based on racial profiling, and kept prisoners in inhumane internment-style camps. Multiple federal courts agreed that Arpaio’s actions directly violated the 4th amendment. His justification was that he needed to completely violate the Bill of Rights to combat illegal immigration. Unsurprisingly, Arpaio’s targeting of minorities endeared him to white supremacists and other extreme right wingers. Arpaio’s disregard for rule of law and popularity among the Alt-right have made him politically toxic. Most politicians would steer well clear of Arpaio and the damage he could bring to their political standing, but Donald Trump isn’t most politicians; Trump pardoned Arpaio.
The move was widely condemned by lawmakers across the political spectrum. For example, both Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Speaker Paul Ryan condemned the move as well as Arizona Senators McCain and Flake (both of whom are republicans). In fact, the move politically endangered Flake, who is arguably the most vulnerable Senator running for reelection in 2018.
On the surface, pardoning Arpaio does not make sense. But neither does banning transgender recruits to the army or being indecisive about whether or not to blame white-supremacists for Charlottesville. Both of those decisions were also widely criticized by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. It would be easy to say that Trump is just a bigot with no political instincts. However, as much as I hate to admit it, Trump couldn’t have gotten to the white house without some political instincts. So, why make three wildly unpopular moves in rapid succession? How does this make sense for Trump, moving forward?
First, Trump hasn’t become any more popular since being in the White House. Trump’s failure to pass even healthcare and tax reform is straining his own voters patience. Only 33% of his voters think that he is “making America great again.” His overall popularity is hovering in the low 30’s. Trump cares deeply about ratings, and it must be driving him crazy that his are so low.
In Trump’s mind, his flamboyant bigotry is what got him the presidency. His offensive language is what got him the $2 billion in free air time that propelled his candidacy to the top. It attracted his loyal supporters. So now, when his popularity is sinking, it makes sense that he will desperately try to please his supporters by giving them what they want.
He can’t reward his supporters with meaningful legislation, so instead he’ll give them his support in Charlottesville by not singling out white nationalists, by banning transgender individuals from entering the military, and by pardoning a sheriff that is popular among his supporters.
And that is the true motive behind Trump’s pardoning of Arpaio: a desperate popularity stunt.
Image Credits: https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/five-reasons-racist-sheriff-joe-arpaio-should-not-receive-presidential-pardon