The Cuccinelli Manifesto
Virginia’s attorney general doesn’t fit the Republican rebranding. He is ultraconservative and undaunted.
Why did the good guys lose? Cuccinelli decides that the game was rigged against them. The media—he mentions columnists like Richard Cohen, excerpting their calumnies—never told the truth about the law, or the mandate to buy health insurance. “Imagine how apoplectic the big-government statists would get if Congress voted to force everyone to buy a gun,” he harrumphs. In his reading, conservatives absolutely won the argument, but President Obama—the head of a “group of lawbreakers”—browbeat the court into caving. “The possibility that Chief Justice Roberts flip-flopped to uphold [the Affordable Care Act] will encourage future bullying by presidents,” he writes, citing CBS News’s report on deliberations that didn’t quite go this way. “Why? Because it looks as if it worked.”
In his telling, Cuccinelli only loses in courts—federal court, the court of public opinion—if no one pays attention to the Constitution. Why would they pay attention? They’re lulled into obedience. They don’t understand that “every single thing government does to increase its own power increases the size of its slice of the liberty pie,” and “since there are only two slices, every time the government’s slice of liberty pie grows, the citizens’ slice is reduced.”
The people responsible are either liars or dupes. In shorter chapters about his quest to get—then, one assumes, debunk—climate change data, Cuccinelli suggests that “climate researchers may have given up the purity of science to forward a global warming agenda … simply for the research money.” After all, “when researchers in the field of climatology predicted a global warming doomsday, governments were willing to shovel lots of money in their direction to try to find ways to stop it.” They fudge data; they fail to understand that CO2 is “the gas we all exhale from our bodies every second of every day.”
Nothing in this book puts Cuccinelli apart from the median Republican governor. All this week, while he was doing book interviews, Republican governors in blue states were rejecting the federal government’s offer of Medicaid funding. The government would pay 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion provided by Obamacare through 2014, and 90 percent in the first years thereafter. “I likened this to the old Black Flag ‘Roach Motel’ roach traps for the states,” writes Cuccinelli. “Once you check in, you never check out.” Through 2022, taking the money would cost his state $2 billion.
And to what end? The early, campaign-ready excerpts got Cuccinelli’s philosophy right, but they didn’t tell his origin story. He, too, once suffered from unexpected health care costs. His father lost insurance; his mother fell ill. But the Cuccinellis, wary of slicing the Liberty Pie, downsized their lives. “The last thing my parents thought about doing was asking the government to force other people to pay our bills,” he writes. “The lesson that life isn’t necessarily fair and that it’s not government’s job to make it fair is worth learning early in life.”
The party that holds the White House typically loses the off-year elections. In 2013, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is leading by up to 40 points in the polls after—back to Cuccinelli’s metaphor—carving a slice of the Freedom Pie to pay for his state’s post-hurricane recovery. Then there’s Virginia, where the Republican candidate considers that sort of behavior downright anti-Jeffersonian. And he’s never lost an election.
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet at him @daveweigel.