Arizona's tough-talking "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio endorsed Donald Trump for president on Tuesday, lending his support as an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration to the GOP front-runner six days before Iowa's caucuses....
Arpaio -- who rose to conservative fame with his aggressive roundups of undocumented immigrants and attention-grabbing tactics like clothing inmates in pink underwear -- signaled his support when he introduced Trump at a Mesa, Arizona, rally late last year.
A lot of people have looked at the rise of Donald Trump and concluded that something new and terrible has happened to the Republican Party -- all of a sudden, a respectable party has been hijacked by conspiracy-mongering nativist know-nothings in thrall to a neo-fascist. How could this possibly have happened to the Grand Old Party in such a short amount of time?
The answer, of course, is that Trumpism didn't come out of nowhere. It's been around for a long time -- and it's been tolerated for a long time within the Republican Party. Actually, tolerated isn't the right word -- in the GOP, a neo-fascist like Joe Arpaio can become a power broker who's regularly courted by "respectable" Republicans.
The Trump endorsement is hardly Arpaio's first. Arpaio endorsed Arizona's current governor, Doug Ducey. He's endorsed members of Congress even in other states -- Pete Sessions in Texas, Raul Labrador in Idaho. His endorsees don't always win -- he picked Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential race and Rick Perry four years later -- but no Republican, as far as I can tell, ever turns down an Arpaio endorsement. In fact, Republicans kiss his ring in the hopes of getting a nod from him -- not just Michele Bachmann in the 2012 race, but John McCain twelve years earlier.
Republicans treat him as a power broker despite the fact that he's a thug:
Since Arpaio first took office in 1993, cases involving him or his office have cost taxpayers $142 million in legal expenses, settlements and court awards....
There were enormous court awards for deaths in the jails, some of which were so large they were paid by insurance companies, instead of the county.
His deputies arrested journalists for writing about him, and taxpayers paid for it.
He arrested and a former county attorney filed charges against sitting judges, supervisors and county employees in 2008 and 2009. All of the cases fell apart. All of the targets sued and settled.
And a racist:
United States District Court Judge G. Murray Snow, an appointee of George W. Bush, has done Arizona and the nation a great service by chronicling, in meticulous detail, the unconstitutional harassment and racial profiling Hispanic people have been suffering at the hands of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. On Friday afternoon, on the eve of a holiday weekend, Judge Snow released a 142-page ruling which concludes that Sheriff Arpaio's well-publicized roundup policies violate both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
... Not only did Arpaio routinely violate federal law and the constitutional rights of Latinos in his County-- including the rights of undocumented immigrants-- he also blatantly violated the terms of a prior court order on the topic.
Did I say he's a thug?
Thousands of lawsuits and legal claims alleging abuse have been filed against Arpaio’s department by inmates -- or, in the case of deaths in detention, by their families. A federal investigation found that deputies had used stun guns on prisoners already strapped into a “restraint chair.” The family of one man who died after being forced into the restraint chair was awarded more than six million dollars as the result of a suit filed in federal court. The family of another man killed in the restraint chair got $8.25 million in a pre-trial settlement. (This deal was reached after the discovery of a surveillance video that showed fourteen guards beating, shocking, and suffocating the prisoner, and after the sheriff’s office was accused of discarding evidence, including the crushed larynx of the deceased.)
And when he and his subordinates aren't violating the civil rights of non-whites, abusing prisoners, or arresting journalists, they're investigating claims that President Obama wasn't born in America -- y'know, just like Trump.
Trump isn't new. Joe Arpaio has been talking like Trump for years, but he's also acted on the beliefs that Trump, so far, has only talked about.
If you have a party in which Joe Arpaio has been a star and power broker for years, and you've done nothing to challenge him, then you have no reason to be surprised when Donald Trump is your all-but-official presidential nominee. It's that simple.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog