Joe Arpaio
Arizona Senate candidate Joe Arpaio. Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Those who have bothered to pay attention know that Donald Trump has a business history of working with some pretty shady characters in the past—particularly with mob families in New York and Pennsylvania. Whether or not the current president ever crossed the line into criminal activity himself might be revealed by the Mueller investigation. Beyond that, this is a man who bragged about committing sexual assault on tape.

The “law and order” party seems to be attracting candidates who don’t demonstrate a lot of respect for the law. The slate of candidates running in the 2018 midterms is still taking shape, but Paul Blumenthal reports that there are already four Republican candidates who are convicted criminals.

When Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff, announced his Senate candidacy on Tuesday, he became the fourth viable Republican 2018 congressional candidate who’s been convicted of a crime…

Arpaio was convicted of misdemeanor criminal contempt of court in July 2017 for defying a court order requiring him to stop illegally detaining people he suspected of being undocumented immigrants based on their race. President Donald Trump pardoned himone month later.

The other convicted criminals running for office as Republicans are Don Blankenship, the former head of the coal mining company Massey Energy who is running in the Republican primary to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.); former Rep. Michael Grimm, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) to reclaim the Staten Island congressional seat he once held; and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who is running for re-election.

Blankenship served one year in prison on a misdemeanor conviction for conspiring to evade safety laws after the death of 29 miners at his Upper Big Branch Mine in 2010. Grimm, a former FBI agent, pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion in 2014. And last year, Gianforte also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for body-slamming a reporter days before winning a 2017 special election.

Of course, all of this comes on the heels of a Senate candidate in Alabama who was removed from the state Supreme Court twice for refusing to follow the law, even before multiple allegations surfaced about his sexual assault of teenagers.

When you are a member of the “law and order” party, how do you reconcile those views with a personal history of breaking the law? Blumenthal explains:

…there is a certain type of Republican political candidate whose campaign rationale is directly wrapped up in their criminal or rule-breaking identity. These candidates claim, whether in truth or not, that they have been personally persecuted by the liberal establishment for either trying to run a business or defending the American people.

Claiming the status of being a victim of liberal persecution plays really well with the Republican base these days. We see that constantly from Trump as he attempts to paint himself as the victim of the greatest witch hunt in this country’s history with respect to the Russia investigation. Roy Moore got a lot of mileage out of that one too by basing his entire campaign on fighting back against the forces of evil who were out to get him. Apparently Blankenship referred to himself as a “political prisoner” of the Obama administration, and Grimm claims that he was a victim with “the entire Obama Justice Department weaponized against me.” Arpaio adopts Trump’s language and refers to a “political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama Justice Department.”

What I find most interesting about all of this is that one of the GOP’s foundational principles used to be that they were the party of personal responsibility—a position that sometimes gave them the moral high ground against Democrats. That sentiment has been annihilated by a bunch of grifters whose knee-jerk reaction is to blame someone else (often Obama or the “liberal media”) for their misdeeds and crimes.  But it goes even deeper than that. As you read this quote from Lance Mannion, think about how it applies to Sarah Palin.

But here’s their secret.

They like feeling persecuted. They need to feel persecuted. It’s how they know they’re good Christians…it feeds their self-pity and sense of entitlement, and it gives them their excuse.

It’s how they turn offense into defense, how repression and oppression become liberty.

If they are under attack, then they’re free to fight back.

That is precisely how Republicans opened themselves up to a bunch of grifters. All they have to do is claim to be persecuted by those nasty liberals and they’re off to the races.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.