February 11, 2019

Chaos in Virginia

Virginia’s state government seemed to come unglued Friday as an embattled Gov. Ralph Northam made it clear he won’t resign and the man in line to succeed him [Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax] was hit with another sexual assault accusation and barraged with demands that he step down, too… If all three Democrats resigned, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.” AP News

On Saturday, Northam “promised to pursue racial reconciliation as he defended his vow to stay in office” in an interview with the Washington Post. In the past week, Northam “has met with African American legislators and faith and community leaders, and has begun reading up on race.” Washington Post

See past issues

From the Left

The left is divided on whether the lawmakers should resign.

Some argue that “every day that Northam, Fairfax and Herring remain in office, the ability of Democrats to call to account an ever more reactionary Republican party is diminished… The thought of Cox’s elevation, especially when Virginia is so close to achieving a long-held goal of expanding Medicaid for over 200,000 citizens, is almost too painful to bear. But the idea that Democrats are comfortable with sweeping racism and misogyny under the rug when it suits them politically is far worse, and much more impactful on the lives of working-class Americans.”
The Guardian

“Do not defend the indefensible. Do not sacrifice long-term reputation for short-term political expediency. The party must stand for something more than the defense of its sleaziest members.”
Washington Post

Others posit that “it is not fair to judge a person’s actions 30 or 40 years ago by today’s sensibilities. If a politician went on national TV today and said members of the LGBT community should not be allowed to marry because marriage is ‘between a man and a woman,’ he or she would be rightly condemned as a bigot. But Barack Obama said just that while running for president in 2008…

“The ‘no tolerance’ moral high road Democrats have committed to walking has left them at a disadvantage to Republicans… Democrats must stop choosing their politicians like they select their dinner guests. We cannot keep purging politicians who effectively support Democratic policies but are imperfect.”
USA Today

“Scapegoating politicians who are caught in the act of interpersonal racism will not address the fundamental issue of systemic racism. We have to talk about policy. But we also have to talk about trust and power. If white people in political leadership are truly repentant, they will listen to black and other marginalized people in our society. They will confess that they have sinned and demonstrate their willingness to listen and learn by following and supporting the leadership of others…

“In our present moral crisis, we must remember that real repentance is possible — and it looks like working together to build the multiethnic democracy we’ve never yet been.”
Washington Post

Regarding the potential that the GOP might capture the governor’s office, some posit that “in Virginia and in Washington, the line-of-succession laws need to change… There should always be a way to remove an unfit leader from office without flipping the partisan control of that office… Lines of succession for executive offices shouldn’t mix the executive and legislative branches. They should remain entirely within the executive branch, at least for the first dozen or so positions…

“The principle here is simple enough. No one person is more important than the moral authority of government. Any individual can be removed from office. Yet only an election can change partisan control of the White House or a governor’s mansion and, by extension, the entire executive branch of a government.”
New York Times

“It’s worth noting that, for all the fraught racial history in this country, there is no tradition of black college students gathering in drunken revels to perform chalk-faced imitations of white people. Or of feeling a need to whiten one’s skin on Halloween—because, otherwise, how would people recognize your Captain America or Daenerys Targaryen costume? The understanding is that the character that Chris Evans plays in ‘The Avengers’ is named Captain America, not White Captain America.”
The New Yorker

From the Right

The right argues that it would be hypocritical of Northam, Fairfax, and Herring not to resign, but is divided as to whether they should do so.

The right argues that it would be hypocritical of Northam, Fairfax, and Herring not to resign, but is divided as to whether they should do so.

“We are led by people who believe in doing the right thing, as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. Northam was willing to admit he was in the photo if he wouldn’t have to resign; state Democrats were willing to remove Northam as long as his replacement would be another Democrat… Asking a party to sacrifice control of an office in order to remove an embarrassingly scandalous or incompetent leader is apparently too much to ask.”
National Review

None of this is good news for the party that likes to preach how progressive it is on race and the treatment of women. The whole thing reeks of hypocrisy, too: Herring had called on Northam to resign after photos from the governor’s med school yearbook page began to circulate on the Internet, but so far appears reluctant to take his own advice, despite having admitted having done the same thing…

“Northam, Fairfax, and Herring have become a problem not just for Democrats running for the Virginia Legislature in 2019—where the Republican majorities are hanging on by a thread in both chambers—but in every state from Maine to California. None of them want to deal with this, just like no Republican wanted to be asked about former U.S. Rep. Todd Atkins comments about ‘real rape’ during his run for U.S. Senate in Missouri a little over six years ago. For the good of the party, all three need to go.”

Others counter that “Fairfax’s alleged crimes are obviously vastly more serious than what Northam and Herring have confessed to 30 or 40 years ago. If there’s credible evidence of his guilt, he should go, regardless of what happens to the other state-level officials. That said, there should be some sort of due process and investigation, perhaps as part of an impeachment process.”
National Review

“In the 35 years [after the photo, Northam] has, by all appearances, lived an upstanding life without a hint of racial bias. If we are going to embrace a politics where that’s not enough to save a sitting governor accused of no crime, we’re headed toward a dark place… It is hard enough for ordinary, decent people, aware of their shortcomings and capable of shame, to contemplate a career in politics; why would they ever do so if the statute of limitations on past indiscretions never expires? And if they won’t run, aren’t they just ceding the field to those with no shame?”
New York Times

Still others are critiquing Northam’s reading list as “the whitest solution to a blackface problem that only the whitest of whites could have devised… This is like something lifted directly from a ‘South Park’ episode. Northam should just pay an indulgence to Jesse Jackson and get it over with already. This also seems like the lazy man’s way of familiarizing oneself with the black community. (‘Isn’t there a book I can just read?’)”
Washington Examiner

Regarding zero tolerance standards in general, “when this poison was directed at Republicans, we lamented how this wasn’t good for America. Now that the attacks are on Democrats, we say the same: This is no good for the country or the Democratic Party

“Sexual assault deserves to be punished, but the accused also deserve legal and political due process. The evidence or lack of it should matter. A photo with men in blackface and KKK garb is offensive, but the mistakes of youth for politicians who have since shown zero evidence of racial bias deserve some perspective. Politics would be better with a little forbearance in judging adults solely by their worst moments from college.”
Wall Street Journal

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