FIVE QUESTIONS: Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares

by Shaun Kenney

Last week, TRS was able to sit down and talk with Virginia’s Attorney General Jason Miyares (R-VA) about the challenges he is facing from opioid and fentanyl abuse to the FBI Richmond’s targeting of Catholics in the public square.

Miyares — a longstanding conservative in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and a leading thinker in his own right — shares his convictions, his hope for civility over violence, and some discussion on what he rightly calls the American Miracle.

So it seems as if some congratulations are in order. Russian President Vladimir Putin has put you on the Russian sanctions list. What did you do to earn such an esteemed award?

Yeah, I keep making lists!

I keep visiting with the Uigurs in Northern Virginia. I find it interesting but not surprising because we have such a different worldview. I detest autocracy and tyranny in all forms. When Putin said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the single greatest catastrophe of the 20th century, I view that as Ronald Reagan’s greatest victory.

Yet the reality of any autocratic regime is that ideology trumps the individual. C.S. Lewis said that of all the tyrannies in the world, the tyrannies that are for your benefit are the worst in the world. Solzhenitsyn writes about this in the Gulag Archipelago.

Speaking out against tyranny and those who violate individual dignity has been something that has animated me my entire career, and something I have thought about, because when your family flees the only non-democracy in the Western Hemisphere — Venezuela comes awfully close — you have a greater appreciation for what freedom means.

We have a constitution that limits what the government can do in favor of the individual. Every other constitution says what government can do; we have a written constitution which says what government cannot do.

We take that for granted, as if it were as normal as breathing, but it so rare in the experience of human history. When I talk to students overseas, there are so many who are just as smart and as bright as anyone else, but they can’t achieve their dreams because they lack those freedoms. When you think that 99 percent of humanity doesn’t have those freedoms, it’s mind boggling. It goes back to what I call the American Miracle.

So, I view Putin’s ban as a badge of honor because I love freedom and hate tyranny. What we see in Cuba and Russia are the opposite, that you have to devote yourself to those who tower over you. Thomas Jefferson calls freedom a gift from the divine, and that is just a totally different worldview. I view this as a badge of honor, and I’m surprised to be on this list instead of a few other individuals, but proud to be on it.

Speaking of lists, you came in a bit higher on the Loudoun County Love Warriors hit list. This seems to be an alarming and increasing trend on the political left where the so-called “Summer of Love” in 2020 seems to have encouraged political violence bordering on domestic terrorism.

For anyone reading this, what encouragement can you give us that this sort of thing isn’t the new normal?

Well, I do point out that if this is the “love warrior” list then I’d hate to see what the hate warrior list is.

Any form of political violence is inexcusable. That’s why I condemn January 6th so vocally as well as anyone burning down police stations in the name of racial equality. Any form of political violence is abhorrent.

I think that you have a list at their core which says that they will not tolerate political dissent, preaching tolerance when they are in the minority and then crushing dissent when they are in the majority. I am about free enterprise and a passionate defender of the ideals which lift people out of poverty and help build a more prosperous America. It becomes a very slippery slope when we find camps who refuse to engage in the marketplace of ideas, precisely because it degrades the dignity of the individual. That shows how weak your ideas are if you cannot compete in that marketplace.

And look — I’m a big believer that civility is not weakness, but it also means that you have to be absolutely firm in your convictions. When I say I am a Reagan Republican — he knew that civility was not weakness — because I do not believe that anger is a governing principle on the left or the right, nor does it attract people to your side. It’s just not healthy. So, when I look at these “love warriors” it exposes the flaws of their ideas because they cannot compete in the marketplace of ideas, they simply want to silence dissent. It goes against everything we believe as a free people and what a free society should look like.

Can you shed any light on what the Richmond FBI was thinking by branding Catholics as a domestic terrorist threat? That seems awfully obtuse…

I don’t think it is the government’s place to question how they talk to God. If someone wants to attend a Latin Mass? That’s their right. I would say that is a misplaced priority of the FBI if people have to ask who is sitting on the back pew and then wondering if they are from the federal government. There’s a better use of their resources than that.

I don’t know if you saw the recent polling, but Biden right now is 31 points under among independents according to the latest CBS/YouGov poll, a core group that Democrats captured in their 2017 blue wave. How important is it for Republicans to recapture the Virginia Senate and what do you think the key issues are?

Listen, I think the reason why we won in 2021 is because independents understood that parents matter and they were truly concerned about what they were seeing in public education, and they wanted to make their voices heard.

It’s a clear contrast. Do you want to stand with Governor Youngkin or do you want to stand with a Biden administration which is increasingly out of touch with average Virginians?

Do you want to stand with the party that wants to return their tax surplus or with the party that wants to keep it? Do you want to stand with the party that is fighting addiction and overdose deaths [and] who wants to prosecute drug dealers or with the party who allows that sort of legislation to die by party line vote? Do you want your children exposed to TikTok and the Chinese government or with the party who continues to expose our children to a platform that encourages teenage suicide among young girls?

Governor Youngkin has the right policies to protect our families and communities, and the Democratic Party out of purely partisan reasons is being the roadblock to that. It’s Youngkin and quality of life in Virginia against the failed Biden-Harris agenda.

Back in 2021, the Virginia statewide ticket was billed as the Most Diverse Ticket in Virginia History (TM). Beyond running, in your opinion, what more can Virginia Republicans do to help minority voters feel as if they are leading Virginia Republicans in the right direction?

Go the communities and talk and listen. That’s number one. The second is to actually show up.

We presently have a civil rights investigation in Fairfax County with their “equity based” admissions policy which led to a 20-point drop in admissions for Asian students over the course of a year. So, that has provided opportunities to talk to our new American communities, whether they are Vietnamese, Hindu, or Sikh communities.

Once you start impacting people’s children, people sit up and take notice.

We also shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the American dream. What I pointed out to The New York Times was that once upon a time, both parties used to talk about the American dream, and now one party talks about the American nightmare. But immigrants know better; they know this isn’t the American nightmare, they know that this is a remarkable country.

Now that doesn’t mean that America is perfect, but the question we always have to ask is: Compared to what?

America gives more second chances to more backgrounds than any other country in the history of the world. The other party has put themselves in an ideological straitjacket that prevents them from saying America is the best country in the world, especially among immigrants and new Virginians. So, they are waiting for people to come to talk to them, we have met with so many groups who are speaking to their hopes, dreams, and aspiration, whether it is our new Americans looking to expand and start their new businesses, and why this is indeed our shining city on the hill. It gives us the opportunity to talk about what we are passionate about.

Our office is in a unique position, because we call ourselves the people’s protector, from civil rights to environmental rights. But the one thing I keep telling people in our office is that you are protecting the people from all sorts of overarching things. When you work for the OAG [Office of the Attorney General], your role as the people’s protector is a role we take seriously. It gives us a great pathway forward into new communities in Virginia.

Among some of the unique challenges the Office of Attorney General has had to stare down in recent years is the threat of cheaply accessible fentanyl combined with the uptick in opioid abuse. What advice do you have for policy makers as well as Virginians who care about tackling the problem?

One thing I have been doing over the last couple of months, particularly at the Virginia Federation of Republican Women, is the problem of addiction.

Part of this goes to my faith is to see the image of God — the imago Dei — in each person. What we are seeing in addiction is that it is removing that potential.

Yet part of the problem is that pharmaceuticals went into a part of Virginia and sold a wonder drug that was going to take care of all sorts of pains, known as oxycontin. One of the things I am proud of is that we are getting billions of dollars coming back into Virginia that is going towards treatment.

We have such a misnomer that looking for help is a sign of weakness. It’s not! It is one of the most noble and courageous things you can do — and I am so proud of them for doing that. We visited a treatment center in Abingdon where people are looking for that kind of treatment. But right now, with oxycontin and fentanyl, it is important to have elected leaders willing to talk about it, where the number of people who come up to me and thank me because they have a loved one struggling with this.

The more elected officials who are willing to talk about it, help people understand that there are more resources coming to Virginia than ever before so that each of us can live their God-given potential. It’s important for people to know how much there is out there to help on that front.

Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.