Arpaio being sued? Can’t imagine why…..

Posted: September 3, 2010 in Delusional in AZ, Fearful in AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio

The DOJ has filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe in order to force him to turn over documents that they’ve been demanding for about 15 months now.  Evidently this is unprecedented and both sides admit it.  But why?  Well, law enforcement has always cooperated with DOJ investigations…primarily because they’re supposed to be on the same side.  And if a law enforcement agency didn’t feel like being cooperative, the other civilian agencies of government that control that law enforcement agency have some powers of their own to compel compliance like budgeting, etc.

However, that is not the case in Maricopa County, AZ.  There are a few good reasons why Sheriff Joe has been able to thumb his nose at the DOJ.  First and the most obvious is the long-standing feud between the County Board of Supervisors.  That has turned into one long legal nightmare that completely undermines the county’s ability to control Arpaio and gives him free rein to run amuck until the case is finished. 

The second is the cult of personality that exists in Arizona in support of Joe and his brand of “get tough” on crime.  Some of his policies have produced results or least the appearance of results (think Tent City) that the citizenry likes.  And as Joe’s popularity grows so does his ego.  The Sheriff has relied on this general popular support to avoid serious scrutiny by any other governmental agencies and the local press into the dark underbelly of his policies.  One such  example are the numerous inmate deaths and civil lawsuit payouts by the MCSO.  It is a little known fact that the Maricopa County Jail has more deaths per capita than any other county jail system in the nation.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that such a continuous pattern of death, out of court settlements and civil suit liability judgments points to not only a major problem, but a systemic problem that has existed exclusively under the reign of Arpaio.  Very few news organizations have been brave enough to really call him to the mat on these types of things.

The third and less discussed reason for Arpaio’s ability to ignore the DOJ is more of a national phenomenon….The recent rejection of the idea that the Federal Government should play a role in the lives of its citizenry.  Yes, I’m referring to States Rights and the conservative concept of self-determination.  Never mind the huge elderly population in Arizona so distressingly reliant on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  They don’t make the connection between those programs and the Federal Government.  Don’t get bogged down in expecting rationality and logic from voters.  And the same disconnect applies to Sheriff Arpaio.

Sheriff Arpaio is allowed to give the DOJ a big middle finger because the nation as a whole is allowing these kinds of individual rebellions all over the place.  What he’s doing is no different from what the State of Virginia (and 21 other states)  are doing in trying to undermine recently enacted Healthcare Reform.  It’s no different from the Gov. of Texas, Rick Perry, supporting secession and being taken seriously.  It’s no different from Rush Limbaugh wishing for Pres. Obama to fail knowing full well that it will mean the country will fail too.  It’s no different from the State of Arizona passing SB1070 (and other states wanting to follow suit).  It’s no different from Orly Taitz trying again and again to get a court, any court to hear her “birther” case challenging Pres. Obama’s citizenship.  It’s no different from the recent call to change or eliminate the 14th Amendment.  I could write a book……but I won’t. 

Essentially, a substantial portion of the country has bought into the right’s meme of “States Rights”. Those that vocally disagree are a minority (myself included in this group).  And the rest? Well they’re remaining silent in the face of it because 1) they are ignorant of how dangerous is it, and/or 2) they are very distracted, and who can blame them, by Economic woes, and/or 3) they lack the political will and cohesiveness to challenge it. 

And what exactly is the logic behind this new “thumb your nose at the Federal Government” meme? The right’s thinking is based on the idea that people are afraid.  There’s too many things going wrong and someone should take advantage of that fear.  After all it’s easier to harness fear than to assuage it.  To assuage it would mean actually solving the problems like the Economy, Immigration Reform, Racial Relations, Military drawdowns on our war fronts and real peace negotiations in several regions of the world, etc.  And all of those kinds of solutions take time, effort and political capital. 

But the right isn’t interested in providing solutions that actually assuage fears. They want to simply harness the fear in the short-term.  To do that they point fingers, make baseless accusations and reinterpret American History to fit the narrative.  Then they wrap it in a big Red, White, & Blue Bow, create smarmy country songs to rally their followers, televise and publicize gatherings to project their fear to the greater populace and then they repeat that entire cycle, over and over again.   

The country is so scared that it is allowing the Right to get away with this.  They….no, we are allowing them to damn the country in the long-term to provide an outlet for our fears in the short-term.  The Right may gain political power as a result (just as they planned).  But this kind of thought process is what allows Arpaio to get away with his own little rebellion.  How else would Arpaio be allowed to ignore his larger obligation to obey and be subject to the law, all of the law–not just the convenient ones, in favor of enforcing specific local law in order to make Arizonans feel safe and have an outlet for their fear in the short-term.  And in the long-term, it feeds his ego, gains him more power over his fiefdom and royally screws Arizona.

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