One of the most bigoted cops in U.S. history is running for office. Ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio is not running for another term as the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, but as a U.S. senator, where his policies of racism, sexism, and police brutality can have even farther-reaching consequences for the working class; especially working-class people of color.
Many people know the former Maricopa County sheriff as the self-proclaimed “ America’s toughest sheriff,” however, if you are someone of Mexican, Chicano, or Indigenous descent you know him as one of the most racist sheriffs the U.S. has ever seen.
In 2011, Arpaio was charged with and had injunctions placed on him by the U.S. Department of Justice for illegally profiling Spanish speaking and dark-skinned residents of Maricopa County. Judge G. Murray Snow convicted Arpaio and the sheriff’s department of illegal profiling in 2013.
Barely a month after the 2013 verdict, Arpaio was back in court facing charges that his deputy sheriffs did not follow the federal court orders put in place in 2011 to stop the racial profiling.
Arpaio was sentenced to six months in jail for failing to follow the orders. President Trump—whom Arpaio supported through his presidential campaign—pardoned him in August 2017 before Arpaio was scheduled to start serving his sentence. As a result, he served no jail time.
Arpaio’s racist targeting of people of color and Spanish speakers were not the only matters that landed him in legal trouble. Between 2004 and 2007, there were 2,150 lawsuits related to the unfair treatment of prisoners under Arpaio’s control. One of the brutal policies for which Arpaio is known is his tent jail. In the jail, inmates suffered from extreme weather including 120-degree days that caused some inmates to die of heat stroke or suffer freezing temperatures during the winter.
Arpaio has also been accused of not pursuing cases involving violence against women, up to and including rape of underaged girls. He has been alleged to use violence, blackmail and threats to intimidate political rivals and judges. He has even been accused of framing an innocent person in a staged assassination attempt, the outcome of which was designed to boost his own popularity.
Trump’s pardoning of a vicious racist like Arpaio–even before he saw one day in jail–put wind in Arpaio’s sails, propelling him to run for one of the highest offices in the U.S. government.
While he may be considered an underdog and a novelty candidate compared to his primary challenger, incumbent U.S. Representative Martha McSally or GOP outsider Kellie Ward, Trump too was once considered an unlikely winner when he ran against more traditional GOP candidates such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
It is possible that history may repeat itself.
Like Trump, Arpaio’s racist message will attract significant parts of the Arizona electorate who believe in ruling class rhetoric that scapegoats immigrants for the lack of good paying jobs in this country, as well as certain white “middle-class” layers that believe that the reconstruction of U.S. apartheid will safeguard their slipping socio-economic position as a group.
The Democratic Party seems to be following the same opportunistic play book as they did in 2016, hoping that the spectacle of an Arpaio nomination will help their chances of a victory in November. The only way to truly ensure that Arpaio, or others like him, do not get elected is by building an independent grassroots movement of leftists and progressives, not following the elite fake “resistance” of the Democratic Party.