by Jay Jones
(Jones is a former member of the House of Delegates and he ran for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General in 2021 before eventually losing to two-term incumbent Mark Herring.)
Our Commonwealth’s top legal officer is imbued with powers mostly grounded in civil law, but about 30 years ago, with the election of Jim Gilmore, Republicans convinced Virginians that the Attorney General is also the state’s “top cop.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the office has minimal criminal jurisdiction. Yet, three decades on, we must endure the antics of a “crusading former prosecutor” as our chief legal officer – one who is in over his head and refuses to do his job, all while embarrassing the Commonwealth in pursuit of national attention along the way.
It is challenging to cut through the noise to get your message to resonate with the citizenry in today’s political atmosphere, and it seems like only the wackiest, fringe politicians and comments break through into the mainstream. Being a dedicated and unassuming public official concerned with the livelihoods and experiences of real people is now “boring” and puts you in electoral peril.
Unfortunately, our Attorney General subscribes to the theory that destructive and noisy politics are what gets you ahead. After a disastrous first month, Jason Miyares continues to preen for the ultra-right wing and focus on politics rather than public service—all at the expense of our Commonwealth.
In a wholly unsurprising turn of events, the Venn diagram of Miyares’ most notorious public stances and Fox News’ most venomous conspiracy theories are a perfect circle. Miyares was elected to helm the state’s biggest law firm, not to curry favor with Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and their coterie of viewers.
It seems that the depths to which Miyares will sink to align with the fringes of his party know no bounds. Over the weekend, reports surfaced that Miyares’ office attempted to subpoena records of individual students in its ongoing investigation into the Loudoun County Public School System, specifically targeting transgender students. While wholly misguided and outside the scope of the purported investigation, and despite denials from his spokesperson, this appears to be totally in line with Republicans’ assault on LGBTQ+ students across America. One only has to Google “Fox News transgender” to see how low these extremists will stoop to retain the last vestiges of their waning power by fanning the flames of the culture war.
Moreover, our Attorney General parroted right-wing propaganda that protests would erupt outside of Catholic churches and prevent people from worshiping in the wake of last week’s release of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. Miyares issued a statement regarding his purported support of the First Amendment, but the word salad was nothing more than fodder for the ultra-right under the guise of a respect for freedom of religion. In reality, not a single protest was reported, and Miyares once again prioritized the appearance of fealty to his party’s right flank over the reproductive autonomy of Virginians.
Not surprisingly, this stands in stark contrast to his position on the First Amendment rights of students who walked out of school to protest potential changes to Roe. The AG called into question the students’ right to protest and called it “disruptive,” while he also supported student walkouts in Loudoun in October. Just so we’re clear: Virginians’ First Amendment rights only exist if our Attorney General likes what they’re saying. Our Attorney General shouldn’t pick and choose his support of our Constitution based on his political whims, and yet I’m not surprised to see that Miyares shirks his duty for the conservative cable news cabal.
Our Attorney General’s hypocrisy does not stop there. Miyares ran on a platform of prioritizing victims’ rights, which is perfectly admirable. Victims of crimes and their families deserve their day in court, not only as a matter of law but also, as individuals worthy of their community’s compassion. However, the AG dubiously ended the state’s appeal of the murder of Bijan Ghaisar, failing to show the same support of victims’ rights in this instance. Here, we see our Attorney General playing politics yet again, changing his position in order to toe his party’s line. Bijan’s family deserved a day in court in front of a jury of Virginians, but it seems that Miyares’ self-professed role as “top cop” only goes so far.
Finally, a core function of the AG’s office is consumer protection. I was encouraged to see the Attorney General step up at the onset of the ongoing gas crisis, but disappointed when he blamed the Biden Administration for cumbersome energy regulations as the cause, when we know that the ongoing geopolitical crisis in Europe has overwhelmed the market. Consumers need protection from price-gouging and inflation now more than ever, not someone pointing fingers to score cheap political points. Rather than using his power to help the average Virginian, Miyares decamped to Washington to crow to Congressional Republicans and flouted the creation of a new PAC geared at thwarting prosecutors who employ empathy in their work.
Taken together, these are just a few recent instances that make it clear that Jason Miyares would rather play politics than do his job. The AG is supposed to be the people’s lawyer, working diligently on behalf of Virginians day in and day out. Sadly, Jason Miyares has been too busy joining in the regressive hate-mongering of national Republicans and media elite to actually improve the lives of Virginians in a meaningful way. Whether he truly believes in the actions he’s taken or is positioning himself to run for higher office, Virginians are nevertheless suffering. Miyares should spend a little less time on his misguided attempts to please Fox News and instead focus on serving the people of his Commonwealth, who are fast becoming collateral damage in his pursuit of a radical, out-of-touch agenda.
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