by Shum Preston, a former aide to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a longtime political consultant, and the founder of What’s Next America, a PAC dedicated to fighting the worst Republican State AGs.
Democrats took a beating in Virginia’s election–and don’t even seem to realize yet just how bad the beating was.
Republicans took the Governor’s office, took the Lieutenant Governor’s office, apparently took the House of Delegates, and used their culture-war strategy to weaken President Biden.
None of that is the worst news. The worst news is that the Republican State AG Association (RAGA) managed to capture the office of the State Attorney General.
The impact of their win could touch every part of American life. It could smooth Donald Trump’s return to the White House, allow further cutbacks on the voting rights that are at the heart of our democracy, and give the Republican-dominated Supreme Court more power to implement a conservative policy agenda that is at odds with what the American people want.
Democrats must stop overlooking these races and fumbling away so much opportunity.
Why is this so important? How did a narrow win by an obscure state legislator named Jason Miyares have such an impact on the country?
The story starts with the role that RAGA played on the January 6 Capitol Riots. RAGA was the tip of the spear for the Trump movement in 2020, and its members filed the case Texas vs Pennsylvania, which was a shocking effort to use the courts to overturn the results of the Presidential election.
When this effort to overturn the election through the courts failed, RAGA turned to the court of public opinion, and funded robocalls and turnout to draw people to the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Capitol Riots.
RAGA’s big win in Virginia against incumbent AG Mark Herring removes one leading voice who had fought to protect the results of the election, and also proves that there are no repercussions for their work to undermine our democracy and the right to vote.
But it’s not just democracy–the win by RAGA in Virginia will have an immediate impact on the blockbuster cases that the Supreme Court is taking up this year. Both the Federal government and many State ones have moved to legislative gridlock in recent years. The court system has stepped into the policy breach, and Supreme Court rulings nowadays are often the biggest policy actions we see for many issues.
State AGs are at the center of most of the huge Supreme Court cases this year. Republican AGs are leading two different cases to the Court to overturn Roe vs Wade this. They fought until last year to overturn Obamacare, even as the pandemic raged. The justices could restrict the ability of the government to pass vaccine and mask responses to that pandemic, and this year could strike down gun regulation laws. Climate policies? Endangered. Voting rights? At risk. Campaign finance regulations? In danger.
Very little seems to slow down the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, except the fact that much of their agenda is disliked by the American public. Republican AGs will now have one more state pressing the Court to impose extreme policies, and the effects of those rulings will be felt for generations.
So it wasn’t just incumbent Mark Herring versus challenger Jason Miyares on the ballot last Tuesday. It was about the political future of Donald Trump and about the ability of politicians like Texas AG Ken Paxton to impose his policy views on all the rest of us. This race was national.
Mark Herring was an aggressive fundraiser, but just did not receive the national support that such an important election demanded. He only scraped together $70,000 for online ads the last week of the election, barely a drop in the digital bucket.
Democrats across the country need to learn this bitter lesson from the Virginia debacle. There are 30 State AG races on the ballot in 2022, including what look to be barnburners in close states like Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.
Democrats need to make those AG races a national priority. The sleepwalking must end.