Better Leaders

7 February 2019


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Virginia's Democratic Party is Melting Down


The State of Virginia (one of four arrogant enough to call itself a commonwealth) has been a deeply conservative state for decades. Thanks to the growth of the federal workforce and the settlement of more liberal thinkers in Washington, DC's northern Virginian suburbs, the electorate has grown more centrist. The rise of the Democratic Party there has been one of the great success stories of political organization. Now, the elected leadership of that party appears to be melting down.

First up in the cavalcade of shame is Governor Ralph Northam. His difficulties stem from a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook in which he appears wearing either blackface or a KKK robe. It's not a great photo, but it appeared on his personal page along with his moniker "coonman." As observed here earlier this week, he was 24, and it was the 1980s, not the 1920s. He initially took responsibility on Friday, but Saturday afternoon, he came up with the defense that it was not him in the photo. The craven change of story is more than enough to condemn him.

If he were to resign, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax would take up the office. Unfortunately, recent days have seen him accused of sexual assault back in 2004. In the age of #MeToo, the standard is to believe the accuser and disqualify the accused. The Washington Post had this story quite a while ago, and it never ran with the tale because it was too thin. Essentially, it was a cause of consensual interaction that turned non-consensual. Well, he's out.

According to the Virginian constitution, the next person in line is the Attorney General Mark Herring. Yesterday, he announced that he had worn blackface make-up to a party when he was 19. He said, "In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song. It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes -- and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others -- we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup. This was a onetime occurrence and I accept full responsibility for my conduct."

The next person in line is the Republican speaker in the lower chamber, the House of Delegates, Kirk Cox. So, the Democrats appear to be hoist on their own moral petard. Blackface and sexual assault are both out of bounds. If they stand up for their principles, they hand the governor's mansion to the Republicans, and to be honest, the Republicans would not oust their man if he had committed sexual assault while in blackface.

So, one expects the party to try to weasel it's way out of its principled stance. Governor Northam appears unwilling to leave office, so impeachment and removal will be necessary. It will be painful, but he could well hold on if the Democrats in the state senate refuse to remove him; it requires a 2/3 majority and they have 19 of 40 seats.

The best hope that the party has is to drag out whatever happens through the next election. Indeed, a few leading lights of the senate should vote to remove him and run on the "I voted against Northam" platform.

It's going to be ugly and unpleasant, and in the end, the casual voter will be less inclined to vote. That's not to say that the behavior exhibited shouldn't carry consequences; it should. But the Democratic Party in Virginia, and nationwide, needs to start looking at just what mistakes are acceptable and which ones are not. In each of these cases, this journal believes the punishment should be disqualification from holding public office (until or unless new facts arise). The solution is not to sweep this under the rug but rather to pick better leaders.

© Copyright 2019 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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