Analysis: The Arpaio Factor

arpaio-sheriff.jpgThe long-time-in-the-making Justice Department report does not just implicate Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it eviscerates him with the force of which we have rarely seen in modern times.  The word this week is that the sheriff, who at 79 is not that young anyway, will retire rather than attempt to fight the allegations.
But there is potential fallout from this, in the form of the Republican Presidential Nominee.  The impact of Sheriff Arpaio is difficult to assess.  It is unlikely to have much bearing on the views of white, middle class voters – who may possess concerns about illegal immigration and its impact on public safety and other factors, but are squeamish as to the sheriff’s tactics to combat illegal immigration.

However, Hispanic voters are a different matter and the sheriff’s involvement with the most likely Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, is likely to have a huge impact on the presidential election – if it is a close election, which right now appears to be the case.

While Texas Governor Rick Perry ended up with Sheriff Arapaio’s endorsement, others are not off the hook.

Reported the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, “In September, GOP hopefuls Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann rushed to meet with Arpaio in Iowa. A month later, then-front-runner Herman Cain traveled to Arizona to see the sheriff.”

They added, “Arpaio ultimately threw his endorsement to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who rushed to the lawman’s defense on Friday, suggesting that Arpaio was a victim of an Obama administration witch hunt.”

The Washington Post notes in a recent editorial, “The support of Mr. Arpaio, sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, has not revived Mr. Perry’s candidacy.”

More ominous is this, “Hispanic voters may long remember the spectacle of the GOP’s grandees preening like schoolboys for the favor of a figure best known for his contempt toward America’s largest minority group.”

Those on the right who concede the Hispanic vote do so at their own peril, as Hispanics have become a huge and growing voting group in many key states that are part of the new Southwestern Battleground – states like Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

George W. Bush recognized this fact and worked hard to keep good ties with the Hispanic voters in Texas, something that paid dividends, although he was not able to win the Hispanic vote, but able to keep it close enough not to throw key states to the Democrats in two very tight elections.

He did that with moderate and liberal policies on immigration, advocating work and even amnesty.  The Republican misfortunes, in 2006 and 2008, in part represent their rejection of the Bush administration compromise.

In 2004, President Bush captured an estimated 40% of Hispanic vote, which was a modern high.  By 2008, that number fell to 31% according to a Pew Research Center study following the election.

The Latino vote may have swung Florida, as Obama won 57% of the Latino vote in a state where Latinos have historically supported Republican presidential candidates, and President Bush carried 56% of the Latino vote in Florida in 2004.

Latino voters also increased their national presence in 2008, representing 9 percent of the overall vote, up from 8 percent in 2004.  They represented 41 percent of the voters in New Mexico, 20 percent in Texas, 18 percent in California, 16 in Arizona, 15 in Nevada, 14 in Florida, 13 in Colorado, and 9 in New jersey.

Mitt Romney is probably at this point, barring the emergence of another candidate, the most likely Republican nominee.  Not only did Mr. Romney attempt to gain Sheriff Arapaio’s endorsement this year, but four years ago he was endorsed by the Sheriff.

In 2008, Sheriff Arapoia told Fox News Neal Cavuto, “He’s a great guy, he did a good job in Massachusetts, especially against the illegal immigration problem. Great businessman, good guy, family man, intelligent – what else do you need?”

He added, “He’s the one that got 25 troopers trained under ICE, actually Neal, I just had 39 enter a class, so we’ll be training 160 to continue to fight against illegal immigration. But the governor – look at his history. Salt Lake – look at the games up there, what he did, look at his business.”

He told Fox and Friends, “I like Governor Romney. He’s done a great job in Massachusetts, my home state. I was a law enforcement official, I love his stance on illegal immigration, a family guy, a conservative, honest. Great business person, what else do you need? He’d make a great president and he will win.”

In another interview, he was asked what he thought of Mr. Romney on border matters: “He’s great. He started the training of his troopers under a federal agreement, which by the way the new governor did away with. I just started a training 2 days ago, I’m training 160 of my deputy sheriffs, I’m the only one locking up illegals in this state under the state law and he’s great. He sticks his neck out. Massachusetts isn’t the greatest conservative state in the universe.”

In a close election, Sheriff Arapoia’s endorsement from 2008 and the fact that Mr. Romney only three months ago was seeking his endorsement again could cripple his ability to at least hold his own on Latino votes.

As the Washington Post Editorial demonstration, “Mr. Arpaio isn’t America’s toughest sheriff. He’s a rogue and a showman who has leveraged thinly veiled racism to his political advantage.”

They add, “In the name of combating illegal immigration in a state that has seen a good deal of it, Mr. Arpaio has left thousands of Latino residents of Phoenix and its suburbs, legal and illegal, feeling hunted and harassed.”

The Post addresses the 22-page letter in which the Justice Department, in an investigation that began under President Bush, concluded that there was “evidence that Mr. Arpaio’s department targets Hispanic neighborhoods and drivers; that his office is rife with a culture of bias; that officers in jails run by the sheriff’s department treat Spanish-speaking prisoners abominably, referring to them as ‘wetbacks,’ ‘stupid Mexicans’ and worse; and that his department has carried out retaliatory detentions and arrests against critics.”

Writes the Post, “In response, Mr. Arpaio has played the victim, saying he is being used as “a whipping boy for a national and international problem.” In fact, his policies and tactics have gone far beyond any reasonable response to the challenges posed by undocumented immigrants.”

The Post adds: “On the basis of a detailed review of documents, Justice Department investigators found that Latino drivers in Maricopa County were four to nine times more likely to be stopped by sheriff’s deputies than similarly situated non-Latino drivers. They found that a fifth of such stops were unjustified, in violation of the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. They found that the sheriff’s office routinely responded to ‘intelligence’ from citizens consisting of nothing more than reports that dark-skinned or Spanish-speaking individuals were congregating in a certain place.”

It does not take much imagination to see how a campaign targeted to Hispanics, in those eight states with the most sizable Latino populations, can utilize Sheriff Joe Arapio as the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the GOP, from the Latino perspective.

Things could certainly change in the 11 months heading up to the election, but right now this looks to be a very close election and a strong and united Latino vote for Barack Obama and a motivated Latino constituency could swing the outcome of the election toward Obama again.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

btn_fbk_160 btn_twit_160


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

21 thoughts on “Analysis: The Arpaio Factor”

  1. J.R.

    Arpaiois no angel but this has all the looks of a political hit by Holder’s Justice Department. It is increasingly apparent that Holder is the most partisan and incompetent Attorney General in recent years (saying something) and this is likely to hurt Obama’s reelection chances. There is a growing collection of members of congress calling for Holder’s resignation.

  2. medwoman


    Holder’ competency or lack thereof is no reflection on the legitimacy of not allowing the kind of tactics employed by Arpaio. Regardless of motivation, this action is long overdue.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    Somewhat off topic:

    Ninth Circuit Judges En Banc Slam Lawyer for the ‘Toughest Sheriff’

    from the Courthouse News Service ([url][/url])

    [quote]SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit dressed down Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attorney at an en banc hearing this week for coming to court unprepared, in the process devastating her argument that Arpaio could not be held liable under the First Amendment for alleged attempts to muzzle a Phoenix newspaper.[/quote]

  4. Superfluous Man

    “Holder is the most partisan and incompetent Attorney General in recent years (saying something) and this is likely to hurt Obama’s reelection chances. “

    How do you figure? Also, in what ways has his alleged (according to you, anyway) partisanship manifested itself?

  5. J.R.

    [quote]Holder’ competency or lack thereof is no reflection on the legitimacy of not allowing the kind of tactics employed by Arpaio. Regardless of motivation, this action is long overdue[/quote]

    Perhaps so. But when the messenger is tainted the message can get lost. And Holder is hopelessly tainted. To the point that many people will see this as just another partisan attack by the Obama machine.

    It’s interesting that some readers of this blog don’t know how much trouble Holder is in. I recommend to them that they do a little research on not just Fast and Furious, but also his dismissal of the Black Panther case, his work to facilitate voter fraud and his consistent politicized hiring at Justice. Similar things came to bite Bush and they will bite Obama too.

  6. Superfluous Man


    Specifically what “trouble” is he in? I don’t understand how Fast and Furious is a politicized law enforcement operation. How is it?

    On what legal grounds was the Black Panther case dismissed? It was purely a political decision or done so at the request of Obama?

    Facilitating voter fraud?

    I haven’t spent much time following the AG’s dealings extremely close, so I’ll have to read about it for myself. I haven’t heard of wrongdoings re: the cases you mention. Are you getting your information from objective sources or certain pundits, pol operatives,, etc. ?

  7. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]AdRemmer: DG, does fast & furious mean anything to you?

    David M. Greenwald: Crappy action genre movie?[/quote]

    I hope you were just kidding dmg! For any who are unaware, the Fast & Furious scandal involving Eric Holder is as follows:[url][/url]

  8. AdRemmer

    SM when DG opined: “…Holder has been largely a non-entity notable…”

    I asked him a question to which he demonstrated that he 1) is/was ignorant &/or 2) thought his lame joke is/was substantive…

    What are you suggesting?

  9. David M. Greenwald

    I was not kidding, it was not something that was on my radar. I never know what to make of those kinds of scandals – are they real or someone pushing a political agenda.

  10. Superfluous Man

    I was wondering in what ways it (F&F) related to the comments DMG and I responded to, which were in reference to JR’s comments about Holder being the most partisan AG in recent years and will hurt Obama’s reelection chances.

  11. Don Shor

    The Fast and Furious debacle will not hurt Obama’s reelection chances in the least, because the people who are up in arms (pun intended) about it wouldn’t vote for Obama anyway.

    If you support the rule of law, you can’t support the actions of Sheriff Arpaio.

  12. Don Shor

    The only question about AG Holder is what he knew and when he knew it about F&F. So far, no link directly to the program, and F&F is nothing new. Other than what he knew and whether he might have misled Congress, all the illegal activities appear to have occurred at the lower levels of the ATF.
    So what do you think about the actions of Sheriff Arpaio?
    Please read this: [url][/url]

  13. medwoman


    “Perhaps so. But when the messenger is tainted the message can get lost. And Holder is hopelessly tainted. To the point that many people will see this as just another partisan attack by the Obama machine.

    This will only be so for people who are so biased against “the Obama machine” that they are incapable of judging
    a case on its merits. You do not have to be a liberal or a doctor to know that it is inhumane to keep pregnant women in >100 degree temperatures. Or to feed people rotten food. Or any other of the blatant actions completely lacking in any kind of human decency that have been well documented as standard for Sheriff Arpaio.

  14. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I was not kidding, it was not something that was on my radar. I never know what to make of those kinds of scandals – are they real or someone pushing a political agenda.[/quote]

    This “scandal” is very real, and may well result in Holder losing his job. Holder’s actions and those of higher ups in the ATF were outrageous…

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for