The attacks on Ford aren’t about Ford: Why the AG race matters

ford column
Aaron Ford addressing the Nevada AFL-CIO convention last month. Twitter photo.

A bunch of mining industry guys from California and their California bankers and California lawyers decided in the 19th century to put Nevada’s capital in a mining camp, and Nevada has just left it sitting there ever since.

As a result, like the overwhelming majority of my fellow Nevadans, my contact with the Nevada Legislature tends to be from afar.

So I’m not in a position to personally confirm that state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, the Democratic candidate for Nevada attorney general, is, as his opponent’s surrogates want you to believe, history’s greatest monster.

It seems a tad far-fetched. Ford has been in the state Senate since 2012 (and was named freshman legislator of the year by both the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Reno Gazette-Journal). You’d think the horrific criminal tendencies that his opponent’s surrogates attribute to him would have come up before now.

But then, the Republican Attorneys General Association’s (RAGA) dive into the sewer of dog-whistling white identity politics in an effort to demonize Aaron Ford on behalf of his Republican opponent, Wes Duncan, has nothing to do with Ford.

RAGA’s disgusting efforts, on Duncan’s behalf, to paint Ford as somehow unfit to be attorney general are stones tossed from a glass house. We’re supposed to believe that RAGA is deeply disturbed because when Ford was in college he had some very minor run-ins with the law, and then some tax liens decades later?

It’s a tough pill to swallow given RAGA affection for Donald Trump, whose most notable interaction with a college is paying $25 million to students defrauded by Trump University, who refuses to release his own tax returns, and who describes paying no taxes at all as “smart.”

You can trust the sincerity of the RAGA/Duncan slime show just as soon as they make a peep about their lying, scamming president — and his cabinet.

Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney admitted that as a congressman he wouldn’t talk to lobbyists unless they paid him. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put for-profit college executives in charge of investigating for-profit colleges. Former EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s had so many scandals that even the Trump administration got rid of him. Trump & Family have leveraged the office of the president to win Trump Inc. Chinese patents and inflate the income at Trump properties. One could go on and on. And on and on and on. Trump’s is the most demonstrably corrupt presidential administration in U.S. history.

Trump’s efforts to politicize the Justice Department, calling for it to prosecute his enemies and protect his friends in a relentless attack on the rule of law, should outrage attorneys general the nation over, whatever their party.

But RAGA, like all things Republican, is in lock-step with Trump and Trumpism. We’re supposed to believe RAGA genuinely cares that Aaron Ford stole some tires when he was a kid?

If something calling itself an attorneys general association were truly offended by corruption, its members – and its wannabe members like Duncan — would be fighting to protect citizens by challenging Trump’s lawless swamp, not lining up to wallow in it.

RAGA could care less about Ford – or Duncan, for that matter. What the organization does care about is protecting special interests, even if it means circumventing democracy, the nation’s values and principles, and the will of the people. States with Democratic attorneys general, unlike their White House-trained GOP counterparts, have been fighting Trump and his swamp.

Attorney general is a down-ballot race that voters can be expected to mostly ignore, especially amid a cycle that includes a race for U.S. Senate, governor, and the special-interest ballot clutter that is Question 3.

But attorneys general matter.

Attorneys general in blue states have been in the front lines of battles against some of Trump’s more despicable policies, such as the family separation fiasco, the effort to deprive people of health insurance, and the Muslim travel ban. Democratic AGs have also gone to court to, among other things, protect citizens from Trump’s industry-dictated anti-environmental agenda, students from rapacious for-profit colleges, and those serving in the military from the administration’s bigotry against transgender people.

The Republican-controlled Congress has abrogated its responsibilities, and is willing to sit idly by and allow an incompetent, dishonest and serially corrupt administration to run roughshod over laws and decency. When Trump was inaugurated, separation of powers evaporated. Democratic attorneys general have openly taken up the mantle of checks and balances, trying to fill the gaping void left by Congress when it comes to standing up against Trump and his thieving administration.

That administration, and the corruption and special interests for which it stands, know that just as Trump could not win a majority of American voters, their policies do not serve a majority of the American people. One effective way to subvert the public will is to make sure states have Republican attorneys general. Nevada knows this all too well, from watching Attorney General Adam Laxalt, now running for governor, go way, way, way out of his way to do the gun industry’s bidding and thwart a background check measure approved by voters in 2016.

Protecting right-wing ideology, special interests, and Trump — that, not the character and conduct of Ford – or Duncan – is why RAGA is spending oodles of money on the Nevada AG race. And tapping the ugly, rotten core of Trump’s appeal, RAGA, on Duncan’s behalf, is portraying Ford not only as a bad man, but a bad black man, playing on the white electorate’s basest sentiments. As history has shown, that crap works, even if subliminally, and even on voters convinced that they themselves would never, could never, succumb to racism in the ballot booth.

In an echo of Trump’s strong-man law and order bilge, Duncan’s campaign slogan is “A Safer Nevada.” One implication, of course, is that Nevada’s current attorney general has somehow failed to keep Nevada safe. It would be interesting to hear Duncan explain exactly how Laxalt, who moved to Nevada in 2011 to shop for a political office, has neglected to protect the safety of his adopted state and rendered Nevada so vulnerable to mayhem that Duncan must swoop in and save the day.

Duncan’s not going to do that. But if Duncan wanted to prove that he truly has the character and mettle to be a stellar attorney general, he’d denounce RAGA’s racism and tell RAGA to get the hell out of Nevada, because we’re trying pretty hard to move beyond all that.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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