Cross-posted at Daily Kos
There are Republicans who genuinely believe in a weak government that steps aside to let other sectors of society take the lead. But Ken Cuccinelli is not one of them. His approach, demonstrated time and time again, is to use government as a weapon to harass and strip the rights of any people and institutions that do not share his point of view. The net effect is to increase the power of himself and future government officials at the expense of most everyone else in the state.
Whereas an attorney general would normally be expected to use his position to protect the citizens of his state from genuine threats to their rights and well being, I cannot think of a single occasion on which our attorney general has done so. To the contrary, most of his acts involve attacking any institution that seeks to protect Virginia citizens in any way that does not conform with Cuccinelli’s rigid (and at times delusional) right-wing ideology. And in nearly every instance, he has done so on the thinnest of legal grounds, stretching any law he can find to justify his ideological assaults.
While conservatives and libertarians like to talk about a “Nanny State”, our Ayatollah General presents us with something much worse — the Bully State: government not as protector, but as a threat to anyone who does not support his agenda.
One of the remarkable things about Cuccinelli’s approach is how he recognizes absolutely no limits to his jurisdiction — he sues Federal agencies from the EPA to the FCC for doing their job under the law; he assaults institutions that he is paid to defend, like the state’s public universities; he attacks the rights of local agencies to enter into contracts freely and to extend rights to anyone of whom he does not approve.
It would not be surprising if tomorrow he decided to sue New Jersey or Russia or Mars. Virginia taxpayers may be paying his salary and all of his expenses, but he is clearly using his funding and powers to pursue an agenda not corresponding to Virginians’ interests.
Here is my Top Ten list of the victims of Cuccinelli’s Bully State so far, showing how, by using the state to bludgeon those with whom he disagrees, he threatens the fundamental rights of us all:
10. Separation of church and state: He advises ministers to ignore Jefferson’s (and the First Amendment’s) “wall of separation” between church and state.
9. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority: Cuccinelli threatens one of the most basic rights of a capitalist society — the right to enter freely into contracts — just to prevent the Authority from using contract preferences for union labor.
8. FCC net neutrality regulations: Cuccinelli sues another Federal agency for doing its job and trying to protect Web users– and remind me what the hell this has to do with Virginia?
7. U-VA campus weapons ban: the AG limits the ability of our universities to control public safety, so as to curry favor with the NRA.
6. Health care : Cuccinelli sues the Federal government to prevent it from expanding access to affordable health care.
5. Right and access to abortion: He rules that the State Board of Health can choose to regulate abortion clinics under the stringent rules required for hospitals, even in the absence of legislation authorizing such regulations.
4. Police action on immigration: He finds that police may question anyone’s immigration status once they’ve been stopped for any reason, even without a state law authorizing such actions.
3. EPA authority to address climate change: He sues the EPA for doing what it is required to do according to the Clean Air Act, science and a very clear Supreme Court ruling, threatening the right of everyone to be protected from the severe impacts of climate change.
2. University gay rights: Cuccinelli rules that state colleges and universities cannot protect the rights of gays on campus.
1. Climate science research : And in his most repressive and destructive act of all, Cuccinelli engages in a relentless, bitter assault against Jefferson’s university for allowing honest climate change research to be conducted — threatening not only our First Amendment rights, but the protection we all gain from allowing truth to be discovered and openly stated, regardless of which industries’ financial interests may be harmed in the process.
And so there you have it — just look at all the ways, not even halfway through his term, he has managed to threaten our most basic rights. Cuccinelli’s Bully State will only spiral further out of control if we and our leaders continue to stand by and allow these outrages to continue, rather than loudly and forcefully challenging him at every turn.
Bullies can only be stopped when enough people challenge them, and powerful bullies like this one need to be opposed that much more strongly. Virginians changed the whole world when we stood up to the tyranny of King George III. It’s time to stand up to the latest despot lording over the Commonwealth.