Ralph Northam Resists Calls to Resign as Virginia Governor Over Racist Yearbook Photo

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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216 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I thought that the story would be dead by now. He’d have resigned and we’d have moved on.Report

  2. This statement Northam is making is something…Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Video of when Ralph Northam gets asked by a reporter if he can still moonwalk. He looks around as if for space – only to be cut off by his wife who says, "inappropriate circumstances." pic.twitter.com/jcV2VJCtoD— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) February 2, 2019

    Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    For Northam this totally different black face incident is better because he didn't use much shoe polish: "I had just a little bit a shoe polish and the reason I used a very little bit is because I don’t don’t know if anybody has ever tried that but you cannot get shoe polish off"— Judd Legum(@JuddLegum) February 2, 2019

    Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    An interesting theory:

    Northam isn't resigning because he can'tThat'd make 39-year-old Fairfax the '21 gov nominee, which was promised to Mark Herring, and put him ahead of Herring in line for Warner or Kaine's Senate seatHerring would be stuck at AG until he's 64This is about protecting Herring— Donny Ferguson ? (@DonnyFerguson) February 2, 2019

    Report

  6. Avatar George Turner says:

    I was shocked when even Planned Parenthood demanded he resign, but then they don’t like anyone to make it full term.

    But the real political damage from wearing blackface isn’t the crime, it’s always the cover up.

    His story about the San Antonio dance contest also requires us to believe that someone would imitate Michael Jackson by coating their face with black shoe polish, even though Michael looked more like Joan Rivers.

    *Puts on my Columbus rain coat and pulls out a magnifying glass*

    On a more serious note, the person in blackface in the photo is said to be wearing a VMI belt buckle. Based on VMI’s class size versus Virginia’s total college enrollment, and that Eastern Virginia Medical School only takes about 76 in-state students per year, they should average 0.488 acceptances from VMI per year. So normally there would be only one or two VMI graduates at EVMS at any one time. The one or two of them is apparently on the photo page for Northram. If, as he claims, it wasn’t him, did someone steal his belt buckle, or was there another VMI alumnus at EVMS who happened to be on his yearbook page, posing for the camera like Northrup was doing in the other photos on that page?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

      (adjusts tie, shifts from foot to foot) I tell ya, politics is crazy, ya know. It’s crazy. I was shocked when even Planned Parenthood demanded Northam resign, but then they don’t like anyone to make it full term. {{rim shot}}

      (grabs tie,, sticks out chin, moves from foot to foot) Yeah, it’s tough out there for Northam, I tell ya. But the real political damage from wearing blackface isn’t the crime, it’s always the cover up.{{Zing}}Report

  7. Avatar Pinky says:

    Dear fans of term limits: This is the cream that rises to the top in Virginia. The commonwealth churns through talent so quickly that these two guys were the best they could come up with. Number of Terms – 1 = Accountability.Report

  8. Avatar greginak says:

    Hey i’ll be off topic again. We’re pulling out of a major arms control treaty a lot faster and with less media talk then ol Northam quits his job and with no apparent congressional discussion. It’s not like putin is all happy about it or anything or it risks a bit of an arms race.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

      America is in a world of hurt, no denying. Credit to Putin for being the first to see just how fucked up our political culture has become. I mean, that Northam isn’t resigning is all you need to know about how, and why, foreign adversaries are interfering in our politics. That said, it’s not at all clear that his interference is affecting anything adversely. We’re doing just fine tearing it all down on our own.Report

  9. Northam is being stubborn, stupid, insane — use whatever word you like.

    He’s still less of an embarrassment than Trump.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Not exacrly… What Northam’s doing makes all Dema look bad in a way that Trump didn’t make GOPers look bad in 2016.It took a while for the GOP to warm up to looking bad as a group;Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

        Have there been any democrats that have supported Northam? Like, politicians, I mean.

        I’ve only seen dem politicians say “he needs to go” or “this is really awful, we need more information”. The only politicians/pundits who have said “he shouldn’t be crucified for stuff he did 35 years ago” (that I’ve seen, anyway) are Republicans/Libertarian-types.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

          Nope. (And yes, Erick Erickson being a prime example.) If Dems don’t *get him gone* tho, he’ll be a bigger embarrassment to the party than Trump for the reasons you just said.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Stillwater says:

            Hmm I suspect that if he refuses to resign then so long as the Dems uniformly maintain their current message on him and primary his ass the first chance they get the damage will be pretty limited.Report

  10. Avatar Damon says:

    Can you imagine how much greater the outrage would be if the guy was a republican? Oh Lordy!

    Oh wait….https://canadafreepress.com/article/cnn-falsely-labels-northam-as-republican-during-segment-on-blackface-kkk-yeReport

  11. Avatar North says:

    Well I’m glad the party is sticking to its principles and demanding he go.Report

  12. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I just don’t understand what Northam sees as his upside at this point (midday Sunday)

    If he would have bowed out, he probably gets an ambassadorship to one of the nice countries in the middle of the first term of the Harris or Booker administrations with his stint in political rehab.

    Holding on now just makes the rest of his term a muddled mess, makes this November’s assembly elections a lot less straightforward, & makes him persona non grata in polite society as of January 2022.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

      If anything, this illustrates one of the pitfalls of being a lame duck immediately upon election as Virginia governor.

      I like term limits, but a single term is too short. Everyone should get a least one shot at a referendum on their governance.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Kolohe says:

      I have to think he’s betting on a short attention span. Had this hit on a Tuesday we might already be onto something else and Ralph would be moonwalking right back into meetings with Bezos or something.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

        He’s also probably betting that he can successfully muddy the waters, like Kavanaugh and Trump have done in their own scandals.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Stillwater says:

          But each of those guys (Trump in Oct 2016, Kavanaugh during confirmation hearings) had huge upside potential if they could weather a storm that would be at most a few weeks.

          The only thing going for Northam is he gets his picture on the highway maps at the rest areas for another few summers.

          I get the fact that he doesn’t want the ignominy of being in the historical record as the first gov since the Civil War to not finish out his term. But that’s pure sentimentality, not any machiavellian calculation.

          Eta governor was always going to be a career capstone for a 60 something year old white good old boy in Virginia democratic politics, with having two Senators of the same age. The only place he had to go was some federal appointment.Report

  13. I liked what Allahpundit said. Northam confesssed and apologized immediately, hopping his fellow Dems would forgive him. When they didn’t, he fell back on this “it’s not me” thing and he’s hoping to ride it out until the news cycle shifts again. He will probably be successful unless someone else — the other person in the photo, for example — comes forward to contradict him. But he was apparently on the phone with classmates Friday night, ‘jogging” his memory (i.e., making sure they’ll stay quiet).Report

  14. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Yesterday, twitter was mildly abuzz with how the original source for finding the pictures was Right-Wing.

    This struck me as uninteresting because… well, the pictures actually seem to exist. “The people who found this out were our opponents!” is a good counter-argument in some circumstances, bad in others, irrelevant in yet others. This strikes me as one of the irrelevant ones.

    Because it is 2019, Ralph Northam is now issuing denials of sexual impropriety back in 2004 because of a report filed by Big League Politics (a very right-wing website) that links to a screenshot of… sigh.

    You’ll just have to look.

    The point is: the Lt. Governor is already wrestling with this.

    If 2018 was the year of the story that should have taken a week taking a couple of hours, 2019 seems to be kicking off with a story that should have taken a couple of hours that is, instead, taking a week.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      And this part is being kicked around now:

      On Monday morning, Fairfax released a tweet that said “the person reported to be making this false allegation first approached the Washington Post … after being presented with facts consistent with the Lt. Governor’s denial of the allegation, the absence of any evidence corroborating the allegation, and significant red flags and inconsistencies with the allegation, the Post made the considered decision to not publish the story.”

      I think it’s because it’s ironic (given the Superbowl ad and the Kavanaugh thing).

      Seriously, when I first posted this news link, I thought it was going to be behind us after another 6 hours and would just be taking up real estate that would be better used by something else until it rolled off.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

        The webs, they’re just so damn sticky.

        The question I have for Northam affair is, are we asserting that he is a racist now? Have we concluded that he was a racist then? Is there any distance between now and then? I don’t know the answers, I just find it odd those aren’t the questions.

        The Fairfax thing is interesting (at first review) owing to the accuser and how she parses liberal (and curiously similar to Blasey Ford) – which is to say she has a lot at stake and seemingly little to gain by partisan shenanigans – yet journalistic review, doubt, scrutiny and discretion were the watchwords at the Washington Post.

        Is Fairfax a harasser of women now? Was he in 2004? Is there any distance between those points? Does it matter? Whom do we believe? Why would we believe the Washington Post?

        Absent any coherent ethical framework, the webs… they are so sticky.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

          Yesterday? Two days ago? (Everything blurs together) A prominent conservativish cultural critic said the following:

          It's very hard to shake the sense that, when it comes to the Northam situation, nobody actually cares about the purported offense or thinks it matters in any relevant way to Virginia governance in 2019. It's all just a game.— Esoteric Jeff (@EsotericCD) February 2, 2019

          Well, this resulted in a backlash. (I’m trying to figure out how to say “A lot of people got really pissed at this” without sounding like I’m saying “Democrats pounced”.)

          I think that Esoteric Jeff has a bit of a point here (though he absolutely should have avoided words like “nobody”) and it’s found in stuff like people getting upset that the source of the original story was from The Opposition. (It ain’t nobody, but there are a number of somebodies.)

          And, now, the gameishness manifests in people downplaying the accusations against the Lt. Governor.

          If it’s just a game, it makes sense to downplay the accusations against the Lt. Governor. If it’s about principle, well… there are a lot of things that follow if it’s about principle.

          That’s why it’s sticky. Because, to some, it is a game. To others, it’s about principle. To yet others, it’s about noticing that treating it like it’s about principle will contribute, in the short term, to losing the game. And so on. Sticky, sticky, sticky.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

          The ‘is there any distance’ question is the one that interests me most. I have no personal stake in Northam in particular but there’s something about the potential precedent I find… disconcerting. Like, is doing something cringe-inducingly offensive in a private capacity as a young adult permanently disqualifying? I’m not advocating for a hard yes or hard no but there’s a question of heuristics I’m struggling with.

          I think the Fairfax thing, while muddying the political picture, is a bit different in that it seems to be a criminal accusation. At least there’s a well-established way to deal with that, even if it isn’t popular these days.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to InMD says:

            I think the crucial issues with Northam is that he has position of leadership over all Virginians and lots of us think racism is still a very current problem. If he was an actor that would be different but African American’s are governed by him and they seem to feel pretty raw about that racism thing. If we are going to continue trying to deal with racism then that means lots of things that were acceptable need to unacceptable. It would be different if this had been out there for years and people voted for him knowing about it. Of course less people would have voted for him and POC communities in Virginia would have served up a big ol nope to him a while ago due to this.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to greginak says:

              lots of us think racism is still a very current problem

              Is Northam a racist? I honestly don’t think I’ve heard that addressed. There’s a little hop/skip that makes it so the question is perceived unnecessary. It seems a very important question to skip. Its the skipping of the question that makes me question the skipping.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

                For me the question is, “does he demonstrate sufficient understanding of marginalized minority groups that he should represent them?”Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                In 1985 or 2019? Or when he was elected to public office the past four times as a Democrat over a 10-year period since 2018?

                Or are you referring to the way he handled the exposure? If he hadn’t bungled the response is there a path he could have taken?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Now. Today, in 2019 does he display good judgement so as to be trusted with power, and to represent his constituents and party?

                I have little trust in him.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I think the idea is that an elected representative who has a history of, say, wearing Klan robes, can’t effectively hold the public’s trust, in particular (but not limited to) black people.

                OTOH, I get what you’re saying about a hard line. “What about all the other times there were no hard lines?” “What about the role nuance and context play in taking the edge off the incident thereby rendering the hardline misplaced?”

                I get all that. Northram needs to resign. Dems should – and will, I think – push him out.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

                Sure, a history? Is there a history?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Some people think that wasn’t even Northam in the photo and that he had no idea who placed it on his personal yearbook page.There isn’t even any *history* here!

                Add: It’s hard to see how black people and people who advocate for civil rights generally can trust Northam to represent them at this point.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Heh. I guess we do have a history here. Northam admitted he was one of the people in the yearbook photo, then went on to admit he donned blackface at a Michael Jackson party.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Marchmaine says:

                There is another path he could’ve taken, one that would’ve relieved you of all the hand-wringing. If he would have hired me as a political consultant prior to his disastrous press conference, I would have had him go out, utter one single sentence about the photo, and then drop the mic, leave the podium, and walk out. And the media discourse would be radically different.

                What is that sentence?

                “I know you are all rightly outraged by the inexcusable behavior I showed in that photograph in my medical school yearbook, but at the time I was a Republican.”

                There would’ve been fist-bumps and high fives all around, and Democrat presidential candidates would be floating his name as a VP pick. The media would be talking about how people grow, and how much gravitas he has, and whether all the other Republican racists should have followed his example. Northam would be swamped with requests to be the official co-host of MLK day in perpetuity. The Narrative would be confirmed, enhanced, and strengthened. Trump would be doomed. McConnell would retract his head back into his shell.

                So I’m really glad Northam didn’t have me as a political consultant because I would totally have gone there.

                I’m sure most here, if you look deep in your hearts, really wish he’d done that. Instead of the horror of feeling like you’re part of a mob that has to stab Caesar to death and dispose of his inconvenient body in an alley, you’d feel like you just dunked on LeBron, hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth in game seven, or had the cast of an Avengers movie invite you to their Oscars after party. It would be so much win that you’d be tired of winning.

                But sadly, what we got instead was his actual press conference, which felt like watching a drunk sushi chef accidentally cutting his finger off and then continuing to serve the horrified customers as if nothing had happened.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Well none of us know what in his heart. Nobody ever does. But if you want to move forward then that means leaving some things behind. It’s not like POC might not have a reaaaallly good reason to be suspicious of a person who posed as he did. Nobody ever really seems to say they are racist in their heart even when they call waiting to pick their fancy robes from the dry cleaner.

                There isn’t really any skipping going on. It’s simply that some behaviors are unacceptable. People can change and ask forgiveness. But you can’t wait until you are caught then just shake up the etch a sketch and call it good.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to greginak says:

                It seems rather important to knowing why someone did what they did if the repercussions are personal, professional, and political ruin.

                What if he left behind things he may have done in 1985 somewhere along the way?

                It seems perfectly reasonable to me to question what exactly was going on in 1985 with the photos, the nickname and any other things that might pop up under scrutiny. We’ve found lots of “open secrets” in the past few years… maybe this is an “open secret” that everyone knew. Fantastic, let’s remove him for the thing everyone knew. If no one knew this thing, and he isn’t this thing, what exactly are we doing?

                Nobody ever really seems to say they are racist in their heart even when they call waiting to pick their fancy robes from the dry cleaner

                Even though that’s a clever line [golf clap] you are in fact calling Northam a racist; that’s the punch in the line. Is he?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Northam? No idea what is in his heart. But that kind of line is often deployed after someone does something terrible. Nobody knows what is in anybodies heart. We need to look at their actions. Do we want to start making the world better today? That is really our only choice everyday. If have a double standard for R and D pols re: this kind of thing is that making things better? No. How do POC feel about being governed by someone who did this as an adult? Not really all that good it seems. Do POC still feel, with good reason, they are treated very differently based on their race? Yes. This even extends to research showing that docs treat POC differently. ( less pain made, etc)Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Marchmaine says:

                It’s like nobody learned anything from the Kavanaugh hearings; everyone still thinks they can talk their way out of whatever shit people dig up and throw at them. Everyone’s that white guy pulled over by the cop who thinks that he’s not really a bad guy and if he just calmly explains how there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for what happened then he won’t get a ticket.

                Like, the story people want to hear (to the extent that they want to hear your story instead of the one they’ve made up in their head) is not “I’m not a Bad Guy”. They want to hear that you were a Bad Guy, and you’re kinda still a Bad Guy, but you use the times you remember the Bad getting out to know how to be Better.

                To grab a 20+-year-old reference, they want to hear that they are the righteous man, and you are the evil man, but that you’re tryin’. You’re tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

            I have no personal stake in Northam in particular but there’s something about the potential precedent I find… disconcerting. Like, is doing something cringe-inducingly offensive in a private capacity as a young adult permanently disqualifying?

            I get your point, but I wouldn’t describe donning Klan robes as cringe inducing. Now, a video of Northam doing the moonwalk? That might do it.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

              Maybe I’m being overly charitable but I’ve been operating under the assumption that what we’re seeing is participation in some kind of bad taste party or fraternity type shenanigans. Prince Harry in the Afrika Korps uniform as opposed to evidence of actual membership in the KKK or similar group. Now I get what greg is saying above, that for some people there may be no distinction. For me personally I find it hard not to weigh something like that against a materially important policy accomplishment (the Medicaid expansion in VA for example) in a way that allows the possibility of forgiveness, evolution, etc.

              Obviously if the picture showed him actually in the KKK I’d say that needs to be weighed much, much differently (and hey maybe it does, though I find it unlikely that would be in a yearbook, even in 1983). It’s why I’m sympathetic to Marchmaine’s ‘what are we actually seeing/deducing here?’ questions.

              I’m also just envisioning a future where no one who ever was documented on facebook doing something immature/offensive/idiotic can be in politics and not really loving where that gets us.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

                For me personally I find it hard not to weigh something like that against a materially important policy accomplishment

                The flip side of this is that if Northam *didn’t* enact those types of polices, enacted bad ones instead or none at all, his blackface inclinations from the past would be disqualifying? Good, so at least we agree that all things being equal his specific behavior in the past is disqualifying. IF we think about it that way, my view is that his policy achievements aren’t relevant since any Democrat elected to that position would have enacted those same policies (Medicaid expansion, …) since they’re popular in the electorate and good policy.

                I think the idea percolating in the background is that Northam *as an individual* shouldn’t be punished for cheeky shenanigans[1] from his youth. But the thing is Northam is more than an individual, he’s a representative of the citizens of an entire state, including (albeint partisanly) voters in the Democratic caucus. All things equal, wearing blackface and donning Klan robes *should be* disqualifying for such a Democratic party Representative. And I think all things are equal. More than equal, in fact.

                [1] Tho again, I don’t understand how wearing blackface/donning Klan robes is *merely* an expression of bad taste.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think there is a case to be made for that position, but I’d like to see someone really make it rather than assume it. I also have two quibbles:

                I’m not using the Medicaid expansion as an example of general good policy that redeems prior, unrelated bad acts. Given who benefits from it in the state of Virginia I think it is one of the items that complicates the question of whether Northam is in fact so racist that he can’t serve his constituents (this is what I mean about making the case above). Maybe he is but I’d like to see the full picture. Keep in mind two D’s (Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe) have been governor since the ACA Medicaid expansion. I don’t know enough about internal VA politics to say why they did not get the expansion but it isn’t clear to me that any Democrat would’ve done it, and at least one did not despite being able to for his entire term.

                On the ‘bad taste’ issue I think context matters with regard to how serious what he did is. There’s no place on the spectrum where it is good/acceptable conduct but there are bad things that are easier to forgive and bad things that are harder to forgive. The level of contrition/evolution required to atone for racist jokes and gross insensitivity isn’t the same as what is required for participation in an organization committed to racism and racist violence. I’d like to know which it is before I come to my own personal conclusion about what I think is merited (not that my opinion even matters).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

                I just made it. 🙂

                Also, if you know the case to be made and still reject it why do you want to hear people make it?Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                Because the case I’m hearing seems to dodge the issue of why he can’t serve his constituents.

                If that picture was taken 30ish years ago 5 minutes before him and his good ol’ boy buddies went to a cross burning, you’ve convinced me. If it was taken 5 years ago as part of some horrendously tone deaf joke you’ve very likely convinced me. At the very least in that latter case we can say that his judgment is incredibly suspect, regardless of what he’s done recently in politics. If it was 30ish years ago as part of some immature and asinine college foolishness I want to know more.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to InMD says:

                There’s a couple of things here.

                First off, Dems and those constituents are and have been pushing a pretty much take no prisoners attitude towards actors who’re guilty of these kinds of things in the past. Sticking to those principles even (especially) when the culprit is a Democratic Party member is a big deal and it’s important. Hypocrisy was the drug that turned social conservatives from political colossi into the hollow pathetic shells they are today. Liberals should learn from their example.

                Setting aside the first point; I think an argument can be made along the lines you have laid out about forgiveness, repentance etc. That being said the Governors behavior since the allegations were made are not conducive to him being a recipient of that kind of forgiveness. A quick apology and then denial when it became clear a quick apology wouldn’t cut it? Yeah not gonna fly.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to North says:

                I’m pretty sure I’m on record here with my attitudes towards take-no-prisoners politics. To me the strongest case against the religious/socon right was never that they were hypocrites but rather that they were fanatical dogmatists, obsessed with purity and lacking in perspective. The hypocrisy certainly illustrated how stupid and unrealistic their approach to policy and governance was but only in the context of America’s ever stupider, decaying level of discourse could it be the biggest strike. All that is to say that you’re right from a tactical perspective, but I find that lamentable, not something to celebrate when my own nominal side learns how to better exploit.

                On your second point, I agree he has irreparably beclowned himself. Even if there was a path out he’s obviously lacking the political skill to walk it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

                Hypocrisy was the drug that turned social conservatives from political colossi into the hollow pathetic shells they are today.

                This is a very, very good point.

                Liberals should learn from their example.

                I imagine that the counter-argument “we don’t *HAVE* to learn from their example because we already do this sort of thing because we are *LIBERALS*” will have a lot of persuasive power for Liberals.Report

  15. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Is Liam Neeson swooping in to save Ralph Northam now?Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Kolohe says:

      Liam? Why yes, he is.

      We knew he also hates Gungans, but everybody hates Gungans.

      There was a time when having personally experienced the pull of racism and blind vengeance, and then attaining self-understanding, would be called “attaining wisdom”. We don’t live in those times. We live in times when a person who was randomly assaulted by Liam Neeson would take a selfie with him, and then tweet “Yall, I just got beat up by Liam Neeson! Look at these bruises!” and then they’d hire Avenati, win a multi-million dollar settlement, and go on Oprah.

      Some are accusing Northam, or his camp, of releasing the information about allegations against Fairfax, as if Northam is prepared to cash in some impeachment insurance.

      Also, with Governor Northam going down for racism and Lt Gov Fairfax in trouble for an allegation of sexual assault at the 2004 DNC convention, our eyes need to move down the chain of secession to Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring (D), and then on to Kirk Cox (R), Virginia’s Speaker of the House, and what improprieties are rattling around in their closets. Northam and Fairfax both have to go, otherwise we’d be taking a stand on whether racism is more serious or less serious than sexual assault, and I don’t think anybody is going to be willing to take a position on that one. If they do, the screaming will eat up six months of the news cycle.

      {Unnecessarily incendiary paragraph redacted. -WT}Report

  16. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I’ve heard this story before, except it was about Todd Akin that time.Report

  17. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    Umm… Guys? Do the Dems actually have the ability to throw him out of office? If he simply shrugs off everything he could be in office for a long time unless there’s a mechanism for removing him.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Dark Matter says:

      Not really… the Virginia Democratic party leadership is asking him to resign.

      I can’t really see any particular reason for him to resign… if he resigns, he’s admitting he’s the racist governor that resigned – any future prospects with the democratic party are *theoretically* still open… but what democrat is going to hire the former racist governor to any public position?

      If he stays in office, he maintains he isn’t racist… and tries to do what he thinks is best… but with little, some or no support from his party… but then the Republicans (narrowly) control both houses of the General Assembly… and VA Governor is term limited at 1-term. So… what’s the downside of maintaining he isn’t a racist and remaining governor – from his perspective?

      Likely I’m overlooking some other factors in play… but he’s an admitted racist if he resigns or an accused racist if he stays in office… pick which looks better to you.Report

  18. Avatar Jaybird says:

    As it turns out, the AG Mark Herring did it too.

    Richmond, Va. (AP) — Another top Virginia Democrat — Attorney General Mark Herring — admitted Wednesday to putting on blackface in the 1980s, when he was a college student.

    Herring issued a statement saying he wore brown makeup and a wig in 1980 to look like a black rapper during a party as a 19 -year-old undergraduate at the University of Virginia.

    The revelation further roils the top levels of Virginia government. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax are already facing controversies, and Herring would be next in line to be governor after those two men.

    In the statement, Herring said he and two friends dressed up to look like rappers they listened to, including Kurtis Blow.

    Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

      The local news hasn’t been this entertaining since Scaramucci was fired. I have never enjoyed sharing a media market with NoVa more than now.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

      Heh… well now things just got interesting.

      If Northam has to resign, then Herring has to resign by the Transitive property.

      Fairfax obvs has to resign lest we jeopardize the entire MeToo movement.

      So, that makes the Republican Speaker of the House Acting Governor

      According to the Virginia constitution. “If the Attorney General is ineligible to serve as Governor, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, if he is eligible to serve as Governor, shall succeed to the office of Governor for the unexpired term or serve as Acting Governor,” the constitution states

      Of course, now I’m seeing articles popping up about how its not really clear how the VA constitution handles the succession of the Governorship…Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

        I suppose we should be grateful that these scandals didn’t happen after a series of resignations.

        69 all over again.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Marchmaine says:

        I don’t know that Herring would have to resign. Fessing up to it, in advance, and apologizing for it along with the background (dressing as a rapper is rather dramatically different than dressing up along side a KKK figure) makes it arguably a less clear cut case for requiring resignation. Though so far Northam hasn’t given any indication that he will resign and it’s not like the Dems can pull a lever and drop him through a trap door so the question may end up moot.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to North says:

          Ok, is it better or worse than Michael Jackson? I’m updating my spreadsheet with the hierarchy.

          As a member of the social conservative faction you lampoon for hypocrisy, I’d like to ask whether it tastes as good to you as it does to us?Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Marchmaine says:

            To your question: I suppose it’d depend on what era of Michael Jackson. For later eras you’d need white makeup instead of black.

            So far there hasn’t been any hypocrisy; the Dems as a party have pretty much uniformly called on Northam to resign so there isn’t any of it to taste and I hope there isn’t.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to North says:

          This gets to what I meant above about heuristics or principles. Like… is fessing up really the distinction in this case, especially given the context of the fessing? If everyone comes out now and admits to their various skin darkening episodes in the 80s (which apparently seems to have been way more Common in the Wealth than I’d have guessed) is there a clean slate?Report

          • Avatar North in reply to InMD says:

            I’d say that if a vast number of politicians preemptively fessed up to various incidents of black face that there wouldn’t be a clean slate on a principled level but as a practical matter it would have the effect of diffusing the issue. Outrage is pretty nebulous unless it can be focused only on single events and target.

            Fessing up preemptively is a big distinction. Also not having someone dressed up like the Klan next to you in the photo helps- like a lot.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to North says:

              But is fessing up 38 years later a big distinction when it’s prompted by someone else who just got caught doing something similar, and there’s a succession issue implicated? I mean.. yea fessing up absent all of this is a distinction, but it’s happening as a result of all this.

              Also maybe this is a dumb question but has it been officially established whether Northam is the one in black face or the one in the Klan robes?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

        From Megan McArdle

        3 observations: 1) If true, [the, at the time, unconfirmed AG accusations] this is obviously a an orchestrated dump 2) It is the most masterful operation of its kind I’ve ever seen 3) Its purpose is not so much to install a GOP gov as to put Dems in an awful position: accept a GOP gov, or say blackface isn’t so bad.

        That about sums it up, tho personally I’m not *entirely* sure the goal isn’t to install a GOP Gov. 🙂

        Adding: It will be very interesting to watch how the VA GOP handles this stuff going forward.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Marchmaine: So, that makes the Republican Speaker of the House Acting Governor

        It’s easier to do all this moral posturing when there’s no cost. This would be an actual cost and not just posturing.

        My expectation is it won’t happen.Report

        • Avatar KenB in reply to Dark Matter says:

          I’ve seen the idea floated in the twitters that Northam could step down, then Fairfax could take over, appoint his own Lt Gov, then step down himself and let that appointee take over. Not sure if the rules allow for it, and it seems like a lot of orchestration involving apparently unwilling individuals anyway, but it’s an interesting idea.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to KenB says:

            That might be technically okay because nobody is being charged with an actual crime, but at the federal level, the chain only includes those not under indictment and qualified to serve. It would also skip over Congressmen who aren’t natural born Americans and those who hadn’t resided here long enough. That skipping is supposedly immediate upon when the chain has to be looked at for a successor, so as to preclude gaming the hierarchy, something the Founders knew would happen as the lower-downs jockey for better positions to take advantage of the newly opened opportunity, such as having the Virginia House of Delegates suddenly hold a snap election for a new speaker.

            So in theory, if the lieutenant governor can’t serve in the office, he just gets skipped for someone who can.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to KenB says:

            The Gerald Ford Gambit? Nice.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to KenB says:

            I’m guessing if things start to move, it will be in a different direction: Fairfax forced out, Northam appoints new Lt Gov., Northam and Herring resign, new girl Gov (I mean, cmon, Fairfax’ replacement *has* to be a woman, no?) replaces Lt Gov and AG positions (with non racist* women). Easy peasy!

            *Democratic politicians’ yearbooks have all been confiscated by Northam’s final act as governor.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

              GOV: TBD
              LT GOV: President of the Senate (R), replaced by eventual appointee by GOV, but… only until later this year when the position would be re-voted on – rather than serving the full original term into 2021.
              ATTY GNL: General Assembly Majority vote (currently R +3)

              So, Northam resigns, Fairfax becomes GOV, Fairfax appoints (D) LT GOV, resigns, (D) LT GOV becomes GOV, appoints new (D) LT GOV for 8-mos, General Assembly elects (R) ATTN GNL through 2021.

              So assuming the Republicans can find a candidate without a history of sexual misconduct and blackface… they could challenge the LT GOV slot in 2019. Setting up (should they win) a nearly impossible in VA double incumbent race for Governor in 2021.

              Or so this article from Politico tells me.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

                If I understand the Politico article correctly, there’s a path for the following: LG Fairfax resigns, Northam appoints a temp LG until a new election, Northam resigns before the LG election, temp. LG becomes Gov who then appoints a new temp LG.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Of course, the fact that they didn’t specifically address it doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate path.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

                Sure, that just changes who gets to appoint the GOV, Fairfax or Northam?

                Setting up the famous: “you resign, no you first, no you, no you” war of succession? I’d watch that.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I think the finale of Reservoir Dogs covered it nicely.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Looked a bit for an answer to the issue of a governor resigning while an appointed LG holds that office and didn’t find anything useful, but the question isn’t merely academic. Fairfax looks like he’s skating on thinner ice than Northam at the moment. And given that Northam’s worries aren’t anywhere near over, he might feel compelled to resign in the near future too. Hmmm.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Dark Matter says:

          So it would seem.Report

  19. Avatar Jaybird says:

    NBC News has learned that Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax used profane language in a private meeting Monday night, while referring to his accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson.

    Two sources tells us Fairfax said of Tyson: “F*** that b****.”

    @GeoffRBennett & @jonallendc

    — Kasie Hunt (@kasie) February 6, 2019

    Warning: Swear words occur in original tweet.

    (Also, that’s not “profane” language. That’s “obscene” language.)Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

      “Justin Fairfax’s chief of staff denies that Fairfax said “fuck that bitch” …” 🙂

      What a cluster****Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        “Never believe anything in politics until it’s been officially denied.”

        The VA Dem party reminds me of that old George Carlin bit on politics I post from time to time repeatedly very often.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

        Something seems to have been shifting… Like, I think we’re transitioning away from “they wouldn’t know how to stop even if they wanted to” to “they don’t know how to stop”.

        We’re not in “they want to” territory yet… but I don’t think we’re in “they actively don’t want to” anymore.Report

  20. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Northam and Herring seem to be displaying different levels of understanding.
    Northam wants forgiveness, but seems unable to grasp why the behavior was bad.

    Herring seems to get it. I’m much more inclined towards forgiveness in his case.Report

  21. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Northam’s next move is to reclaim the high-ground by calling for Herring’s resignation on the grounds that racism has no place in the Democratic party.Report

  22. Avatar greginak says:

    There is a photo flying around the twitters from a U of NC yearbook from 1979 of a guy in blackface being hung by two guys in Klan robes. I’ll go out on a real big limb to say we are going to see lots of photos from year book around that time look like that.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      Is this prepping up to a “well, you have to understand” or a “therefore it is imperative that we must”?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        Haven’t heard people specifically name checking your priors. Maybe it’s out there. It might just suggest racism is, you know, a thing. An endemic thing in America that sure is hard as hell to face.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

          So I have to understand?Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

            Um wha? Huh?

            You don’t really have to understand anything, ever. So you do you.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              I’m just trying to hammer this out.

              The lesson we need to learn from the Virginia gubernatorial blackface scandal is that racism is a thing?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                urr…umm….unions?!…..You lost me. I noted a pic going around, heck you have probably seen it already. If you have a point, make it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                If you have a point, make it.

                I was asking if the point you made about there being another picture going around was building up to a conclusion that we need to slow down and understand a handful of things or if it was building up to an imperative call to action.

                Your point, it seems to me, is (let me copy and paste this):

                It might just suggest racism is, you know, a thing. An endemic thing in America that sure is hard as hell to face.

                So the conclusion that I should reach is “racism exists and we have trouble facing it” but there isn’t a call to action beyond that?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                What things do you want us to slow down and understand?

                What call to action? I mean a bunch of us said Northam needs to go. The local NAACP met with the AG and said they dont’ want to see him resign though he needs to do some work. I guess the jury is still out on the Lt Gov, but maybe i’ve missed the most recent updates.

                But other than that a few or more playful KKK photos from the 70’s and 80’s seems like something that makes you go …hmmmm?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                What things do you want us to slow down and understand? What call to action?

                No, no, no. You misunderstand.

                I was wondering if your point was building to something about how we need to understand certain things about the late 70’s/early 80’s Virginia *OR* if it was building to something about how we need to do something about the people who engaged in this racism that was so very prevalent.

                I still don’t know.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Facepalm. I pointed out a pic going around. You apparently went to your priors, as i noted, i must either demanding heads or asking people to understand the times.

                I was pointing at pic related to a news story. That really was the point. Here is a thing that is like there other things we’re looking at and talking about. And i still bet we’ll be seeing more of these kind of pics from which we may draw some conclusions.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                And i still bet we’ll be seeing more of these kind of pics from which we may draw some conclusions.

                In conclusion: these pictures exist.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                This has truly been an enlightening conversation. Iron really has sharpened some iron here. Time well spent.Report

  23. Avatar George Turner says:

    Does anyone remember the scandal around Senator John Blutarsky when his college yearbook was exposed? As I recall, part of it was that wearing togas was an insult to Greeks and Italians. The Senate voted to censure him and then put him on double-secret probation. So many legislators got caught on the wrong side of the toga line when that one hit. How could the fraternity members know that their innocent, or not so innocent, toga parties would one day be considered completely disqualifying for higher office?

    Others skated clean through, such as Senator Fritz Hollings (governor of South Carolina from 1959 to 1963) who oversaw Jim Crow, raised the Confederate battle flag over the state capitol in 1962 as a protest against the Civil Rights movement, and who only gave up on keeping blacks out of white universities because he ran out of courts to fight in. He may have worn a white robe at some point, and who would be surprised if a Southern segregationist did, but he hadn’t been caught in a toga, so he didn’t leave the Senate until 2004.Report

  24. Avatar Jaybird says:

    So here’s the situation we’re in:

    We’ve got two guys who did blackface in the 80’s. One was 19 at the time, one was 25. The one who was 25 gave a crappy apology and offered to do a moonwalk. The one who was 19 called for the one who was 25 to resign… less than a week before it came out that he did blackface too. But 19’s apology was pretty good, all things considered. It communicated contrition rather than “what the hell, this was forever ago”.

    But we also have a guy who allegedly sexually harassed someone 15 years ago. And #metoo is a thing. And reports are conflicting on whether he said “eff that bee” when asked about it behind closed doors.

    Now when it comes to stuff to get mad about, there are arguments that the blackface was a youthful stupid and thoughtless thing and it shouldn’t be dug up *NOW* in order to throw out a politician who has not demonstrated that he doesn’t represent the interests of his constituents. I mean, come on, we all know that Republicans are the real racists. The fact that they’re trying to undercut the governor on this is really hypocritical on their part especially since we know that it’s not about racism for them but about abortion, erm, about women’s rights to control their own sexual destinies and while it might be worth exploring getting rid of a governor who did blackface recently, it’s not okay to get rid of a governor for abortion using the cover of blackface to get rid of him.

    But then we’ve got the Lt. Governor who did the sexual harassment and, if you believe that sins can be ranked, sexual harassment as an adult and recently is worse than tasteless and offensive racism from the 80’s. So that might mean that the Lt. Governor has to go… but he’s *BLACK*.

    And it’d be downright *STUPID* for there to be a blackface scandal and for the only guy to get fired to be the *ONE* black guy in the middle of everything.

    So you’re stuck with a crappy situation where you’ve either got to keep all of them, or fire all of them, and firing all of them would give the opposition three scalps.

    Maybe we could do something where we fire the Governor who threatened to moonwalk, the Lt. Governor who (allegedly) sexually harassed someone, and keep the one guy who actually communicated something like contrition…

    But that feels stupid too.

    But you can’t just not fire any of them. That will look like this is political football rather than people actually caring about real issues like racism or sexual harassment. Democrats are supposed to be the people who are actually good on those things.

    So you’re stuck wondering who do you fire?

    And, on top of that, there’s not really a mechanism to force them to leave other than shaming the ever-living shit out of them and if they won’t be shamed, it’s yet another circular firing squad.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

      Why would firing Northam and Fairfax “feel stupid”? They seem like the most egregious cases.

      And why would it be stupid to only get rid of Fairfax? I hope its not based on “Well, the white guys were insensitive, so I get one free rape card”.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Because Herring wore blackface too.

        And if you start negotiating the circumstances under which politicians shouldn’t be fired for blackface, you’re probably coming across as kinda shitty to some important constituencies. (I understand that Virginia’s NAACP said that Northam should and Herring shouldn’t. Maybe that’s all you need.)

        And why would it be stupid to only get rid of Fairfax? I hope its not based on “Well, the white guys were insensitive, so I get one free rape card”.

        Here, let me quote what I said in my comment: “And it’d be downright *STUPID* for there to be a blackface scandal and for the only guy to get fired to be the *ONE* black guy in the middle of everything.”Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

          Re that last bit, firing the black guy to cover white people’s sins mighta worked back in the day, but not now. No one would buy it. This ain’t the 80s man.* 🙂

          *Or is it? Has anyone checked yearbooks from the kids these days?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

          (Oh, and let me add, Herring made what some might consider a big deal out of how Northam needed to resign. The fact that he’s now pulling a 180 on how, for him, it’s kinda different presents as convenient as hell. Sure. Maybe, for him, it *IS* kinda different! But it’s always weird how other people get moral imperative language while oneselves always get speeches that begin with “well, you have to understand” qualifiers.)Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

          The fact that the NAACP (which represents a pretty important constituency) sees a difference should tell us something.

          And Fairfax is not part of a “blackface scandal”. He is part of “rape scandal”. I know these three scandals exploded at the same time, but they are in fact, three different things.

          There is an argument on the right that scandals like this, which involve insensitivity towards minority groups are witchhunts, where our normal standards of nuance and mitigating circumstances are buried under a blizzard of hysteria and mob action.

          Obviously I disagree with them to some degree, because I think most conservatives really have no problem with the underlying offense itself, but I do think that we should apply our normal standards of misconduct and see differing degrees of guilt and shame.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            The fact that the NAACP (which represents a pretty important constituency) sees a difference should tell us something.

            Yeah, that’s why I brought them up. It certainly provides cover. And, again, maybe that’s all you need.

            But it seems to me that that requires that both Fairfax *AND* Northam leave.

            And Fairfax is not part of a “blackface scandal”. He is part of “rape scandal”. I know these three scandals exploded at the same time, but they are in fact, three different things.

            Sure… but everything smooshes together. The abortion scandal evolved into the blackface scandal and it was the blackface scandal that inspired Dr. Vanessa Tyson to post her lamentation about Fairfax’s upcoming promotion to her facebook page.

            That’s one hell of a butterfly/domino effect, there.

            And the optics would be “there was a blackface scandal in Virginia that uncovered that the Lt. Governor had committed sexual assault and, at the end of the day, the only guy fired was the black guy”.

            There is an argument on the right that scandals like this, which involve insensitivity towards minority groups are witchhunts, where our normal standards of nuance and mitigating circumstances are buried under a blizzard of hysteria and mob action.

            Obviously I disagree with them to some degree, because I think most conservatives really have no problem with the underlying offense itself, but I do think that we should apply our normal standards of misconduct and see differing degrees of guilt and shame.

            Remember the televangelist scandals in the 80’s? Good times.

            Part of the problem is that when you pull the “my opponents deserve harsh judgment but I don’t” card, it presents pretty closely to “I don’t have principles, I have tactics”.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

              Isn’t “everything smooshes together” pretty much the same thing as “my opponents deserve harsh judgment but I don’t”?

              In other words, when you compress the unrepentant with the contrite with rape as all sort of the same thing, isn’t that the very essence of unprincipled tactics?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Isn’t “everything smooshes together” pretty much the same thing as “my opponents deserve harsh judgment but I don’t”?

                Um, no?

                In other words, when you compress the unrepentant with the contrite with rape as all sort of the same thing, isn’t that the very essence of unprincipled tactics?

                Arguing that these things are all dominoes falling from the first domino is not the same thing as arguing that they’re all sort of the same thing.

                For example, it is very easy to come to the conclusion that the only guy in this thing that needs to get fired is the black guy.

                The problem is when you step back and ask “hey, why did Chip argue that the only guy who needed to get fired was the black guy?” and your answer would be… what?

                Some variant of “how dare you even ask?” Good luck with that.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                My answer is that I view rape as very different than racial insensitivity.

                Don’t you?

                And I flat out don’t understand the domino concept.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                My answer is that I view rape as very different than racial insensitivity.

                I go the other way on this. If I held the public-official ban hammer in my hand, Northam would *already* be fired. Fairfax deserves a fair hearing, one which – from a political pov, especially in light of the Kavanaugh hearings – won’t go very well for him. So he’d be next to go. But then, as the consistency of my dictatorial dismissal powers’ application was challenged, I’d have to concede that my critics are correct – I’m a fair and benevolent ban-hammer holder – and that Herring, too, has to go. Or maybe not!

                With great power comes great responsibility, my friend.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                Isn’t one of these things a political question, i.e., “Does blackface create a loss of trust”, while the other thing is a straight up crime?

                There is no “due process” right for politics- we the people are sovereign after all.

                But there is for crime, because the two things are on entirely different planes of seriousness.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I think they’re both political issues. One thing driving my views on this is that the bar for what constitutes a holder of the public trust should be higher than “found not guilty in a court of law.” Obviously, even granting that, where that line should be drawn is a topic of lively discussion.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Sure, I do. But I’m someone who thinks that this is a situation where the best outcome is to fire Governor Moonwalk *AND* the rapist and take the cover provided from the NAACP to protect the Curtis Blow Wannabe.

                And I flat out don’t understand the domino concept.

                It has to do with how one thing led to another in the *COVERAGE* of the various scandals.

                There’s a level of open secrets that people in power can get away with but when the open secret magically transforms into common knowledge, the people in power can no longer get away with their previously unpublicized acts.

                And the first scandal (the abortion thing) got someone to turn their open secret of the governor’s racist past into common knowledge… which inspired Dr. Vanessa Tyson to talk publicly about the Lt. Governor… which had everybody looking at Herring as the Great White Hope.

                Indeed, Herring even called for Northam’s resignation because of the wicked history of blackface!

                But then it came out that Herring did blackface too.

                And so a whole lot of things came to light because of the first little thing… and had that first little thing not happened, open secrets would have remained open secrets and not turned into something that required Democratic Leadership to have official opinions on.

                And arguing that, officially, the Democratic Leadership sees racial insensitivity as bad but not *BAD* bad (not “lose your job” bad) is going to have poor optics among some important demographics who weren’t quite as energized in 2016 as Democratic Leadership wanted them to be.

                (I think that the best play is probably to fire Fairfax for sexual assault and shame the ever-living crap out of Northam and get him to resign and install Herring as governor. But I can see why that play would leave a bad taste in a lot of peoples’ mouths.)Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                You furrow your brow and talk about how unprincipled people game these things for partisan gain, then demonstrate that exact habit by speaking with the vocabulary of a political hack, all about “optics” and strategy and spin.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Um… yeah. I’m one of the unprincipled people.

                Sneering at claims to “moral authority” is kind of my thing.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                Doing that while wearing a furrowed brow of moral concern takes considerable skill.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                You’d be surprised.

                Like, imagine someone quoting the NAACP for why one of their preferred politicians not have to resign for wearing blackface, but not even *MENTIONING* what the NAACP said about the other one of their preferred politicians (who also wore blackface).

                How difficult do you think this would be to pull off?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                Not difficult at all, unless you accept the

                … argument on the right that scandals like this, which involve insensitivity towards minority groups are witchhunts, where our normal standards of nuance and mitigating circumstances are buried under a blizzard of hysteria and mob action.

                Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                It’s more that I take the attitude that if we use the NAACP as a reason that it’s not insensitive to not demand Herring resign (even after Herring demanded Northam’s resignation because blackface requires resignation), that ignoring the NAACP’s calls for Northam to step down is…

                Well, it’s got optics problems, doesn’t it?

                I’m sure you can see why someone doesn’t see how it’s an example of you showing nuance and accepting mitigating circumstances.

                It’s using the NAACP against itself. Or, if not that, I’m sure you could see why it might look that way.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                Sorry stewardess I don’t speak “the vocabulary of a political hack, all about “optics” and strategy and spin.”

                Seriously man, why do you keep going back to that well?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Well, then. Have at it. So your official stance is that the morally authorative position is that Herring stay because the NAACP said it’s okay, Northam should stay because we need to be nuanced (and racial insensitivity isn’t as bad as rape), and Fairfax needs to go yesterday?

                Did I get that right?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                Close.

                I think Northam should go because he seems incapable of understanding the gravity of it;
                Fairfax needs to be investigated for the alleged crime of sexual assault;
                Herring should stay, provided continuing evidence of contrition and growth.

                And these are just my opinions. It shouldn’t be difficult to come up with other, contrary opinions, without resorting to optics or meta-analysis.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Hey, so long as your conclusions more or less mirror mine, I don’t even care if yours are fully based in pure principle.

                (I do think that the Fairfax thing is going to get a *LOT* messier, though. Northam too. To the point where Herring is probably going to wish that his play was “He needs to resign. And, you know what? I did that crap too back in 1980 and while I haven’t thought about it for 39 years, I need to resign too.”)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

                “Considering everything, do you think that Northam should step down or not?” is a pretty good phrasing for the question too.

                Huh.

                Well, hell. He’s term-limited. Why not?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                I wonder to what extent african american voters are motivated by an “extraction” mentality based on pure pragmatics. One thing I recall hearing from several black activists is that black voters and Reps *could* use the scandal not to demand Northam’s resignation but to extract concessions from him – appointments, legislative support, various structural changes within the executive. And that makes some sense, too. Learning that a white person Northam’s age had engaged in racist behavior can’t be all that surprising to African Americans, can it?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                While I am 100% down with the calculus that says “he should stay in, we’ve got him over a barrel”, I can’t imagine that a significant number of people were answering the question that way.

                But, hell, we’ve got enough “people who answer questions about Trump are *REALLY* answering the meta-question about Trump” stories out there, maybe we’ve finally breached the whole thing everywhere.

                There are no object level questions anymore. Just the real question that the pollsters are *REALLY* asking.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            In other words, when you compress the unrepentant with the contrite with rape as all sort of the same thing, isn’t that the very essence of unprincipled tactics?

            No, I’d say that line is crossed when you compress all of those with allegations that can’t survive any standard of evidence and are indistinguishable from self interested, self serving hearsay.

            So they’re fine in this situation. It’s fair for someone to say both that rape-is-worse-than-blackface but also blackface is bad enough that he shouldn’t be in office.

            On a side note it’s worth pointing out how differently various parties handled Tyson’s accusation of Fairfax than Ford’s of Kavanaugh… and how absurdly different those accusations are. Tyson is a LOT more credible than Ford. Tyson has specific in time, location, there’s no doubt they met, it’s established they were alone in the same room together, and she doesn’t seem to have a political ax to grind.

            As far as removal from office goes, IDK. Clearly all three never should have been elected, but all three were. At the moment, the big issue is all three are a public embarrassment to themselves and their party, but that’s not technically a crime. In theory Tyson could make her case a criminal matter which would force Fairfax out of office, but for the others there’s what, impeachment?

            I’m with Virginia House Speaker Cox on this one. https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/does-virginias-constitution-allow-impeachment-for-idiotic-implausible-excuses/

            [Cox] … believes Northam has lost the ability to govern “regardless of the veracity of the photograph,” he’s not convinced that the yearbook scandal meets the constitutional threshold for impeachment proceedings. The Virginia state constitution lists “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor” as reasons for impeachment. Virginia law defines “malfeasance” in a variety of ways, but it’s far from clear that implausible explanations for racist photos and a nickname in collegiate and medical-school yearbooks would qualify.Report

  25. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Do you enjoy humans? Golly, I sure do!

    Virginia representative Jennifer Wexton (D) tweeted “I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson.” (and she included the “Dr.”!) and she got a lot of responses.

    Worth reading the responses if you want to see how humans are responding to this sort of thing.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

      That’s… more dissent than I thought there’d be.

      I guess it’s nice that some people on my nominal side still understand the Crucible as a cautionary tale rather than an instruction manual, even if only when convenient.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to InMD says:

        People have a tendency to read The Crucible and imagine themselves as bystanders rather than the main characters.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

        It’s nuts. I’ll just repeat what I said on the 4th and knit my brow.

        =======

        Yesterday? Two days ago? (Everything blurs together) A prominent conservativish cultural critic said the following:

        It's very hard to shake the sense that, when it comes to the Northam situation, nobody actually cares about the purported offense or thinks it matters in any relevant way to Virginia governance in 2019. It's all just a game.— Esoteric Jeff (@EsotericCD) February 2, 2019

        Well, this resulted in a backlash. (I’m trying to figure out how to say “A lot of people got really pissed at this” without sounding like I’m saying “Democrats pounced”.)

        I think that Esoteric Jeff has a bit of a point here (though he absolutely should have avoided words like “nobody”) and it’s found in stuff like people getting upset that the source of the original story was from The Opposition. (It ain’t nobody, but there are a number of somebodies.)

        And, now, the gameishness manifests in people downplaying the accusations against the Lt. Governor.

        If it’s just a game, it makes sense to downplay the accusations against the Lt. Governor. If it’s about principle, well… there are a lot of things that follow if it’s about principle.

        That’s why it’s sticky. Because, to some, it is a game. To others, it’s about principle. To yet others, it’s about noticing that treating it like it’s about principle will contribute, in the short term, to losing the game. And so on. Sticky, sticky, sticky.Report

  26. Avatar Aaron David says:

    Why do I get the feeling Virginia will end up with some rando Donkey that no one has ever heard of…

    And then we will find out they were doing shows in Tijuana.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Aaron David says:

      I saw a photo from yesterday’s yearbook, I believe, in which both Northam and Fairfax had donned sombreros and Nahuatl ponchos while wearing “Mexicanface”, and were pointing loaded guns at each in what can only be described as a standoff. This party-shaking scandal appears to be only getting worse.Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Stillwater says:

        @aaron-david @stillwater Believe it or not, expanding the discussion to make even more racially insensitive jokes doesn’t come off superwell.

        I mean, nobody’s getting fired (I don’t do that anymore and even if I did, nobody would be getting fired!!!) and you guys are hardly the only ones doing that here, but jeez.

        When some of us are like “wow are white guys tone-deaf” this is the kind of thing that makes us feel justified to generalize. (Which we shouldn’t, were the world ideal, given that there are plenty of white guys not doing this business. But jeez. It undermines any signal of giving a shit you may or may not have been intending to give out previously.)Report

  27. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Second woman accuses Fairfax of assault. McAuliffe calls for him to resign.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Stillwater says:

      Second woman accuses Fairfax of assault.

      I’d mention that it might be a ‘pile-on’ situation by attention seekers but the second women is also providing time/location details and can trivially prove she’s met the guy. So rather than trolling for crazy we’re apparently seeing/inviting people from his past to step forward.

      It will be interesting to see at what point these women are called “creditable”.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Dark Matter says:

        I’ve seen the accusations called credible from pretty much jump. Calls for investigation have given way to calls for immediate resignation following the second one.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

          There’s only one legitimate way to test the credibility and that’s a trial.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

            I disagree. Trials are for determining whether there’s sufficient evidence to subject someone to criminal penalties, not individuals forming opinions about someone’s character.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

              Two totally separate things. Anyone can have an opinion of another person’s character for whatever good or bad reasons one wants. Assessing the likelihood a specific event happened is something that requires examination and assessment of evidence (preferably by people competent to do it).Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to InMD says:

                But this is in the absence of penalties, right? It’s almost certainly gotta be a lower bar than “criminal conviction” for “must resign because it’s untenable to remain Lt Gov”.

                Failing that there’s impeachment, which is a trial of a sort.

                As for the last, OK, but a trial is only one way of many to examine the evidence and assess the likelihood of an event.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to pillsy says:

                My first comment was limited to forming an opinion on the credibility of the accuser with respect to her allegation.

                On the question of resignation I agree the bar is lower but also much more complicated. How you come down on that is based on a number of considerations unrelated to whether he actually did what she says he did.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to pillsy says:

              Now is the time to build a framework for dealing with accusations; given that this is a democratic scandal you have the moral freight to attempt a framework that takes accusations seriously (and here we’re talking about less than “criminal”) that helps us arrive at reasonable “opinions about someone’s character” without resorting to feelz and pure power/partisan dynamics.

              Only a left on left scandal allows the space to create procedures that might point us towards a just approach.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I just don’t see room for such a legalistic approach in cases like this. We can examine the statements that have come forward, check to see if there are obvious sorts of corroboration or disproof [1], and in both cases it seems like there’s significant amounts of both (the second victim evidently told numerous people about the rape at the time it occurred)

                It’s not what you would need for imposing criminal penalties, obviously, because there’s been no trial, but it’s also not just partisan power plays or “feelz”.

                [1] And in one case Fairfax has said that there was a sexual encounter, but that it was consensual.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to pillsy says:

                Stop at “we” who’s we? Twitter?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Marchmaine says:

                “We” is anybody who cares to. Both women have made public statements.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Only a left on left scandal allows the space to create procedures that might point us towards a just approach.

                I doubt it.

                The problem is he’s probably guilty. The women and their story are fairly credible. This fits the left’s desired narrative pretty well. Powerful man, helpless woman who steps forward and tells the truth.

                For this case, “always believe the woman” works… and that is not how we get procedures that result in a just approach. For the left to face down their demons we’d need to discover he’s innocent, and I seriously doubt that will happen.

                Good procedures that result in a just approach would need to result in Ford’s accusations not being called “credible”, and I don’t think the left is anywhere close to that.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Matters less whether guilty or not… but that the partisan/power stakes are very nearly nill.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

            On Monday, I will be introducing articles of impeachment for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax if he has not resigned before then.— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 8, 2019

            Report

  28. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I’ll outsource my thoughts to John Holbo over at Crooked Timber:

    He [Northam] needs to leave, not because of what is or isn’t in his heart – or was or wasn’t in his heart – but because his continued presence makes it impossible for Democrats to take a strong, consistent, stand against racism. If any Democrat knows that, by staying in office, they hinder – rather than helping – he or she should step back for the good of the party, on behalf of the values it stands for.

    He goes on to say that Herring should quit too, but I am not inclined to go that far. I think there is room for nuance, that not every case is exactly identical.Report

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