Here Come the Republican AGs

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The Republican sweep in 2010 went all the way down the ballot, and it’s gradually becoming apparent that some of the GOP’s lower-profile victories—particularly at the state level—could also have major consequences. In five states, for instance, Republicans managed to flip the seats for state attorneys general, giving them control of 21 AG slots in the 43 states that elect their state AGs. (The office is appointed in the other states.) Though Democrats still hold a one-seat majority in the states that elect AGs, the midterm elections have given the GOP more AG slots than the party has held for decades. And Republican AGs have already indicated that they’re eager to use their office to become ideological crusaders—particularly as a means of defying Obama and Washington’s Democratic leadership.

As I write in my latest magazine story, Virginia attorney general and tea party hero Ken Cuccinelli has demonstrated exactly how far Republican AGs are willing to go to push their agenda. Cuccinelli was the first AG to file suit against the federal health care law—a legal challenge that now poses the greatest immediate threat to health reform, more so than anything that Congress is currently capable of doing. Cuccinelli has since set  his sights on every other major pillar of the Democratic platform—most recently decreeing that school officials have the authority to seize and search students’ cell phones and laptops if they suspect unseemly behavior. He’s also continued to use his office as a bully pulpit to slam “Obamacare,” claiming last month the federal health law could force Americans to buy gym membership.

Cuccinelli represents a new breed of state AGs who have cut a profile for themselves as high-profile, strident swashbucklers. As I explain, it’s a role that their Democratic counterparts had originally pioneered by targeting tobacco companies and other big corporations. Intentionally or not, the crusades of Democratic AGs like Eliot Spitzer ended up politicizing the office, turning it into even more of a political stepping stone and putting Republicans on the defensive. Now that Republican AGs have gained more of the upper hand, it’s not surprising that they’re eager to wage their own war.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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