Young people do things that are stupid and unfortunately, they come back to bite you later in life. The advent of social media only amplifies this problem. Today it is a photo from over 30 years ago of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) where he appeared in either blackface or a KKK costume in his Medical school yearbook.
Now I want to be upfront about my feelings on this issue. I do not believe that Ralph Northam is a racist. I do believe he is being unbelievably stupid in how he is trying to handle this problem. First, he was in the news for what I believe was the more serious offense when he basically said that he would be OK with infanticide during an interview on WTOP radio in Washington DC. This misstep was created after a Virginia delegate offered a bill that would allow abortion rights up to the moment before birth. This flies in the face of every poll done in recent years where the American public has decried such late-term abortions. Governor Northam in the interview suggested that if the child were born “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” Think about that. The child is born and then they decide if the child should be allowed to continue to live.
This statement caused a great deal of controversy, but Democrats tried to rally around the besieged Governor and back him up. After all, this was about abortion and that has become the Holy Grail in the Democrat political spheres.
But then the picture from the yearbook appears and suddenly the wolves descend on the Governor they were previously trying to protect. There were swift and loud calls for him to resign. He issued a statement:
“Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive,” “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.
“This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”
“I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”
He offers an apology, accepts the responsibility, and says he will not resign but will continue to try and regain the trust of the people of Virginia. Then one day later he begins to backtrack. Since it would be very difficult to say with 100% certainty that it was actually Ralph Northam in blackface in the photo and you cannot identify the person wearing the KKK costume. The Governor is now saying he does not believe that he was the person in the photo.
This sounds like something that happened in Utah in 1976. Then Democrat Congressman Allan Howe was arrested right after the Democrat convention nominating him for another term in Congress. He was arrested for solicitation of an undercover policewoman. At first, he was going to come forward and admit his guilt but then asked his law firm if they had him on tape making the solicitation. Without the voice transcript, Howe stayed in the race, despite pleas from the party to step down, and was defeated in the November election.
Governor Northam is trying to have this both ways. He apologizes and then someone suggests to him that he could deny being one of the people on his yearbook page so he tries this new strategy of denial hoping it will simply go away. He does not deny he never engaged in this activity because you never know when the next photo will appear. He just says that is not him in the picture being presented as him. I hate to tell the Governor, but he is only making the problem worse for him and Democrats in Virginia.
For a lot of years Democrats, especially those from the South, could be caught doing something racially offensive in their younger years and they could admit they did it and say they have evolved. Democrats love to use this excuse and they have “evolved” on many things. This is their own version of absolution. But today it appears that this will no longer fly. After the vicious attacks on Bret Kavanaugh over a 30+-year-old accusation that could not be proven Democrats cannot absolve one of their own and so they join the chorus of people demanding that Northam resign.
The clock is ticking on Ralph Northam and I have to believe in the next few days he will have to admit that his political career is ending. It will not change my belief that he is not a racist. He did what so many young people do and committed a stupid act. Virginia in the 1980s, particularly southern and rural Virginia, was still shaking off its racist past. I believe that those that know Ralph Northam today would never call him a racist. But that will not appease those calling for him to step aside by this time.
Next week Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax will assume the office of Governor. The silver lining for Democrats is that under the Virginia Constitution Justin Fairfax will be able to run for reelection. I don’t know Justin Fairfax but my youngest daughter, a wayward soul that thinks she is a liberal Democrat, knows him and speaks highly of him. I will trust her on this subject.
I would also hope that Lt. Governor Fairfax would denounce the statement Governor Northam made on WTOP where he suggested that a newborn infant would be made comfortable while the mother decided whether to allow the child to live or die. Absent that denunciation he will be just another Democrat politician who has to toe the line on abortion politics for fear of being run out of the party.