Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is Deeply Disturbing

The president called a man who freely violated people’s constitutional rights a “patriot.” What does that make his victims?

By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson


During a speech to a group of police officers in July, President Trump returned to one of his favorite themes of the campaign season: violence. “Please don’t be too nice” to the “thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon,” Trump advised the officers. Be “rough.”

The president’s endorsement of police brutality was met with applause from the officers and shock from activists and pundits alike.

Sensing the brewing backlash, the White House insisted that the president was simply making a joke. Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the country’s top law enforcement official — a man with his own complicated history of encouraging the worst impulses of the police — attempted to distance himself from the controversy.

(Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Yet the president just proved that when it comes to endorsing police brutality, especially against communities of color, he’s dead serious.

For more than 20 years, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona terrorized Latino communities, harassed immigrants, and made life a living hell for prisoners in his care in order to build a reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff”.

These systematic violations of human and constitutional rights eventually landed Arpaio in legal trouble of his own. Then President Trump pardoned him.

Arpaio had been awaiting sentencing for a July conviction of criminal contempt.

Back in 2011, a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop targeting and detaining Latinos just to inquire about their immigration status. Nevertheless, Arpaio persisted for another 18 months, insisting that his racial profiling was lawful. He emasculated inmates, forcing them to wear pink underwear, and attempted to starve them with food that was called inedible.

He tortured them, too: Beginning in the 1990s, Arpaio opened Tent City Jail, which forced inmates to live outside in the extreme Arizona heat. An untold number of inmates died.

To the law, Arpaio is a convicted criminal who built his career on denying the constitutional and human rights of the most vulnerable among us. To Trump, he’s “a patriot” who kept “Arizona safe.”

“Throughout his time as sheriff,” a White House statement bleated, “Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” In other words, the innocent immigrants who were harassed, and the prisoners who were tortured, were the real criminals.

Trump promised to be the “law and order candidate” during his campaign. He codified this promise once he became president in the “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” section of the White House website. “The Trump administration will be a law and order administration,” it echoed.

For the president, it seems, “standing up” for law enforcement includes allowing officers to subvert the rule of law to commit acts of brutality with impunity. Empowering law enforcement to “keep our streets free of crime and violence” means supporting racial profiling. And “law and order” only applies to some, namely those that support the president.

With Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, a message has been sent: When it comes to police brutality of the kind Arpaio perpetuated for decades, the Trump administration won’t simply be complicit in it. It will promote it.

And that’s nothing to joke about.

Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is a freelance writer whose work covers history, race, and the criminalization of poverty. Distributed by

Reagan Sold Your Future, Trump Will Too

White working-class voters should think twice before electing another flag-waving, immigrant-bashing, billionaire-enriching politician.

— by

Mitchell ZimmermanTwo generations ago, many white working-class Democrats bought into Ronald Reagan’s promise of a better nation. Eager for “morning in America” — and swayed by fear that advances for black people would come at their expense — they didn’t see that the shadow of a long sunset was creeping over their lives.

Because the GOP had another, darker agenda. One that didn’t include them.

Reagan Democrats were left with a president who blamed and criticized people of color, while billionaires got to enjoy a president who helped them grab the lion’s share of America’s wealth.

Today, Donald Trump is singing the same song, promising salvation and blaming immigrants, blacks, and Muslims for America’s woes. And if enough white men join the chorus, they may doom themselves to another decade of declining economic opportunity.

Trump, like his GOP predecessors, is making a lot of people feel good about their hatred for those they don’t consider “real” Americans. But indulging in enmity for people who are different comes at an economic price.

(Photo: Joseph Sohm /
(Photo: Joseph Sohm /

If you’re a typical middle-class worker today, you’re probably deep in debt, with little means to plan for a brighter future for your kids, and no way to deal with an unexpected financial emergency. Meanwhile, you watch the ultra-rich grow ever-wealthier.

What you might not know is that productivity — the value of everything America makes — has grown by two-thirds in the decades since Reagan’s administration. But with the GOP lending a hand, giant corporations and the super-rich captured nearly all of the added wealth that American workers generated.

The statistics for those growing ever-richer today are staggering.

In 1980, top CEOs made 42 times as much as the average worker. Now they make 373 times as much. And the share of household wealth owned by the top tenth of the one percent increased from 7 percent in 1980 to 22 percent today.

But in the last 35 years, the wages of middle-level workers have scarcely budged. On average, they’ve gotten a yearly raise of one-sixth of one percent. For someone making $40,000 a year, that’s a whopping $69 more per year.

This is no coincidence. Policies launched during Reagan’s presidency and pushed forward by his successors are responsible.

First, Republicans have stymied efforts to raise the federal minimum wage for decades. When corrected for inflation, the minimum wage is actually lower than it was in 1980.

Second, they targeted unions. Strong unions help everyone, because they set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. Both Reagan and the Bushes appointed pro-business members to the National Labor Relations Board, who ignored unlawful attacks on unions and undermined bargaining rights.

Weakened unions made it easier for employers to devour all the fruits of increased productivity.

Third, their huge tax cuts favored the wealthiest. George W. Bush added trillions to the public debt, while the top one percent received more than a third of his so-called “tax relief.” During the Bush years, if your income was over $3 million per year, you got an average tax bonus of $520,000.

Meanwhile, services ordinary people rely on were starved, weakening our government’s ability to fund schools, or protect our water, food, and drugs.

These reverse-Robin Hood policies would continue under Donald —”you’re fired!”— Trump.

Take, for instance, his International Hotel, which conducts an unlawful anti-union campaign. And Trump’s proposed tax cuts would give $1.3 million each to the wealthiest tenth of the richest one percent.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to waffle about whether there should even be a federal minimum wage.  Actually, he believes “wages are too high.”

So if you think you’re overpaid, Trump’s your man.

But descendants of Reagan Democrats on the fence about a President Trump should heed the warning of history before inviting another flag-waving, immigrant-blaming, black-bashing, billionaire-enriching politician to the oval office.

Mitchell Zimmerman is an intellectual property lawyer who devotes much of his practice to pro bono work. Distributed by