It's Simple, Mr. President: Don't Pardon Racists.
(SHORT) — Just a few hours ago, Donald Trump issued the first pardon of his presidency: Joe Arpaio, an 85 year old former Arizona sheriff charged with criminal contempt after violating an order to stop racially profiling Latinos for immigration status checks. Like most things Donald Trump has done, Donald Trump shouldn't have done this.
Arpaio is far from a posterboy of the American ideals of liberty and equality: he ruled Maricopa County with a blatant disregard for justice and insisted former president Obama wasn't born in the United States, even after Donald Trump dropped the issue. He is also one of Donald Trump's most avid supporters.
Above: Joe Arpaio stands with Donald Trump. (Via New York Daily News)
The trouble with Donald Trump pardoning Arpaio extends far beyond the prevention of justice. Like Trump's remarks following the Charlottesville attack, in which he insisted that there was blame to be had on 'both sides,' the act of pardoning Arpaio reinforces the notion that racism is acceptable. And racism is not acceptable.
Above: Joe Arpaio talking to reporters. (Via CNN)
This isn't a hypothetical. The pardoning of Arpaio doesn't risk creating an environment in which hate is accepted and legitamized. It does.
No, the pardon does not nullify the law for which Arpaio was convicted, nor does it nullify his wrongdoing. At least in the legal sense, Arpaio's crimes, if committed by another person, are still punishable. Still, Trump's pardon is unpardonable. It only further normalizes hate and injustice.
Presidential pardons don't set legal precedent, but they do set social precedent.
Cover photo: Joe Arpaio in 2016, via Wikimedia Commons.