I am a proponent of exploring the idea of a constitutional amendment to elect the U.S. Attorney General (as is done with attorneys general in 43 out of 50 states). It would oppose the notion of a unitary executive by making the Justice Department independent of the president. It would provide an opportunity to explicitly spell out the duties, powers and limits of the Attorney General and the Justice Department. It would create another layer of checks and balances, by having the Attorney General not be beholden the President. It would create another level of democracy and accountability, by which the public can signal its approval or disapproval of government. If done during the mid-term elections, it would boost voter participation by creating a marquee national race.
So, how would recent issues affect a hypothetical 2014 election for US Attorney General?
Let's say that 2014 would be the first such election. Would Eric Holder want to remain in his job? If so, would he be the preferred candidate of the Obama administration? If not, would Obama be supporting someone else?
How much would the recent news over Eric Snowden and NSA surveillance affect these decisions? Would a critic of the Obama administration launch a primary challenge from the left? If a intra-party fight broke out in the primary, would it harm the eventual winner and guarantee a Republican win? Would Obama critics react poorly if they tried to make the NSA a big campaign issue and got smashed in a primary?
What else would be an issue? Will minority voters turn out in droves to support an AG who will give the stronger scrutiny to attempts to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning constituencies? Will the American people react favorably towards a crusading candidate who vows to prosecute misbehaving banks? Will the banks spend a ton of money to try to keep that candidate from being elected?
Would Republicans find a way to exploit the issue if a strong supporter of the Obama administration became the Democratic nominee for Attorney General? Would populist attitudes towards issues of law and order mean that most Democratic presidents would have to deal with a Republican attorney general? Would typical Republican politics lead to a string of hardcore social conservatives getting killed so that any Republican presidency is likely to have a Democratic attorney general providing a check on any conservative over-reach?
Would this be a good thing or a bad thing for America?