In Trump’s bizarre Phoenix speech last week – during which supporters lost enthusiasm and trickled out while the event was in progress – the flailing president eluded to the pardoning of Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio is a controversial former Maricopa sheriff who fabricated assassination attempts, dehumanized prisoners by forcing them to wear pink underwear, and – perhaps most notably – made racial profiling official police policy under his watch.
Democrat Paul Penzone beat Arpaio in last fall’s elections. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, had evidently grown tired of Arpaio’s strongman tactics. The fact that the former sheriff was also charged with criminal contempt for ignoring a court order to cease his racial profiling policy did not help his electoral chances.
Eventually convicted, the prospect of a 6-month prison sentence for the extremist lawman provided an ounce of solace for the communities Arpaio targeted during his 24-year reign.
Fast-foward to August 2017, and that sentence has evaporated into thin air. Trump followed through on his word to pardon Arpaio – but it may come at a cost.
As demographic shifts continue apace in states like Arizona, there is a greater likelihood that Trump pandering to his racist base will backfire. If he even makes it to the 2020 election, he now stands to lose Arizona.