"More like C’monwealth of Virginia"
February 6, 2019 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Virginia Politics In Chaos

Last week, a photo from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook page was released (after a tip that followed Northam's abortion comments) showing a person in blackface standing next to a person in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. On Friday, the Governor admitted appearing in the photo, only to walk that back in a bizarre Saturday press conference during which he admitted to wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume on a separate occasion and appeared prepared to demonstrate the moonwalk before his wife stopped him.

The spotlight quickly swung to Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, an up-and-coming star of the Virginia Democratic Party who, as only the second African-American elected to statewide office in Virginia history, was perhaps uniquely poised to lead the state in healing. But then Fairfax was accused of sexual assault at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, which he has denied (possibly to the point of using vulgar and misogynistic language during a meeting) [Lt. Gov. Fairfax's latest statement].

That would leave Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, next in the order of succession—OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT NOW—who today says in college he wore blackface when "dressed like rappers" at a party [his statement].

Next in the order of succession after him? The Speaker of the House of Delegates, Kirk Cox, a Republican, who has the job because of a coin toss.

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NYT: Northam Scandal Opens Rift Between Top Democrats in Virginia: "Virginia plunged deeper into political turmoil Monday as Gov. Ralph Northam told aides he was not planning to step down, and his own lieutenant governor suggested Mr. Northam’s supporters were behind an effort to smear him with claims of sexual assault to block his ascent if the governor resigned."

AP: Northam blackface scandal: Yearbook staff disagree on whether photo was a mix-up: "The image was one of at least three blackface photos in the 1984 yearbook."

AP: Blackface photo reopens long history of bigotry in medicine. “And not just him, all of the medical professionals connected to the school, to the yearbook ... basically, your slip is showing. If you felt that black people were equal to white people in any way, shape or form, you would not think that this was OK.”

Virginian-Pilot: EVMS banned yearbooks in 2013 after students posed in Confederate garb. Three men are pictured in the 2013 yearbook wearing Civil War-era uniforms and standing in front of Confederate flags.

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Jamelle Bouie: Blackface Is the Tip of the Iceberg: "Put these examples together and you can begin to discern a standard: In American politics, lawmakers can get a pass for almost anything short of open allegiance to racist ideologies or the explicit use of racist imagery."

Adam Serwer: There’s More at Stake Than Ralph Northam’s Career: "If Northam remains governor, he gives license to any number of future scoundrels to remain in office despite engaging in bigotry against their constituents."

Michael Harriot: Why White People Love Blackface, Explained

Jamil Smith: Blackface Is Just One Part of the Problem The furor over Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook photo has America once again asking the wrong questions about racism.

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This FPP was a collaborative effort. Thanks to Etrigan, I.forgot.my.password, and Doktor Zed.
posted by zachlipton (280 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
 
(title from Jason Shevrin on Twitter)
posted by Etrigan at 10:31 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


I have never worn blackface and I am ready to move to Virginia if you need me to be governor.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:34 AM on February 6 [59 favorites]


Next in the order of succession after him? The Speaker of the House of Delegates, Kirk Cox, a Republican, who has the job because of a coin toss.

Burn it ALL down
posted by schadenfrau at 10:36 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


FWIW, I think Northam can't just appoint a replacement AG while the General Assembly is in session (which it is). But as it happens, the deputy AG is a black woman.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:36 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


So then:
AG steps down
Deputy AG -> AG
Lt Gov. Steps down
AG -> Lt. Gov
Gov. Steps down
Lt. Gov. -> Gov.
is the sequence of events we need to happen? Or would

AG steps down
Deputy AG -> AG
Lt. Gov & Gov simultaneously step down

be better?
posted by mikepop at 10:41 AM on February 6


Also, to quote myself from the bottom of a megathread:
want to point out that so far the only person shown to have lied with regards to the Fairfax allegations is Fairfax himself, and he lied in service of attacking the accuser. (The Post has described them as "incorrect statements," which...) Actually, he's attacked the accuser more than once in the five minutes since this all started; I think implying that the accusations are part of a political plot against him is also fairly considered an attack.

This is a pattern we've seen before, and it's actually making me kind of sick to see it from a Dem.
And at this point it seems like all of these various-flavors-of-garbage people are hanging on and hoping to be the last one standing.

I am ready for the Deputy AG.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:41 AM on February 6 [12 favorites]


I'm glad we're exposing assholes and holding them accountable, but am I too foil-hat wearing if I think that this is a targeted campaign against democrats from republicans that are looking to embarrass Virginia politics? Like, I can't be the only one to wonder at the fact that not only was it the Governor but now the Attorney General, this is not a coincidence or am I overthinking this.
posted by Fizz at 10:42 AM on February 6 [15 favorites]


Having lived across the river from it most of my life, Virginia politics have often been alarming.

That said, pro-Trump ratfuckery is riding high in the saddle over there right now.

Northam's Klan photo is odious, but liberals may want to compare devils, given that the state is swarming with them - many vastly more hateful than the current governor, and cackling maniacally at the moment.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:42 AM on February 6 [8 favorites]


I stumbled across this record in a thrift store a few years ago and was astounded that it was from 1963, but I guess I shouldn't have been.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:43 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I'm glad we're exposing assholes and holding them accountable, but am I too foil-hat wearing if I think that this is a targeted campaign against democrats from republicans that are looking to embarrass Virginia politics?

It wouldn't work if the Democrats weren't embarrassing as fuck.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:43 AM on February 6 [46 favorites]


I have never worn blackface but honestly I look back on my childhood in the 70s and 80s - Herring and Northam are a decade older than me - and I am not sure I can say that's more than 50% because it just never came up as a thing we might do. And I grew up in a home that was committed to the idea of equality for all colors and genders and religions. But holy hell, the level of complete blindness to the reality of life for PoC? For sure, we were ignorant to a level it's hard to believe wasn't willful.

If the right reaction to that is to say the world's fulla people and ruling all those folks who said and did awful things - on purpose or not - means they are ruled out for public office, I don't much have an issue with that. I suspect that still lets a lot of folks like me through based not on any sort of enlightenment at that time but just pure chance. Sadly I don't think we're gonna get the country to do the smart thing and just only elect women for the next 243 years, a la RBG's balance idea.

I'm glad we're exposing assholes and holding them accountable, but am I too foil-hat wearing if I think that this is a targeted campaign against democrats from republicans that are looking to embarrass Virginia politics? Like, I can't be the only one to wonder at the fact that not only was it the Governor but now the Attorney General, this is not a coincidence or am I overthinking this.

Maybe. I guess my question there would be "so?" It is definitely inconvenient that walking the talk means kicking these clowns out where for the Republicans it's practically a campaign ad. Doing the right thing often isn't convenient. That still means the alternative is doing the wrong thing.
posted by phearlez at 10:45 AM on February 6 [29 favorites]


The ultimate outcome of this might be stasis: no one resigns, because everyone in line to move up is compromised. Sort of like when Mr. Burns is revealed to have all the diseases in the world, but they're in perfect balance, so they don't kill him.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:46 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


I stumbled across this record in a thrift store a few years ago and was astounded that it was from 1963, but I guess I shouldn't have been.

The number one show on the BBC in November 1963 -- the month that Dr Who premiered -- was The Black and White Minstrel Show (go ahead, look at the pictures). It was cancelled in 1978, but went on as a touring show until 1989.
posted by Etrigan at 10:48 AM on February 6 [31 favorites]


I'm glad we're exposing assholes and holding them accountable, but am I too foil-hat wearing if I think that this is a targeted campaign against democrats from republicans that are looking to embarrass Virginia politics? Like, I can't be the only one to wonder at the fact that not only was it the Governor but now the Attorney General, this is not a coincidence or am I overthinking this.

In the case of the Governor and the AG it's not a coincidence, it's pervasive institutional racism that made them believe it was fine to don blackface and go to parties and take pictures and put them in a yearbook and assume there would never be any repercussions. Republicans did not go back in time and target them personally by tricking them into it.
posted by mikepop at 10:49 AM on February 6 [18 favorites]


Republicans did not go back in time and target them personally by tricking them into it.

No, but Republican ratfuckers are more than happy to use our morals against us. Which is something that we should be keeping in mind, especially when a known rodent bordello is pushing things.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:53 AM on February 6 [12 favorites]


Like, I can't be the only one to wonder at the fact that not only was it the Governor but now the Attorney General

The AG came out about his past, he didn't have any pictures leaked or anything. Very likely he was trying to pre-empt any such pictures or stories from his classmates coming out in the wake of the Governor's problems.

He wouldn't even need to be worried about oppo researchers, with this level of national interest in Virginia politics right now you'd expect the Washington Post etc to start digging around his past now that his spot in the line of succession to governor is... very relevant.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:57 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


@MarcACaputo [cw: detailed account of sexual assault in document attached]: "I suffered deep humiliation and shame" Vanessa Tyson, accuser of Virg LG @FairfaxJustin tells her side of what she says was a sexual assault of her in 2004
posted by zachlipton at 11:02 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Sorry there's a second and third page here, where she discusses exactly what schadenfrau was talking about.
posted by zachlipton at 11:13 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


The number one show on the BBC in November 1963 -- the month that Dr Who premiered -- was The Black and White Minstrel Show (go ahead, look at the pictures). It was cancelled in 1978, but went on as a touring show until 1989.

There's a Jeeves and Wooster TV episode from 1991 that relies on a crowd of white twits posing as minstrels in blackface as a key plot device.
posted by JamesBay at 11:15 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


Northam has hired a private detective to investigate the yearbook photo. George Conway says it all: Remind me—has O.J. found the real killer yet?

Internet sleuths are working overtime to find the one-armed man the person in blackface: 'It's not the same pair of pants' — Northam’s high school classmate says he isn’t in racist photo (Richmond Times-Dispatch).

The Plaid Pants Theory (WaPo, no paywall link) has taken hold with the shitstirrers in the right wing-o-sphere, being posted at Gateway Pundit, Red State, Free Republic, Hot Air, etc.
posted by peeedro at 11:17 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Northam is a total maroon, but it's worth bearing in mind that this was a hatchet job, and he is being specifically targeted because of his support for reproductive rights. There is a negotiating-with-terrorists angle to this: if he steps down, I am somewhat concerned the next time the Right gets dirt on somebody, it's going to be easier for them to use it for influence and not just to have them removed. Because that's what they ultimately want: it's not so much about destroying Northam (although that's probably fine by them, a win's a win), but showing that he was destroyed because he didn't toe their line on abortion is going to be the implicit message—and maybe the explicit one, to somebody else.

There's an "asymmetric warfare" angle to this: the Right must be beside themselves laughing, because the reverse won't work. Racism and misogyny aren't disqualifiers for a Virginia Republican; hell in some parts of Virginia they're table stakes. So what they've found is a perfect political weapon that only works on Democrats, and even better, Democrats themselves do all the hard work of actually bringing down the political axe.

Long term, the solution is for Democrats to vet candidates better and uncover this stuff before the other side does. But clearly that hasn't been the case even in the recent past, and I'd wonder who else is potentially vulnerable to influence in the near term. There could be a very high price to pay in practical terms for purging these people on the Republicans' timetable; even if that's where things need to go in the end, at least don't allow them to dictate the time and place through targeted media leaks.

Personally, I think I'd rather have an apologetic Northam stay in office if the alternative is Kirk fucking Cox in the governor's mansion. Northam can and should quietly retire and never again seek or hold public office once his term is done, but for both him and Fairfax to step down, unless there's a solid backup plan, would be too high a price, and it would be too big a victory to hand to the dirty-tricks camp.

And it's obviously not acceptable to not investigate and pursue the accusations against Fairfax (however suspicious the timing might be, sexual assault in 2004 strikes me as more serious than blackface two decades prior) so I'm personally not interested in calling for Northam's head on a plate just yet.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:17 AM on February 6 [29 favorites]


It occurs to me that the only way Fairfax could possibly think that is consensual is to have a horribly misogynist view of women. What does he think, that women are just dying for the chance to give him oral sex at all times?
posted by corb at 11:19 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


So the deal is, we have to draw a line, but we also can't let what we do result in actual unashamed Republican racists running the show, because the constituents hurt by these actions will be hurt even worse by Republicans running things.

So we need a plan. I want to hear more about this woman who is deputy AG. I am perfectly fine with a plan that ended up with her as Governor, all three of these dudes out of the picture and a Lesson Learned for everyone in politics. And the Republicans still held at bay of course. Is that a thing that can happen? Don't know. But we do have to clean house and we can't keep putting it off.

As for those Democrats who have no good successors but might have some of this shit in their past, I am not sure what to do. At the very least, they need to out themselves and acknowledge they did wrong (I mean for blackface and not rape) and whether they should step down needs to be a function of what they do/have done since.

Long-term, more people of color and women in power, period. More white people acknowledging their past mistakes before they get into power and then letting the electorate decide if they've evolved far enough past them or not.
posted by emjaybee at 11:20 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


Personally, I think I'd rather have an apologetic Northam stay in office if the alternative is Kirk fucking Cox in the governor's mansion. Northam can and should quietly retire and never again seek or hold public office once his term is done, but for both him and Fairfax to step down, unless there's a solid backup plan, would be too high a price, and it would be too big a victory to hand to the dirty-tricks camp.

VA is not the Federal government; third in line is the AG, Herring, not the VA speaker.
posted by phearlez at 11:23 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I don't know whether this belongs here or the politics thread, but Florida state GOP lawmaker says high school blackface photo is 'decontextualized'
posted by BungaDunga at 11:25 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Fairfax says "she stayed in touch with me," Tyson says "I never spoke to him again." Read lawyerly, there's room for both statements to be true at the same time, but I wonder what's behind the curtain here. I find her statement very persuasive...
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:25 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Republicans did not go back in time and target them personally by tricking them into it.

No, but Republican ratfuckers are more than happy to use our morals against us .


Surely if this kind of hijinks was as ubiquitous as it was, that makes it all the more likely we would find examples of this on the GOP side as well when the time comes when such a thing would be handy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:25 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I'm aware; Herring is tainted also, so if we're disqualifying people from being Governor on account of blackface, he's out too.

The next person down is Cox, who's solidly in the Handmaid's Tale-as-instruction-manual brigade.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:26 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048: "Northam is a total maroon"

That might be a word to avoid in the current discussion.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:27 AM on February 6 [57 favorites]


it all the more likely we would find examples of this on the GOP side as well when the time comes when such a thing would be handy

It wouldn't matter. Overt racism only bolsters the Republican brand.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:27 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


so if we're disqualifying people from being Governor on account of blackface

Perish the thought.
posted by Rust Moranis at 11:32 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


I'm not a Virginian and I'm a white male so my opinion doesn't count for much but I thought the AG's statement said all the right things and at least sounds like he means them. It would have been better if he just woke up one day and decided he felt too guilty about it to keep it a secret but I can at least understand why a person who regrets it and feels like they've changed for the better would rather just leave it be.

I think I'd prefer it if he resigned, especially knowing that the Dep. AG is a woman of color (where the odds of something sexist or racist in her past must be near zero). Had it been some other white guy who may or may not have donned black-face in his past, I'd prefer to to keep the guy who definitely did it, definitely regrets it, and genuinely works to make up for it.

I think there is also something to be said for forgiving people who have learned and grown and now that they know better, do better. I think it makes it easier for the people who don't yet know better to follow that same path. Otherwise my fear is that without a path to some kind of redemption, the only path left is further down the path of racism. I don't really have a horse in this race though so I hope to hear some other perspectives.
posted by VTX at 11:34 AM on February 6 [12 favorites]


New: Statement from Dr. Vanessa Tyson on alleged 2004 assault by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. (Click on link in article for full statement.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:34 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


As for those Democrats who have no good successors but might have some of this shit in their past, I am not sure what to do. At the very least, they need to out themselves and acknowledge they did wrong (I mean for blackface and not rape) and whether they should step down needs to be a function of what they do/have done since.

Long-term, more people of color and women in power, period. More white people acknowledging their past mistakes before they get into power and then letting the electorate decide if they've evolved far enough past them or not.


Yes to both points: in the first instance, acknowledgement and apology are the least they can do. If it turns out that everyone down the line of succession has something like this in their past, that's a bit more complicated than "X did this thing and should resign." Nobody is or should be Just Too Valuable, but if the whole bench is decimated, then what?

And on the second point, yes, we need more women, more POC, more working class people, more LGBT people, etc. etc. I think that having a bench that is largely upper-class white men increases the chance that one or more will have blatantly racist or rapey stuff in their past. There is a really toxic culture around prep schools and frats and exclusive colleges because of the sense of entitlement. And it can't hurt to have more people who have gone to State U in politics.

The real harm isn't that people will be driven into the arms of Republicans. The issue is that people will conclude that Democrats are just as hopelessly corrupt and -ist and hypocritical, Both Sides Do It, so why not just stay home or vote third party? Democrats get their strength from being the party of good morals and good government and inclusion.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:39 AM on February 6 [9 favorites]


From the megathread: Virginia attorney general Mark Herring, third in line for governor, wore blackface in college
posted by peeedro at 8:46 AM on February 6 [11 favorites +] [!]

Our ethical standards are being weaponized by the right wing. They clearly don't give a shit about their own caucus's open racism and sexism, so they are free to use any information like this to remove Democrats from office. I'm so sorry that so many Democratic politicians in Virginia thought black-face and sexual harassment were good ideas.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:22 AM on February 6 [+] [!]
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:48 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


Before I get too misty-eyed at the hope of a black woman taking over as governor of Virginia in the wake of all this, it's worth asking: Is there reason to believe Cynthia Hudson actually wants this job? (The Deputy AG is not in the line of succession, so there's no reason to assume she's interested.)

If that question isn't asked, we should ponder why it's cool to just assume that a black woman won't mind cleaning up after everyone else has made a complete fucking mess.
posted by duffell at 11:54 AM on February 6 [11 favorites]


Blackface is deeply offensive and as a child in the 1980s I already understood that. But it's possible to acknowledge and apologize for youthful fuck ups. The fact that he didn't do that indicates to me that he doesn't get the harm he did, which has meaningful implications for his current policy decisions. Which has an impact much greater than his shitty performances when he was in his 20s.

That Republicans are exploiting the misogyny and racism of Democrats for their own gain is actually an opportunity for us to route out the rot on "our side".
posted by latkes at 11:57 AM on February 6 [10 favorites]


Also, there are issues with installing someone as governor who has never been elected by the people of the state in any capacity; DAG is an appointed position, and she came to it as a career lawyer.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:04 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I don't give a cold rat's ass if this is being taken advantage of by Virginia Republicans, or that Northam was "targeted" for supporting reproductive rights. Northam needs to go. If the allegations against Fairfax prove credible, he needs to go. If Herring finds his situation untenable because, like Northam, he chooses to try to hand-wave past racist acts away, he needs to go.

The whole modern movement for social justice is riddled with people who talk a good talk but are hypocrites just the same, and if they end up losing their elected positions over it, I say it's the process working as intended.
posted by tclark at 12:06 PM on February 6 [18 favorites]


How about sanctioning all 3 by expelling them from the Democratic Party whether they resign or not?
posted by zaixfeep at 12:07 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


That might be a word to avoid in the current discussion.

D: D: D: I thought it was a Bugs Bunny reference.
posted by Autumnheart at 12:09 PM on February 6 [15 favorites]


That might be a word to avoid in the current discussion.

I actually started with "moron" but then went with the Bugs Bunny bowdlerization because I've been informed that "moron" is considered offensive to some, and was trying to dodge a foray into Virginia's history of eugenics. /sigh

How about "cringeworthy idiot"?
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:10 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


Along those lines, the first democrat I saw defend Northam and encourage him publicly not to resign was former congressman Jim Moran.

Get a brain, Moran!
posted by peeedro at 12:14 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


idiot comes from the same well as moron, if that's what you're worried about
posted by BungaDunga at 12:14 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I don't give a cold rat's ass if this is being taken advantage of by Virginia Republicans

Neat. Do you live in Virginia?
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:15 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Well I live in Virginia and if the offenses are real I similarly will not part with a cold rat's ass. Are we seriously going to talk here about whether racism and sexual assault should be tolerated if it's "the other side" bringing them to light?
posted by phearlez at 12:18 PM on February 6 [23 favorites]


What are the odds we start seeing some blackface photos emerging of VA GOP people?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:20 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


One of the "hilarious in a depressing way" parts of this is stuff like this tweet (screenshot of a tweet in another tweet) from Erick Erickson and it's crazy how clear his thinking is:

1) Erickson assumes everyone is as racist as he is and that Democrats will do nothing about this
2) Tries to call out the assumed hypocrisy
3) Backpedals when it turns out he's wrong
4) Admits he never actually wanted racist white men held accountable

It's absolutely breathtaking how obvious it is; it's right there, he basically says it!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:21 PM on February 6 [22 favorites]


If there isn't a boatload of Dems combing through yearbooks and school papers right now, I'll be nearly as disappointed with them as I am with Northam.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:22 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]


Yes indeed, that former congressman Moran. Also that one. Yes, that one.

Moran encouraging you should really give one pause for continuing with a course of action.
posted by phearlez at 12:22 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I liked this subtweet of the Erikk son of Erikk sequence of events:

REPUBLICANS: Northam is a racist! He must go!
DEMOCRATS: Agreed! All racists must immediately resign from political office!!
REPUBLICANS: wait-
DEMOCRATS: Every single racist needs to be expelled from society and shunned by their family and friends!
REPUBLICANS: stop
posted by phearlez at 12:28 PM on February 6 [53 favorites]


Are we seriously going to talk here about whether racism and sexual assault should be tolerated if it's "the other side" bringing them to light?

No - I'd say that we're talking about weighing deeply unpleasant realities in a national calculus where one possible outcome is actual fascism and civilization-ending environmental catastrophe.

Are there better, more decent candidates than Northam, though? Would he ideally be primaried and lose to a female socialist of color? Should the entire old boy network in VA be consigned to a blazing furnace and reduced to ashes? Yes, yes, and yes.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:28 PM on February 6 [14 favorites]


Long-term, more people of color and women in power, period.

We said we wanted more black faces in positions of power.

Really, it's on us that we weren't more specific.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:28 PM on February 6 [23 favorites]


Seeing some real hot takes in this thread that seem to be sidling up to the idea that this isn't fair because Republicans aren't held to the same standard. Or, that this is all suspect because the stories were broken by a right wing outlet. It can both be true that this is an effort to fuck over Democrats by Republicans AND that the politicians in question should step down anyway.

If the allegations are true, or at least there is strong evidence for them being true they should step down. In the case of Northam and Fairfax, not only is there credible evidence for racist dress-up and sexual assault respectively, they've both egregiously mishandled their responses to the revelations of their alleged misdeeds. They've both doubled down on their defensiveness and started to spin out conspiracy theories about who is trying to fuck them without examining their own roles in events.

Arguing that Democrats in any state, no matter what the political reality is, should cling onto power after it's clear that they don't live up to some pretty bare minimum standards of conduct for elected leaders might have some short term political benefit. But, the long-term damage of accepting that it's okay for people who sexually assault, or hide and defend their own racist past today, is incalculable. You're basically saying it's "not that bad" or "the other guys do worse" and that's some real weak sauce shit if you want the Democratic Party to be the party of the people... of ALL people, including women and people of color.
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:28 PM on February 6 [23 favorites]


Are we seriously going to talk here about whether racism and sexual assault should be tolerated if it's "the other side" bringing them to light?

You can simultaneously be concerned about the character and actions of your Democratic representatives and also not glibly apathetic about the very real prospect that Republicans are trying to ratfuck themselves into total control of your state's election machinery.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:29 PM on February 6 [31 favorites]


lawmakers can get a pass for almost anything short of open allegiance to racist ideologies or the explicit use of racist imagery

I think this is a really important point; we get so many conversations like "I know he's not a racist in his heart" or "there's not a racist bone in his body" or whatever, and, like, I don't care that you think that? Does whatever person, in this case Ralph Northam, do things that have racists effects? I have heard analysis, e.g. here (another Twitter link), that suggest he does, so who cares if it's intentional or not? I mean it's worse if it is intentional, but we can't KNOW it's intentional unless someone says that explicitly so it seems to make more sense to stop pondering what's in white people's hearts and start dealing with the effects of their actions. Why is it that we can only say something is racist when someone is extremely open about it? It's not like Steve King wasn't racist before he said the quiet part loud, but before Steve King actually said, effectively, "I think white supremacy is great actually" I feel like Black people and anti-racists were shushed and told they were being mean or couldn't KNOW that when they said "these people are racist and/or do racist things". We are so much more concerned with the feelings of people being accused of racism than the negative effects of that racism on Black people and other people of color that we refuse to acknowledge the harm of anything that isn't explicit and I think it's really important to push back on that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:31 PM on February 6 [19 favorites]


When people resign, we don't get the exercise of removing them from office by impeachment. I think we need that practice!
posted by BeeDo at 12:34 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Are there better, more decent candidates than Northam, though? Would he ideally be primaried and lose to a female socialist of color? Should the entire old boy network in VA be consigned to a blazing furnace and reduced to ashes? Yes, yes, and yes.

On point 2, Virginia has a one-term limit for governors. Part of the reason Northam hasn't quit is because he has no need to worry about his re-election prospects.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:40 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Are there better, more decent candidates than Northam, though? Would he ideally be primaried and lose to a female socialist of color?

Pedantically: the VA governorship is term-limited, so Northam can't be reëlected (and therefore can't be meaningfully primaried).

He won the primary in 2017 pretty handily (55% to 44%), although that's obviously against the candidates who ran and not against the candidates who didn't run -- part of what makes this so frustrating is that Northam wasn't running unopposed, and could have looked at his own yearbook and stepped back from the primary to begin with.
posted by cjelli at 12:41 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


On point 2, Virginia has a one-term limit for governors.

I had completely forgotten about that - thanks for clarifying.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:43 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Part of the reason Northam hasn't quit is because he has no need to worry about his re-election prospects.

Which brings up a "weird" thing we-all should be concerned about: A term-limited governor's only motivation for the office should be wanting to put in the service time for his constituents. That there are other motivations beyond that says that there really should be (waves hands) a way to remove motivations of "power" and more likely "sweet, sweet lobbying grift" from our offices. I know, I know.
posted by maxwelton at 12:44 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I'm in Steve King's district. Northam is an amateur.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:50 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


A one-term limit just seems idiotic to me. You're starting over with a complete noob who doesn't know what he or she is doing every election. It's like passing a law that commercial airline pilots can only fly 50 flights and then must retire. That's bad for everyone.
posted by Justinian at 12:54 PM on February 6 [13 favorites]


I think this is a really important point; we get so many conversations like "I know he's not a racist in his heart" or "there's not a racist bone in his body" or whatever, and, like, I don't care that you think that? Does whatever person, in this case Ralph Northam, do things that have racists effects?

The Jamil Smith link covers that too, quoting extensively from a conversation with Rev. William Barber about how racism is more than using a slur or dressing in blackface:
“America keeps trying to have conversations and keeps attempting to deal with racism when quote-unquote cultural things erupt,” Barber says. “Or when something like Charleston happens, as gross and ugly and murderous as it is, and then we have an eruption, and then it goes away. And part of the problem is in that kind of reaction itself, because racism ultimately is about systems and structures.”
And I think that's what I'm most sad about, is that I assume the narrative is going to be pushed into "let's have a teachable moment about blackface" and the wrongheaded idea that someone isn't racist unless you can prove that they have hatred in their heart. Northam was just so proud that he won the dance competition and his moonwalking skills, as if his love for Michael Jackson was proof that his actions were devoid of racism.
posted by peeedro at 12:58 PM on February 6 [19 favorites]


A one-term limit just seems idiotic to me.

At the other extreme you have states like Texas with no gubernatorial term limit, which is why Texans had to put up with Rick Perry for 14 fucking years.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:01 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


It doesn't matter that all of these are done with the intent of hatchet jobs. Intent doesn't matter a great deal. We need to purge the Democratic party of performative racists and sexual abusers. If that means our caucus ends up 100% women of color, that's just an added side benefit.

Republicans literally lionize these people. We should not accept them into our fold. It's great to have a big tent, but the paradox of tolerance says the one type of people who must not be tolerated in a diverse society is intolerant people.
posted by rikschell at 1:11 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


1. ELECT WOC
2. No seriously, elect WOC
3. I do not care what is in someone's heart I care about their actions

I cannot even imagine what Virginians are going through right now so other than the above, my solipsistic Californian reaction to it all is basically "I cannot BELIEVE I wrote one hundred postcards to help elect these fuckers." But Kathy Tran, I will always, always be proud of.

(Kathy Tran, as I understand it, is the one who actually introduced the late-term abortion bill that triggered all the controversy, but because she HAS NEVER WORN BLACKFACE the right is reduced to attacking her about another bill she introduced about caterpillars or something. This is the future liberals want)
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:21 PM on February 6 [24 favorites]


Northam was just so proud that he won the dance competition and his moonwalking skills, as if his love for Michael Jackson was proof that his actions were devoid of racism.

Northam may well be sure he's not racist, just as so many defenders of him we see pop up are similarly sure. Because culturally we defined racism down to where if you weren't wearing a hood or aiming a hose at someone you weren't a racist. Some of that is power keeping power, just like how the culture gives men a pass for their transgressions against women unless you can prove every single tiny detail and the woman is a Perfect Victim with no flaws. Some of it is just how deeply we decided to fool ourselves for so long, letting things like the civil rights movement be some final pole placed in the ground indicating COMPLETE rather than just one of many grueling inch-by-inch fights towards progress.
posted by phearlez at 1:22 PM on February 6 [9 favorites]


Surely if this kind of hijinks was as ubiquitous as it was, that makes it all the more likely we would find examples of this on the GOP side as well when the time comes when such a thing would be handy.

I think you severely underestimate the right-wing machine. They’ve had 40-50 years building the networks, thinktanks, operatives, propaganda machine, etc., not to mention the armies of dedicated true-believers banging-away at their keyboards, digging deeper and deeper into the bowels of the web in search of anything that could be of service in bringing-down a non-conservative. And, of course, there’s the acres of money fueling the whole enterprise. Any lapse in judgement, or transgression, at any point in your life will be held against you. And, no one older than 12 has a pristine past.

The left simply doesn’t have the resources to do this level of ratfuckery, even if they wanted to engage in it.

The right has learned the lesson very well. Find something, anything, and broadcast it far and wide until the left notices and responds as expected. You’re going to see this played-out across the country.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:25 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Any of the Black folks I follow on Twitter seem to be disgusted by Northam. As a foreigner (I'm not American) it seems really weird to me to read here that "he apologized, he should stay on as governor" or "he's being targeted for his support of reproductive rights."

I guess every polity has its idiosyncrasies.
posted by JamesBay at 1:27 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


He *was* being targeted for his reproductive stance, though. Former classmates of his in med school leaked the picture after getting irritated with his comments about the Tran abortion bill.

That doesn't say anything about his response, or what he should do, or how we should feel about it. But it *is* how it all got started.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:37 PM on February 6 [14 favorites]


At the other extreme you have states like Texas with no gubernatorial term limit, which is why Texans had to put up with Rick Perry for 14 fucking years.

I think the main reason that Texans had to put up with Rick Perry for 14 fucking years is that more Texans voted for Rick Perry than voted for any of his opponents four times in a row.
posted by Etrigan at 1:39 PM on February 6 [21 favorites]


Mike Rosenberg, Twitter: While everyone was focused on other things in Virginia, the embattled governor quietly signed into law up to $750M in taxpayer incentives for Amazon. There was no press conference or public bill signing

Gross.
posted by rewil at 1:41 PM on February 6 [12 favorites]


cjelli: "Pedantically: the VA governorship is term-limited, so Northam can't be reëlected "

It'd definitely pedantry if you're breaking out the New Yorker diaeresis!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:43 PM on February 6 [17 favorites]


What are the odds we start seeing some blackface photos emerging of VA GOP people?

I'm not an odds-taker, but as a blanket statement: this isn't something that's going to go away, because it's not as though people stopped taking photos in blackface in the '80s, viz., per the Washington Post in 2002: U-Va. Frats Cleared in Blackface Incident
Two historic fraternities at the University of Virginia were cleared by a student panel yesterday of "disorderly conduct" accusations stemming from a Halloween party at which guests were photographed wearing blackface. The panel, convened by the university's Inter-Fraternity Council, determined that the actions by Kappa Alpha and Zeta Psi fell within the bounds of constitutionally protected speech and could not be punished.
One thing I'm wondering about -- as a purely practical concern -- is how this is going to impact future campaign's willingness to spend more money to fund opposition research, and whether that will increase the cost to run competitively.

Which is a pretty abstract question in light of the current timely and concrete set of problems facing Virginia currently, but this does feel a bit like the tip of a racist iceberg.
posted by cjelli at 1:44 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Huh. It's almost like the generation that kept telling millennials "You better be careful about the social medias, because you'll never get elected to things because of all these pictures" was projecting again.
posted by Etrigan at 1:49 PM on February 6 [23 favorites]


Yes, it is true that he was targeted for his stance on reproductive rights, and it is utterly irrelevant to whether he should resign. Leadership requires that people are willing to follow you, and to work with you. That picture rendered him unable to lead, and his response has made it even worse. The same goes for Fairfax and Dummy #3. It does not matter if Dummy #3 is repenant and reformed or whatever; it matters whether he can effectively lead after all this.

And, like. No, he can’t. This isn’t that complicated.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:49 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


Democrats traditionally throw PoC and women under the bus. So you are following tradition if you think the governor and Lt governor should stay in their positions because Republicans. Folks, it's like the poop milkshake; we need to walk away because it is both the right thing and the healthy thing to do no matter how painful in this moment.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:54 PM on February 6 [15 favorites]


This makes the people who are holding grudges against Kirsten Gillibrand for making a martyr out of Al Franken look even stupider. The whole process of replacing Franken was so easy and scandal-free and smooth - Tina Smith is, arguably, even more progressive, she easily won re-election, there is nothing in her past for her to be ashamed of or to disqualify her.

Virginia turned out to be a lot worse than anyone imagined. If nothing else, the culture of putting upper-class white guys who went to good schools etc. etc. in political power, at the expense of everyone else, does need to be questioned. And it's hard to cry "ratfuck!" if there are some actual rats involved.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:58 PM on February 6 [18 favorites]


Democratic Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has retained the law firm of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz--the same firm that represented then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation hearings, the firm confirmed on Wednesday.
posted by Bella Donna at 2:01 PM on February 6 [8 favorites]


Meanwhile Prof. Tyson has retained Christine Blasey Ford's legal team. In case that wasn't enough deja vu.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:05 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]


> I'm not an odds-taker, but as a blanket statement: this isn't something that's going to go away, because it's not as though people stopped taking photos in blackface in the '80s

There was no blackface as far as I can tell, but my alma mater up here in Canada had its own racist Halloween party scandal in *2016*.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:09 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


It does not matter if Dummy #3 is repenant and reformed or whatever; it matters whether he can effectively lead after all this.

Why not? The guy seems to have done the work to change himself, understands why his actions were harmful, apologized for them and now works to undo the damage he did. He just took responsibility, owns his past mistakes and does what he can to do better now.

What am I missing?
posted by VTX at 2:18 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


As I understand it, both the Lieutenant Governor and the Attorney General are elected positions in Virginia.

So let's say we lived in a world in which all three beleaguered officials decided to step down for the good of the commonwealth and the party. If the Lt. Gov. and the AG were to resign office first, would the Governor then be able to appoint their successors before stepping down himself, or would there have to be special elections to fill those positions?
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:21 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


A one-term limit just seems idiotic to me. You're starting over with a complete noob who doesn't know what he or she is doing every election. It's like passing a law that commercial airline pilots can only fly 50 flights and then must retire.

It's not quite that dire. You can't have a second term immediately after leaving office, but you can serve more than once in your lifetime. So there are a fair number of people who serve more than once.

I've heard something described as the "cricket strategy" (that's referring to the sport, not the insect) where you could have a Governor and a Lt. Gov who go back and forth as a team, alternating between positions to advance a joint agenda. There's no reason you couldn't do it, except that people have seemingly used the VA governor as a stepping-off point to national races.

Mark Warner and Tim Kaine were seemingly on track to do it, and Mark Warner left office with an incredibly high approval rating and would (IMO) have been a shoo-in as Kaine's Lt.Gov. if they had wanted to do a straight switcheroo, but was being batted around as a possibility for the 2008 presidential election and, although he didn't run, eventually ran for Senate instead.

The bigger difference between Virginia and most other US states is that the General Assembly meets for only a very brief period once a year, so the changes they can actually make are very minimal. (There's a statutory maximum of 60 days in even-numbered years and 30 days in odd-numbered ones. In theory they can extend it by a 2/3rds vote but I don't think that happens often.) This is 100% by design; it's engineered to be conservative in the traditional sense of that word (resisting change).
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:28 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I think the first thing that we (generally) should be focused on is Fairfax's sexual assault charges. Having read the detailed accusation I find it sickeningly believable. I'm afraid this issue may get ultimately lost in the blackface discussion.

I think Northam should go, but I don't feel as strongly about the Lt. Gov and I'm not entirely sure why that's my emotional response. Possibly just Northam's pitiful attempt to justify his past and seeming lack of understanding of the underlying problem. I'm curious if POC see a difference in the two cases.

For now my practical side is saying getting rid of dumbfuck Northam and a sexual predator would be worth tolerating the Lt. Gov for a few years until he can be replaced. But then again, I tend to assume most white men in power are utter racist, sexist shits until proven otherwise, so I doubt this is a unique situation.
posted by threeturtles at 2:44 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Fairfax is the Lieutenant Governor. Herring (who came out with his blackface story ahead of any leaks) is AG.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:48 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what Herring's Kurtis Blow costume reveals about his character, but it's absolutely true that if it costs him the trust and good faith of the people he'd be representing as governor, he cannot effectively lead them. What I would really loathe to see (over here in CA without a dog in this fight) is white people rushing out in front to define the default acceptable woke liberal position on Herring.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:50 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I think Northam should go, but I don't feel as strongly about the Lt. Gov and I'm not entirely sure why that's my emotional response. Possibly just Northam's pitiful attempt to justify his past and seeming lack of understanding of the underlying problem. I'm curious if POC see a difference in the two cases.


As a person of color, I can't speak for everyone else, but Northam having been in blackface 35 years ago is a lot less abhorrent to me than how he handled that press conference and everything since. But then again, my expectations of what white people of all political stripes do and say around each other when they feel safe are rock bottom.

As for Fairfax, a lot of liberal and leftist people of color feel deeply ambivalent (as in feeling strongly in both directions) about #MeToo because of the long history of policing, criminalization, and hypersexualization of people of color, particularly black men and women. This isn't really captured in national discourse because of the lack of diversity in media, but it is also fueled by profound social desirability bias that really constrains any ability to have nuance around these issues.

It is how we ended up with lynch mobs and mass incarceration on one end and predators like Bill Cosby and R Kelly on the other end.

And calls to elect women of color aren't a surefire guarantee. Women assault men at shockingly high rates and I guarantee you that the GOP is going to eventually use both real and false sexual assault/harassment accusations against liberal and leftist women politicians as a way to oust them.
posted by Ouverture at 3:32 PM on February 6 [22 favorites]


Democrats traditionally throw PoC and women under the bus. So you are following tradition if you think the governor and Lt governor should stay in their positions because Republicans. Folks, it's like the poop milkshake; we need to walk away because it is both the right thing and the healthy thing to do no matter how painful in this moment.

So, as someone who voted for these clowns (reluctantly, after Perriello lost), losing the state to batshit Republican control is not an acceptable option to me, or to the electorate that voted by 9 points not to let the state be controlled by batshit Republicans. I do not have the exact answer that will satisfy all parties, and obviously we've all been misled and betrayed here, but this is still a 2 party, zero sum equation. The options are these shitty Democrats we are stuck with for now, with at least one of the three remaining in place, and replacing them with better ones then next time, or handing the state to our enemies who will do their best to harm everything we care about.

Speak for yourself, but as someone who lives here, married to someone who would very much be affected by Republican reproductive control and anti-women policies, that result is not acceptable, and is in fact much more harmful than fumbling through with a tainted Democratic leadership of the state and a crippled agenda.

I'm not willing to hold to the line of zero tolerance where partisan control is at stake. And if that makes me a failure to the movement, well, sorry. We're not all perfect all the time. But there's practical concerns here, and the less bad option is sometimes the only option.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:10 PM on February 6 [31 favorites]


OK, so I'm from Virginia, but I haven't lived there for at least 10 years. As a result, I'm not too familiar with Northam beyond the current scandal.

But as far as I've seen: He hasn't denied it, he has apologized (for whatever that's worth), he hasn't *defended* it, and in his actual policies and practices as a politician he seems pretty progressive (including on some class and race inflected things). Not perfect, but someone I'd be reasonably happy to have, at least by Virginia standards.

He did a regrettable thing 35 years ago, as a college student, but is now handling it in a reasonably mature way. This stands in contrast to a lot of other scandals we've seen recently, where the individuals in question resort to denial, defensiveness, waffling, stony silence, or name-calling.

I guess I'm having a hard time seeing why this guy is the Big Evil we need to tear down. He has some healing work to do, but the signals I'm getting off him say that he's actually *willing* to do it.
posted by Belostomatidae at 4:12 PM on February 6


If you think he's handled this in a reasonably mature way, you should watch his press conference from the weekend and it will disabuse you of that notion. He had to be prevented from moonwalking on stage.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:17 PM on February 6 [20 favorites]


What a shitshow. All I'm gonna say is that we just bought a house on a lake in Virginia and we plan to move there from New York and my kid (who lives in Boston) just texted me "I didn't think it was possible but you're moving to a state with a worse democratic governor than NY". Amen.
posted by bluesky43 at 4:18 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


...OK, I guess I should watch the video, which I somehow missed the link to. :-X

(All I've seen was text articles; I tend to avoid video, especially on news sites.)
posted by Belostomatidae at 4:49 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


But as far as I've seen: He hasn't denied it, he has apologized (for whatever that's worth),

Northam acknowledged it, apologized, and then unacknowledged it and unapologized.
posted by BungaDunga at 4:51 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


He unacknowledged it, and then owned up to having worn blackface under a different context instead, one possibly without any photographic record. I think that, under the circumstances, that's laudable for today-Northam. (Not any better for Northam-35-years-ago, obviously.) I haven't seen reference to him unapologizing for it, though.

That almost-moonwalked video is pretty cringe. :-/ I get the sense from the way his wife jumped in that he has to be reined in from impulsive actions like that sometimes, as an ongoing dynamic. I see something of myself in that, although I feel like I'd probably not be *visibly* tempted in that situation?
posted by Belostomatidae at 5:02 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


The amazing thing about the ’80s is they were much longer ago than you realize (Alexandra Petri, WaPo)
You may, naively, think you were alive in the 1980s, may even in moments of weakness claim to remember things that happened during this decade, may even feel that, really, it was not that different from being alive today, but that cannot possibly be correct. The ’80s are getting farther and farther into the past with every new headline, like Weeping Angels but in reverse.

Did you know that the period of time known today as the 1980s was actually at least — we cannot identify the number precisely, but archaeologists are helping us — anywhere from 100 to 200 years ago? Possibly as many as 300. With every newly discovered artifact, each yearbook, signed or otherwise, the ’80s move back another dozen years. Soon they will be somewhere in the Late Cretaceous.

We know that newspaper writers at least as far back as Frederick Douglass in the 1840s were calling blackface wrong, but word had not reached those who were alive in the ’80s, a fact that is helping us to date this era more precisely. That, and carbon extracted from numerous skeletons recently unearthed in Virginia closets.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:07 PM on February 6 [19 favorites]


I feel like the Northam and Herring situations are not identical. Northam's happened more recently, he was older when it happened, he didn't admit it himself, and his reaction since has been less clearly, "I fucked up and I'm ashamed."

I'm not saying what Herring did is okay, and I'm not saying it should be forgiven. But I do feel the two are somewhat different.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:07 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]


Why not? The guy seems to have done the work to change himself, understands why his actions were harmful, apologized for them and now works to undo the damage he did. He just took responsibility, owns his past mistakes and does what he can to do better now.

What am I missing?


Apparently, what you're missing is the fact that it was blackface.

There's no coming back from that. The question isn't whether this person is okay to maybe hang around with or something, you can make your own judgment on that, the question is whether this person is fit to be governor of Virginia. Or even attorney general. The answer is unequivocally no.

"But what about all the other politicians who've put on blackface in post-graduate school? Should we force them to resign too?" Yes! Obviously yes! This is the easiest question in the world! Propping up racists, and sex pests, and other sorts of monsters just because they've got a D after their name makes us no better than the skinhead on the right.

Signed, a Virginian, who held her nose and voted for Northam in the general, and was pissed he won the primary at the time.
posted by kafziel at 5:09 PM on February 6 [12 favorites]


The other piece of the press conference that got me was Northam going out of his way to tell us that he learned blackface was wrong when his black assistant and driver told him so during the campaign, and he promised that he would never do it again.

Only learning that blackface is wrong THAT RECENTLY is not a good look. And promising not to do it again?! That sounds like he might have considered it, if not for his extremely patient driver!

Also it's the plot to Driving Miss Daisy.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:16 PM on February 6 [18 favorites]


Atom Eyes: "So let's say we lived in a world in which all three beleaguered officials decided to step down for the good of the commonwealth and the party. If the Lt. Gov. and the AG were to resign office first, would the Governor then be able to appoint their successors before stepping down himself, or would there have to be special elections to fill those positions?"


* Lt gov: Upon a vacancy, the office would briefly be held by the Senate president pro tem until the governor appoints someone to fill the LG office. Then *probably* they would have to run in a special election this November in order to complete the remaining two years of the term. The law is a little unclear here; the appointee might be able to just fill out the remaining two years of the term.

* Att gen: If the AG resigns while the General Assembly is in session (which it is now), the vacancy is filled by a majority vote of the whole body. The GOP narrowly controls both chambers, so presumably it name a Republican. If the AG resigns while the GA is not in session - I believe the current session ends Feb 9 - the governor can appoint someone until the GA comes back. They do a one day session in April for vetoed bills; I'm not sure if that would count as coming back. Whomever ends up the AG would serve until 2021.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:18 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I oppose wearing blackface. But I don't think moonwalking is a hate crime. But then again I grew up in Richmond.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:22 PM on February 6


Herring was when he was 19. It wasn't directly harmful to anyone beyond the insensitive insult (in contrast to physical / sexual assault). He doesn't deserve to be booted out over it.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:23 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


I was in college in the 80s. I can't and won't defend blackface, but I don't have any experience with that. What I do remember is the debates in the feminist groups I belonged to about whether "we" ought to include gay rights in our agenda. Hard-liners felt that we'd be diluting our feminist message if we included lesbians. Those people weren't evilly homophobic, they were just-- I don't know what. Too focused? Lacking in empathy? Wrong? I'm pretty sure, however, that they eventually snapped out of it, even if it took a few decades. If one of those people were in public office now and sincerely admitted to being wrong back then, I'd accept the apology. If you look at the progress society has made with LGBTQ+ issues since the 80s, it's staggering. People's opinions have changed. People have grown. I have to believe that it's possible, and I have to believe that those people should be forgiven. I saw Northam's press conference, however, and I'm perplexed.
posted by acrasis at 6:13 PM on February 6 [11 favorites]


Rep Jennifer Wexton [D - VA-10]: I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:16 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Breitbart (sp?) so not linking, has an article claiming Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon are not commenting on the story because they have both done comedy bits in blackface.
posted by 445supermag at 8:29 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Rep Bobby Scott [D-VA 03] is sometimes called the dean of the Virginia delegation, his statement says, "Allegations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously. I have known Professor Tyson for approximately a decade and she is a friend. She deserves the opportunity to have her story heard."

Scott was contacted by Tyson about Fairfax in October 2017 and made aware of the allegations in December 2017.

Scott himself has been accused of sexual harassment which he has denied.
posted by peeedro at 8:42 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


T.D. Strange, I agree with your point about bad vs. less bad options. You live there, you have a much better perspective than I could possibly have about the very real damage Republicans in those positions could inflict on PoC, women, and non-billionaires. What a pickle.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:50 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


A year book staffer says that each student had control over the pictures on their page. That is unsurprising. Probably won’t make a difference either way to the outcome but it makes the governor’s walk back of his apology seem even more ridiculous.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:55 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


I think Northam should resign because I honestly don't believe him not knowing about the yearbook photo and his general handling of this. I think Fairfax should also resign barring some new revelation that proves his innocence. I think Herring should stay in order to prevent the office from going to someone much worse. Drawing the line between Northam and Herring is largely rationalization to justify holding on to the office, but they did handle things very differently. Ideally, Herring would also agree to leave political office after serving out the term.

Democrats do need to hold themselves to a higher standard, but I don't think the only option for all past wrongs is resignation, especially if it means handing power to those who will use it to hurt people.
posted by snofoam at 2:57 AM on February 7 [11 favorites]


I'm so mad, y'all.
posted by dogheart at 3:33 AM on February 7 [10 favorites]


Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that there really is an active conspiracy of Republicans, various foreign actors, your least favorite right wing billionaires, and the Heritage Foundation to dig up dirt on Democrats and find the people who are racists, the people who are sexual predators, and expose them so that the Democratic Party turns on them and evicts them.

If that's the case, then the proper response is "thank you, and I'm sorry you had to do this yourself instead of the Democratic Party doing the job it fucking well should have been doing".

In the short term if this means we miss a chance at having the governorship of Virginia until the next election, well that's definitely not good overall and it is specifically harmful to the people of Virginia who will suffer under Republican rule. But, not to be callous, it's in service of the greater good and the long term strength and success of the Democratic Party.

I'd rather lose Virginia until 2020 then have the Democrats poisoned by racists and sexual predators thus setting us up for deeper losses in the future.

We need a deep Party wide purge of every grifter, thief, criminal, racist, and sexual predator.

Even leaving aside moral and philosophic reasons why we can't be a Party that's friendly to and helps bury the sins of, such people from a purely practical standpoint it's absolutely necessary for future survival.

The Republicans, basically, are the Party of rich white men. The Democrats are, basically, the Party of everyone else.

Every racist we have in the Democratic Party drives away the black voters we depend on for victory.

Every sexual predator we have in the Democratic Party drives away the women voters we depend on for victory.

Every criminal, grifter, and corrupt money taking scumfuckers we have in the Democratic Party drives away the voters looking for economic justice we depend on for victory.

We need a deep and through vetting of every candidate, and most important we need a Party culture that makes it clear that if you are exposed after hiding a history of wrongdoing you will be driven out and shunned forever to discourage such people from running as Democrats and thereby weakening the Party.

Clearly the Democratic Party is doing a piss poor job of this, and/or many in Party leadership identify more with the racist, sexual predator, criminal, sort of person and doesn't want to try to oust them. If the Republicans, the Kremlin, the Kochs, and the Heritage Foundation are doing for us the job we should have done ourselves, I applaud them and invite them to do more vetting for us.
posted by sotonohito at 6:05 AM on February 7 [9 favorites]


As an example, take Bill Clinton.

Let's be straightforward and blunt here: he was a grifter and a sexual predator. As governor of Alabama he abused his power to try and enrich himself through shady land deals, and the fact that he was fucking incompetent at this and actually lost money in Whitewater does not in any way, shape, or form, change the fact that he **TRIED** to abuse his office for personal financial gain.

Likewise, he is, and was even at the time he was running for governor, a sexual predator and was at the very least guilty of harassment, and is all but certainly guilty of sexual assault and you can make a damn fine case that he's guilty of rape. Again, all this was known before his Presidential run.

The man should never have been permitted to even be the candidate, much less win the Presidency. Yes, it was stupid and shitty and petty for the Republicans to impeach him for lying about a (deeply disturbing due to the power imbalance between him and Lewinski and the coercion that would have existed without him even trying) blowjob. But he was a predator, a would be criminal and abuser of office, and we never should have let him be Governor, much less President.

I won't say that the structural weaknesses that Bill created in the Democratic Party, and especially the way Hillary was weakened by her association and defense of Bill, were the sole cause of Hillary's loss in 2016, but it was undoubtedly a contributing factor.

We are not stronger for electing such people, and we are weaker for having them in our ranks and trying to keep their secrets. A Democratic Party purged of the taint of graft, sexual abuse, and racism is a stronger, better, more vital, Democratic Party, a Democratic Party that can win in races it cannot even compete in today.
posted by sotonohito at 6:12 AM on February 7 [12 favorites]


Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas not Alabama.
posted by bluesky43 at 6:18 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


In the short term if this means we miss a chance at having the governorship of Virginia until the next election, well that's definitely not good overall and it is specifically harmful to the people of Virginia who will suffer under Republican rule. But, not to be callous, it's in service of the greater good and the long term strength and success of the Democratic Party.

Okay, but when you're talking about throwing out elected officials the priority should be the greater good and long-term strength of the state, not the party. Governor Kirk Cox with unified Republican control of the legislature would kill people. Which is why the Republicans have lost every statewide election here in this decade. I'm not comfortable saddling any state, much less mine, with a malignant government that they decisively voted against, in the name of party-level housecleaning.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:22 AM on February 7 [16 favorites]


It's really frustrating to see people discuss Northam as if him wearing blackface is something that can be taken in isolation to evaluate whether that incident in itself is deserving of an end to his political career. As if it says nothing about who he is, who he was, or what his beliefs are.

Blackface is one of the very few things that our society has settled on seeing as unambiguously racist. Think about how much racism we see everyday that is given a veil of plausible deniability by white culture. By ducking behind excuses about intent or who they are in their heart of hearts, white people are able to get away with almost anything barring wearing blackface, using the n-word, or literally advocating for slavery.

Northam didn't just wear blackface. He wore it proudly to a public event. He posed for pictures. And he chose one of those photos as almost uniquely worthy of memorializing from his time in medical school. He was unambiguously racist in just about the most public way he possibly could be. If this is the way he chose to represent himself in full view, what the fuck was this dude doing behind closed doors? And why should we give him the benefit of the doubt that the contempt for black people we see in that photo isn't shaping his decisions to this day?
posted by parallellines at 6:36 AM on February 7 [12 favorites]


Okay, but when you're talking about throwing out elected officials the priority should be the greater good and long-term strength of the state, not the party. Governor Kirk Cox with unified Republican control of the legislature would kill people. Which is why the Republicans have lost every statewide election here in this decade. I'm not comfortable saddling any state, much less mine, with a malignant government that they decisively voted against, in the name of party-level housecleaning.

Not only that, but given that his term would run to 2021 (remember, VA has off-year elections), that would mean he would be running the redistricting process.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:55 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


Anyone who'd rather hand VA over to a Republican because if this nonsense is a terrible strategist and motivated by emotion rather than reason. Think about the Big Picture if you want to make lasting positive changes.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:12 AM on February 7


And keeping him would be telling black voters in Virginia to go fuck themselves and that the Democrats hate them and are totally fine having a racist fucker in charge.

What, exactly, do you think the black voters of Virginia will do then? Do you really see them supporting the Democratic Party with vigor and enthusiasm and winning elections after being told by the Democratic Party that they are subhuman and unworthy? I don't.

You're trying to argue for a short term gain at the cost of a huge long term loss.

Now, right this second, for the first time in my entire life, people are actually engaging with politics, seeing how it impacts their own lives directly and personally, and what the Democratic Party does right now is going to determine the future of the entire USA for the next twenty to forty years.

We can either be a genuine big tent, and actually include black voters, women voters, LGBT voters, Latinx voters, and socialist voters in that tent, or we can keep mindlessly bleating the phrase "big tent" when what we really mean is "we wanna have space for rich racist white chucklefucks who are really conservative but pretend to be Democratic in order to sabotage the Party".

Now is the decision point.

You can either have a Party that is welcoming to rich white racists, or you can have a Party that is welcoming to everyone else. You can't have both, picking to be welcoming to racists automatically and unavoidably makes the Party unwelcoming to everyone who isn't a racist.

If you pick short term gains at the expense of the long term health and survival of the Party then the Party will fail and die.
posted by sotonohito at 7:18 AM on February 7 [11 favorites]


I'm not in defense of blackface, for fucks sake, but I think this look back with a surety that it indicated racial hostility on the part of people who did it in the 70s/80s is inaccurate. Hollywood made SOUL MAN in 1986, a movie that thought itself progressive enough to barf this out near the end
Professor Banks: You've learned something I can't teach them. You've learned what it feels like to be black.

Mark: No sir.

Professor Banks: Beg your pardon?

Mark: I don't really know what it feels like sir. If I didn't like it, I could always get out. It's not the same sir.

Professor Banks: You've learned a great deal more than I thought.
Yeah, they're white savior jackholes with subconscious superiority concepts soaked into their pores. But uncritically lumping them with people like the Trumps who were, at that same point in time, engaging in redlining and discriminating against black tenants? That's just nuts.
posted by phearlez at 7:32 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


So, what happens when control is handed to the GOP, who then promptly use it to not only institute policies that will hurt and kill people, but will also work to make sure that the embarrassing defeats they suffered through the past few years can never happen again? Because if they are given power, that's what will happen.

They are looking to use our morals against us, to get us to say that "the only moral path is for us to surrender power to people who will tear down everything we hold dear." But to do that, they need us to co-operate with them, and we don't have to.

Also, let me flip the question around on you - how excited are those groups going to be to support Democrats when we hand power over to people who look to harm them and take away their voice?
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:33 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


If you have a plan that involves keeping either the racist or the rapist that **ALSO** manages to keep the loyalty, enthusiasm, volunteer work, and vigor of the black voters, women voters, and LGBT voters of Virginia I'd love to hear it.

And no, "they just will, because they have no other option" isn't an answer.
posted by sotonohito at 7:34 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


And no, "they just will, because they have no other option" isn't an answer.

My answer is "they're not stupid, and aren't going to trade actual harm for a moral victory." Which is exactly what giving power to the GOP would be.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:38 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


And keeping him would be telling black voters in Virginia to go fuck themselves and that the Democrats hate them and are totally fine having a racist fucker in charge.
...
If you pick short term gains at the expense of the long term health and survival of the Party then the Party will fail and die.


'The Democratic party' is not really in charge of keeping Northam or not, so I'm not really sure why you're calling this a litmus test for the national party; and there have been widespread calls from the party for Northam to resign. I'm not sure how the party calling for him to resign and leave office means that the party is fine with him staying in office.

And, secondly, if the Republican party gains control of the Governorship -- which is one possible hypothetical here -- then VA is going to be redistricted to favor Republicans there will only be racists in charge for the next decade-plus. Keeping the Governorship in Democratic hands -- which is what black voters in VA overwhelming voted for! people do mostly vote for parties and not for candidates -- is probably what most Democratic voters want. The problem here is how to make that Democratic governor be someone other than Northam, and instead someone who has the backing of Democratic voters, which is obviously very forking complicated giving the issues with both Fairfax and Herring.
posted by cjelli at 7:38 AM on February 7 [7 favorites]


I see we're still circling around "racism is bad, but what can we do?" Congrats.
posted by runcibleshaw at 7:48 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


I see we're still circling around "racism is bad, but what can we do?" Congrats.

Racism is bad.

Allowing ratfuckers to use our opposition to racism as a means to empower racism is worse.

All this is not happening in a vacuum - if the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general are forced out, then the GOP gets the governorship. And they will not waste that opportunity.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:55 AM on February 7 [17 favorites]


It's not like I have any power here anyway. And I also know that the real powers in the Democratic Party will never allow the Governorship to shift to a Republican, so they'll keep either the racist or the rapist.

So, let's pull the implicit argument out from this and make it explicit: Do you believe that allowing the GOP to take power in Virginia is less harmful than the Democrats retaining power by keeping one of the three individuals between the GOP and the governor's mansion?

Because there's a lot of us that seriously disagree with that notion. Not to mention that in that situation, Democrats would still get blamed for letting it happen.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:11 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Also, let me flip the question around on you - how excited are those groups going to be to support Democrats when we hand power over to people who look to harm them and take away their voice?

There are plenty of black voices out there who have already shared their opinion on this. And talking about "those groups" who "we" are talking about sure as shit ain't helping.
posted by parallellines at 8:14 AM on February 7 [6 favorites]


There are plenty of black voices out there who have already shared their opinion on this.

Including the Herring admission from yesterday? Because that changes the calculus dramatically and last I heard my legislators, whatever their race, were still refusing comment on it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:18 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Yes, not only including that, but directly about that.
posted by parallellines at 8:25 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Also, the point here is not just "We're anti-racism as long as it doesn't keep our team out of power, yay team" -- it's that if you want to push racists out of office, putting Kirk Cox in power is fundamentally antithetical to that goal, because the Virginia Republican Party is a bunch of big fucking racists! That's been their entire campaign platform for three consecutive elections! Keeping Northam in power would be a betrayal of what we voted for in 2017, but replacing him with a Republican would also be a betrayal, and squaring that circle is hard. Pretending that it's not isn't helpful.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:26 AM on February 7 [17 favorites]


Of course it's hard, but so many white Democrats seem to be clinging to the easiest possible solutions. Sighing and saying that nothing can be done is very, very easy.
posted by parallellines at 8:33 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


So all possible political leadership in Virginia, Republican or Democrat, is racist or otherwise corrupt?
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:34 AM on February 7


He did a regrettable thing 35 years ago, as a college student, but is now handling it in a reasonably mature way.

No, he actually isn't. You know, I usually resist this kind of broad brush, but I'm starting to think a lot of white Virginians have a big-ass blind spot here. I work with some old, white, fairly liberal women from Virginia who don't see what the big deal is, and started talking about how "purity politics" is bad and people do dumb things when they're kids, and it's just a costume, and etc., and I'm just sitting here thinking "Blackface?!?! Klan Costume?!?! PURITY POLITICS? Have you literally never been friends with a person of color or bothered to talk to someone long enough to understand why this shit is offensive and completely unacceptable?" This shit isn't just tone deaf, a KKK costume is a blatant threat of racial violence.

Not to mention how half of the argument is yet another perfect example of how "boys-will-be-boys" applies to white men until they're like 40 and black kids are tried as adults at 16.
__________

Re the Dr. Who and Jeeves and Wooster stuff, this is one place where the British and American context are substantially different. I mean the Jeeves episode is meant to take place in the Twenties and was more-or-less period-accurate, but people would have been furious if that aired on American network TV (it was syndicated on PBS; curious if there was any blowback at the time).

Northam is a total maroon
Not trying to be ungenerous here, but that's . . . an unfortunate choice of words in this context.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:38 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


I honestly don't understand what the easy solution is supposed to be. Keeping Northam means rewarding his awful behavior (both 30 years ago and in the past week) and keeping a nominally "Democratic" governor who in reality has neither a party nor a constituency, killing the Democratic agenda in Virginia dead for the next three years. Fairfax increasingly seems to be an actual rapist. Herring has handled his blackface incident much better than Northam (low bar) but still did the thing; if black Virginians are willing to accept the apology I won't object but nuance has not often prevailed in American politics during my lifetime (assuming that nuance even favors his staying in office). Bringing in someone outside that group means installing an unelected governor.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:44 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


As a Virginian, I am not real interested in taking a bullet for the greater good of the Democratic Party. The party as a national organization means fuckall to me, and about half the time I think they're standing in the way of progress, not facilitating it. So, if that's the reason to get rid of Northam immediately, lol no. I'm open to arguments that it's somehow beneficial to actual people living here, but skeptical.

Virginia is in the midst of maybe (probably? I don't really want to count unhatched chickens) turning blue, but it's still got a lot of red. And the Right—not really even "Republicans" but a particular subset of them—are going to take every opportunity and use every dirty trick to hang onto power. This means redistricting is important. There's also more traction on rolling back some of the worst shit that the Christian Taliban-wanna-bes have managed to get enacted, than I've ever seen in decades.

Allowing Republicans to force an own-goal that hands the governorship over to them would be a mistake. However bad Northam is, I have every reason to believe that an unelected Trumpist apparatchik would be worse. In that scenario, it's not a choice between racists and non-racists, it's very likely a choice between an outed racist whose political career is likely over anyway, and an actual malignant racist who will be using every aspect of their newly-achieved office to advance an agenda that's calculatedly, materially harmful to a vast swath of people.

Choosing between the lesser of two evils isn't exactly a new thing to Virginia voters. I have faith that people will understand, because most of them have been doing it for years. Accepting such an obviously forced own-goal is counterproductive for the people of Virginia. From everything that I've seen since moving here more than a decade ago, I think voters are likely to be more interested in results and material changes to their lives than ideological correctness. Between a guy who thought blackface was funny in the 80s and somebody who thinks Confederate statues are appropriate today, hopefully people will see the practical considerations.

Now, maybe there's some solution that allows Northam, Fairfax, and Herring to all go, without handing the Commonwealth over to be remade into East Trumpistan (or just burned down in a fit of pique when they can't) for the next two years. I'm at least hopeful there's some path there — maybe based on the order in which they step down, or by having them delay until the end of the current legislative session, or something. Hopefully people with a better grasp of procedure are thinking about that.

But doing it immediately, given that the entire thing was precipitated by a calculated press leak by a right-wing news outlet (Big League Politics, citing a "concerned citizen"—snort) in retaliation for Northam's abortion comments, cedes the initiative. Virginia Democrats should take out their own trash, but not when it's going to mean abandoning the job they were elected to do.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:45 AM on February 7 [24 favorites]


Of course it's hard, but so many white Democrats seem to be clinging to the easiest possible solutions. Sighing and saying that nothing can be done is very, very easy.

Alright, what should be done? Having all three resign is out of the question, because that would install a racist as governor who would enact bigoted policy that would harm minorities. So you have to keep one, at least initially, to stop that from happening. The consensus seems to be that Herring is the best choice for that, with how he's handled the matter.

Now, the next point is do you let Herring serve out the term, or do you get someone in to replace him without the baggage? The problem here is that before you can do that, you need a replacement appointed, and the problem there is that it's likely that it requires assent of the Legislature, which...has a lot of reasons not to assent. So you have the problem of not even being able to get a replacement in position.

(The issue of having an unelected governor isn't that big of one, personally - if we treat Ford as a legitimate President, that ship's long since sailed.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:52 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Do you believe that allowing the GOP to take power in Virginia is less harmful than the Democrats retaining power by keeping one of the three individuals between the GOP and the governor's mansion?

Yes.

Yes, I do.

Look at the entire history of the Democratic Party in the USA from 1980 on and you'll see why. The single biggest problem for the Democrats is voter enthusiasm. We have almost never had it. The Party has wandered aimlessly since the Civil Rights act and the loss of the racist white guy vote, and it has fruitlessly pursued the racist white guy vote at the expense of all other votes since 1968. The Democrats are convinced that if somehow they can just find the right bit of triangulation, they can manage to have both the diverse big tent votes of women, and LGBT people, and people of color, and leftists, **AND ALSO** keep or gain the racist white guy vote.

It has never, not one single time, worked.

The racist white guy vote is lost to the Democrats forever. The only votes they can ever possibly get again are the votes of all the other people who aren't racist white guys.

Chasing the racist white guy vote does nothing but alienate, dispirit, and drive away the votes of every other category of voter. You know, the voters the Democrats absolutely depend on for victory? The voters who handed the Democrats the biggest electoral victory in Virginia in decades? Those people?

How exactly do you think insulting the people who gave the Democrats enough votes to win the last election in Virginia is going to be a long term successful strategy?

Sure, in an ideal world where people vote based on pure logic and reason, it makes sense. The non-racist white guy voters of Virginia would recognize that keeping control of the governorship is important even if it means keeping a racist or rapist in office, and continue to support the Democrats in future elections.

But people aren't rational actors.

Worse, the Democrats need volunteer hours and donated dollars in addition to votes. And voting is enough of a chore in the USA that simply getting people to vote is difficult. Getting them to contribute money or time to a candidate is much harder than merely getting them to vote.

Politics competes for money, time, and mindspace with every other thing in a person's life. And for a great many Americans to vote or not to vote is a matter decided by how enthused and emotionally engaged they are, not a matter of cold logic and crystalline reason.

For the less involved voter all they're going to take away is "eh, the Democrats decided to keep a racist and/or rapist" and that will cause them to be disengaged and all the other things they have competing for their money, time, and mindspace will win out over voting or supporting Democrats.

Again, this isn't empty theorizing, this is what we've seen happen in election after election in America. When the voters could feel emotionally engaged the Democrats won. Sometimes this happens because the Republicans are really fucking horrible, that's what we saw in 2018. Sometimes it happens because the Democrats make a mistake and nominate a candidate who has some charisma instead of their obvious preference for unlikable droning bores like Gore, Kerry, Mondale, and Dukakis.

I get that losing the Governorship of Virginia to the Republicans is a massive blow and I'm not even slightly happy about the prospect. It'll be a huge setback from a legal standpoint, no denying it. Not as huge as it might be since Virginia is already so gerrymandered that the Democrats couldn't manage a majority in the State Assembly despite having a huge majority of the votes. I'm not sure they actually can make the maps much worse than they already are.

But yes, I do think that in the long term the Democrats in Virginia will lose vastly more than they will gain if they keep the rapist or one of the racists. Because on an emotional level, the level where most people do their real decision making, that's going to convince a significant percentage of non-racist white guy voters not to bother. Not all of them of course, but enough to throw the future of Virginia to the Republican Party for decades.

From my POV this isn't about asking Virginia to sacrifice itself for the greater good of the Democratic Party nationwide. This is about the the survival of Virginia and Democrats in Virginia. I am entirely convinced that if the racists or rapist are allowed to stay it will do deep and decades long harm to Virginia by turning a generation of enthusiastic voters into non-voters.
posted by sotonohito at 8:56 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


I'm not willing to hold to the line of zero tolerance where partisan control is at stake.

You realize this is always, always the answer for why rapists are still tolerated in our society. Partisan control takes care of the politicians. Substitute “partisan control” for “stock value” and that’s why these guys get golden handshake sendoffs in businesses. Substitute “the reputation of our institution” and that’s why it proliferates at campuses.

Everyone has something precious to them that they don’t want to lose, and somehow it always seems to take precedence over saying “hey you can’t rape people, no matter how valuable a dude you are.” The fact that Fairfax could say “F that b” in a closed door meeting about someone who accused him of sexual assault? That means that all his long statement about caring about victims is straight up bullshit, and everyone in that room that didn’t leak the statement knows it and is okay with it. Fairfax figured he could get away with horrible behavior because he had the power - and if he stays in office, it makes him right about that.
posted by corb at 8:56 AM on February 7 [9 favorites]


I will add that maybe, possibly, by getting out in front and issuing a genuine apology it is conceivable that Herring can assume the governorship on a temporary, only until it is possible to appoint someone better basis, and not ruin the future of Virginia.

I'd suggest that to accomplish this he would need to have a long conversation about the pervasiveness of racism, the disservice he did to the voters of Virginia by even running with that in his past, and announce that he is taking the job, despite his disqualifying history of racism, only until the next election or until it is possible for a Democrat to be appointed to the job, and that he will never run for any elected position again.

I'm not sure that'd actually save the situation. By their own egotism and ambition three people who should have stayed out of politics instead ran and have done massive damage to Virginia and the future voters in Virginia. But maybe.

If he really did pledge to take the job only until it was possible for a Democrat who was morally superior to him to take it and swore off politics for life he might manage it. I wouldn't count on it, but I'd see it as faintly possible.
posted by sotonohito at 9:10 AM on February 7


Here's the thing - in terms of emotional impact, the Democrats are fucked either way, because they will be held to blame for the damage that a Cox governorship will do, because they would have allowed him to be given power to harm them. I also think that downplaying the damage that Cox would do shows an underestimation of what he would do if in power, because there's a lot of matters where he would enable harm, like reproductive rights (which is where this all started.)

So, given that the Democrats get the blame either way, they are going to take the actual victory over the moral one, because at the end of the day, moral victories don't protect people.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:13 AM on February 7 [10 favorites]


Getting reallllllllly tired of the hot-takes on Twitter suggesting that the Democratic Party and the people of Virginia knowingly elected a racist.

If the people of Virginia wanted to elect a racist, they'd have voted for the Republican.

Instead, they turned out, and voted for the Democratic candidate who had no publicly-known red flags, and ran a demonstrably less racist campaign.

Let's not throw the activists who somehow turned Virginia blue under the bus. They didn't want this. None of us wanted this.
posted by schmod at 9:15 AM on February 7 [28 favorites]


The evidence that having one bad Democrat remain in power will kill all enthusiasm for forever seems nil to me. Northam was no great progressive hero. Northam will also never run for anything again. Neither will Fairfax now, and probably not Herring. We will have a whole new slate in 2021 to get excited about, and maybe that person will be the black mayor of Richmond. You’re telling me black voters will not turn out for Levar Stoney because we didn’t hand the state over to Republicans 2 years before? What?
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:26 AM on February 7 [14 favorites]


Ratfucking is dirty tricks a la Karl Rove. It's not when you get caught doing something heinous or illegal.
posted by great_radio at 9:39 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I get that losing the Governorship of Virginia to the Republicans is a massive blow and I'm not even slightly happy about the prospect. It'll be a huge setback from a legal standpoint, no denying it. Not as huge as it might be since Virginia is already so gerrymandered that the Democrats couldn't manage a majority in the State Assembly despite having a huge majority of the votes. I'm not sure they actually can make the maps much worse than they already are.

Not making the maps any worse isn't necessary. The maps as they stand keep the minority party in majority power. For Republican purposes the maps are sufficiently awful and they'll be just fine with the idea of not changing them. You hand-wave this away like it's already the situation so eh whatever, but if you're going to go on at this length about enthusiasm gaps I don't see how you then just shrug about active disenfranchisement. The most enthusiastic electorate that isn't allowed to get representation is no more empowered or effective than a soggy tissue.
posted by phearlez at 9:52 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Update: it got worse.

Virginia Pilot, Virginia Sen. Tommy Norment was an editor for VMI yearbook filled with racist photos and slurs
A Virginia Military Institute yearbook overseen by future state Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment in 1968 features a host of racist photos and slurs, including blackface.

The revelation about one of Virginia's most powerful Republicans comes as the state’s Democratic governor and attorney general are facing calls to resign over their own admissions they wore blackface as young men.

On one page of the yearbook, a student poses in blackface, surrounded by others in costumes at a party. Another page features a photo of two men in blackface holding a football.

The N-word is used at least once. A student listed as being from Bangkok, Thailand is referred to as a [racial slurs that are both extremely offensive and treat people from all of Asia as indistinguishable]
...
When a reporter asked Norment to talk about the yearbook Thursday, the majority leader said, “The only thing I’m talking about today is the budget.”

“I’m here to pass a budget today,” he added when pressed as he headed into a Republican Caucus meeting in late morning.
posted by zachlipton at 9:58 AM on February 7 [13 favorites]


Can't wait for Republicans to tell us how Norment's participation in all this is unacceptable and he should step down.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:13 AM on February 7 [14 favorites]


Even with completely legit scandals, it would certainly be to Republicans' benefit for the entire Democratic chain of succession in the state government to be wiped out at the same time, rather than having it play out over a period of months or years and with replacements for each disgraced official stepping up in turn.

The problem is that you can't decline to address actual misbehavior because you suspect it was publicized in bad faith. All you can do is diligently vet each claim to make sure false accusations get shot down.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:17 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Update: it got worse.

Well, yeah, and it’s gonna keep getting worse, because now there’s a small army of journalists hunting down every yearbook ever produced in the state of Virginia. (A state which, correct me if I’m wrong, still celebrates “Robert E. Lee Day” instead of MLK day. There are going to be lots of yearbooks.)

It’s probably going to be a racist apocalypse for white men over a certain age.

I would like to hear what the congressional black caucus in VA has to say about whether Heller can lead effectively at this point. Northam and Fairfax have to fucking go, and it is frankly horrifying to hear anyone argue differently.

People are acting like this necessarily hands the state to the GOP. Uh? No. Unless I’m very wrong about the legality, it would be perfectly possible for Northam and Fairfax to coordinate resignations to make sure that doesn’t happen. That is what the GOP would do. This doesn’t seem like rocket science. The only reason it seems impossible is because both Northam and Fairfax are garbage people.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:18 AM on February 7 [17 favorites]


A state which, correct me if I’m wrong, still celebrates “Robert E. Lee Day” instead of MLK day

Lee-Jackson Day is observed in Virginia the Friday before MLK Day. They were observed on the same day from 1983 until 2000.
posted by peeedro at 10:24 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Yeah, tossing Northam and Fairfax is a no-brainer. The catch is if Herring also goes, because at that point there would either have to be a nominated replacement for at least one of the three men, confirmed by the GOP-majority legislature, or House Speaker Cox would take over as the third in line for the governorship and give the Republicans a trifecta. Given what they stand to gain, they would have no motivation to approve any Democratic nominee.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:25 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see VA Dems go ahead and use every technically-legal-but-it's-just-not-done trick they can to oust all three of them while keeping every office they can in their hands. Just break all the norms, the GOP isn't operating in good faith here so there is no reason to operate in good faith to give them what they want.

Fight dirty while upholding our morals. It's sort of what Governor Dayton did to replace Franken in the Senate. He appointed his Lt. Governor because that way the Republican speaker of the MN State House then got "promoted" to Lt. Gov. to replace her which gave us the chance for a Dem majority in the MN House.

While they're at they should go ahead and have a "whelp, we agree, all the people with racist or sexist stuff from their past need to resign" party. There is no way the GOP comes out on top in that war of attrition. The only real problem there is that the VA GOP likely wouldn't hold themselves to the same standard.
posted by VTX at 10:34 AM on February 7 [7 favorites]


[Sonohito, it's time for you to back way off and let the conversation continue. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:54 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Probably the best case scenario from a trickery standpoint is:

* Northam resigns, Fairfax becomes gov
* Fairfax names Herring LG
* Fairfax resigns, Herring becomes gov.
* Herring names some Dem as LG

GOP has majority control of the legislature, so Dems can't get a permanent AG person, unfortunately.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:25 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Or we could break away from Herring altogether, I guess. Fairfax resigns, names OtherDem as LG, Northam resigns. Then we get:

gov: OtherDem 1
LG: OtherDem 2
AG: Herring
posted by Chrysostom at 11:30 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression that there's not actually a provision in the Virginia Constitution for replacing the lieutenant governor by appointment. It looks like the last couple of times it happened, they had a special election and didn't appoint a replacement. I'm not sure I would bank on any plan that would require it.
posted by Copronymus at 11:34 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Um....isn't this all kind of premature if last I heard nobody had a way to force any of these people out? I'm still confused on that one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:36 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Is there any reason to think a special election wouldn’t work?
posted by corb at 11:36 AM on February 7


Herring is a red herring. What he did at 19 doesn't equate with a full-page of KKK plus black-face plus lame-assed no apology apology and it certainly doesn't equate with sexual assault.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:42 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Is there any reason to think a special election wouldn’t work?

The state constitution specifies that the acting governor serves out the remainder of the term. There could be a special election for lieutenant governor, but that would happen on our usual election day in November, so it's not a solution to an immediate crisis.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:45 AM on February 7


Also, yes, jenfullmoon, we're still relying on shame to get people to leave office in the first place.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:46 AM on February 7


Is there any reason to think a special election wouldn’t work?

Commonwealth rules regarding special elections would slow this process down. Other than that, the main fear is that people don't turn out for special elections, and that knocking out the Gov. due to racism and the African American Lt. Gov. due to (alleged) sexual misconduct will have a dampening effect on turnout.

Disregarding those very real concerns, a special election might well work. All the same democratic activists are still motivated, most of the prominent Republicans in the state are slavering unappealing racist Trumpies, and there are plenty of qualified candidates, including Tom Periello.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:50 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


They dug up the guy who primarily wrote the current version of the state constitution in the 60s, and he thought the governor could appoint to fill an LG vacancy. Still might be a court battle.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:08 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


OK, I went ahead and watched the full 42 minute press conference (the second one) because I don't trust out-of-context clips on Twitter.

Some of what y'all are saying is not substantiated by what Northam has said, and I'm inclined to believe he is not lying on factual matters, regardless of whether his past or present actions should require him to step down. Things he said in his statement and in answer to reporter questions:

- He did not receive a yearbook, so he wasn't aware of this photo
- He remembers sending in the other three photos
- Classmates confirm that some photos ended up on the wrong pages in the yearbook, and there were a number of other people in blackface
- He doesn't know where the nickname "Coonman" came from, and that besides two people, everyone else used "Goose" as a nickname
- He thinks there's a difference between the blackface in the photo and his Michael Jackson costume (I'm not sure I agree, but I think it's interesting that he draws that distinction. Not gonna get into this one, lol.)
- He did not take back his apology at all (I don't know where people are getting this)
- He was pretty sure it wasn't him in the picture from the get-go, but apologized anyway because... well, he doesn't explain exactly why, but the impression I got was "holy shit that was on my yearbook page? I need to apologize right now no matter what"
- The "considered moonwalking" moment is still awkward, but not as bad as it is out of context. He's perfectly serious for the rest of the 42 minutes. My guess? Bad coping mechanism, hoping to inject some levity. (People familiar with VA politics, is that a thing he does? Tell jokes under stress? Or was this unusual?) It's not like he had to be physically restrained or whatever, as some people have made it out to be.

I'm not going to ask people to watch the whole thing. It's long and repetitive and the questions are about 30% insightful/70% inane. (I don't usually watch videos at all. Terrible format.) And I'm not going to demand that you believe every word he says. But please be skeptical of the soundbites you're getting.

----

Here's the impression I got: While he grew up around black people, he was still sheltered enough not to know that while it's OK to dress up like some people, it's not OK to dress up like some other people. (That's, uh, still a lesson we're working through, as a culture. Still figuring out those boundaries.)

I remember being in that place, later I became more educated on the facts of racism. I learned about words and comparisons and tropes not to use in racialized contexts that I could not have guessed about on my own. Things that might appear malicious, but come from naïvete, because what white kid is going to guess that (e.g.) liking watermelon is a racial stereotype? Approximately everyone likes watermelon. But you have to know that that's a thing.

I'm just glad that there's essentially no permanent record of things I said before I became less sheltered. -.-
posted by Belostomatidae at 12:46 PM on February 7 [10 favorites]


Protestors at the capitol calling for Northam to resign on Feb 4 and 5 noticed a Virginia Capitol Police officer wearing a huge bandage on his neck; they discovered it was covering a Nazi-inspired tattoo, his social media presence shows him having ties to nazis and white supremacists. Police sergeant in Virginia on leave after claim his social media posts show symbols linked to white-supremacist groups (WaPo).
posted by peeedro at 12:57 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


This sounds like the latest status update of the overall situation from the WaPo:
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Thursday that the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, which had called for Northam’s resignation, has decided to back Herring, as he continues to try to firm up support from Virginia’s black leaders.

Kaine said that the delegation remained unified in its demand that Northam resign following his admission that he also wore blackface at a dance competition in 1984, in addition to the racist photo in his medical school yearbook.

“We are likely to come out with a statement soon on the Herring case that, I think, we feel that we are generally in the same position – that he reached out to each of us individually, very apologetic,” Kaine told reporters in the U.S. Capitol after most of the Democratic delegation met in his office. “He is in dialogue with the legislative black caucus and African-American leadership in the state, and they have been impressed with his sincerity while they’ve been very disappointed with what happened.”

Kaine, a former governor, said that the lawmakers felt Herring had been sincere in his apologies in a way that Northam had not, but the attorney general still “needs to answer questions of the press and the public too” to shore up support to continue in office.

But the federal lawmakers could not agree on how to proceed on the allegations of sexual assault against Fairfax.
Northam has reportedly "reached out" to both Fairfax and Herring; Fairfax and Northam have spoken, but Herring is keeping himself firewalled from any direct contact with Northam.
posted by peeedro at 1:14 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


So, I was born in the 60s, to radical yippie activist parents. There’s pictures, for example, of the march on Selma, where my mom is only of the only light skinned people willing to face the dogs and cops, because she was pretty sure they wouldn’t attack someone they thought was white. (My fathers family has nothing to do with my sister and I because we’re mixed breed mutts and might sully up their foyer or something.)

My point is, I was raised to believe that injustice to one, was injustice to all, and that judging someone by the color of their skin was obscene. When we moved to Florida in the 70s, the public schools were still fighting desegregation. I rode one of the first buses into the black side of town, in third fucking grade, y’all. And I remember all those white faces who threw things at the buses going south into the black side of town, and the ones going north to the white side.

Our high school mascot was a rebel general, the school yell was a rebel yell. In the 1980s. Minstrel shows were on television and radio. Hell, Amos and Andy were still on the radio. Blackface was common in mass media, in the 80s, in America. My first job was at a Sambos, in the south side of town.

When black folks were on tv, they were portrayed in ways that are ridiculously offensive now, think Rochester from Jack Benny. It took Bill Cosby, playing a doctor on tv, before black roles really changed.

Those of you not steeped in the south may not realize how common it was, and how far we’ve come.

I am not surprised by white boys in blackface in the 80s. There will be hundreds of these pictures, I guarantee you. What is important is how those boys deal with it, now that they are men.

If they own it, and apologize, and explain how they’ve made the journey to realizing how what they did was wrong, and they haven’t spent the last 35 years being unrepentant racists, then I think it’s an opportunity for learning and forgiveness. (Offer does not include kkk shit, fuck that.)

I don’t think Northam should resign. I think Northam should use this opportunity to promote some people of color into prominence in state politics. I think he should have some serious conversations with black thought leaders. I think he can use this as a chance to heal part of the antebellum south.

I realize it is an unpopular position, and one in which my teenage son and his friends are really incensed by, as they think Northam should be punished, even if he’s not in the yearbook picture. I, however, remember what the south was, and what it is now, and if we can’t forgive and learn, then we have no hope.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:24 PM on February 7 [17 favorites]


I find this thread interesting/disturbing/thought provoking in a number of ways but there is one way that is particularly front and center for me. Democrats have for a long time decided to take the high road, throw out the bum kind of thinking that applies that decision in a vacuum. This is not a situation - in MHO, I know there is disagreement - where throwing out all three of these people gives a better outcome for the people of Virginia or the Democratic party than figuring out how to keep some Democrats in these offices. There are lots of situations during the Obama presidency where I have thought, why the heck did Democrats do THAT thing where the decision seem to be made in some moral vacuum universe. I think that road is no longer viable in our current political situation.

There is a fantastic Chapotraphouse (episode 101, I can't link to it because it's locked on patreon) from April 2017 that does a take down of the Democratic party for exactly this kind of moral thinking in a vacuum (via a comparison to The West Wing).
posted by bluesky43 at 1:42 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


I am not surprised by white boys in blackface in the 80s. There will be hundreds of these pictures, I guarantee you. What is important is how those boys deal with it, now that they are men.

We're talking about a 25 year old in his last year of medical school, a few months away from being a pediatric resident.
posted by parallellines at 1:46 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


He says that's not him. He says the only time he wore blackface was doing a Michael Jackson impression for a dance contest. (high school or college, I don't remember.)
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:50 PM on February 7


Um, the Michael Jackson blackface incident Northam admitted to was in 1984, when he was a medical school graduate and a commissioned Army officer.
posted by peeedro at 1:56 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


But he was just a boyyyyyy!!!!!
posted by parallellines at 1:59 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


And I give you the year of our lord 2019, when loads of "impersonators" are still in blackface.

And if really, all you've got to say after that wall of text is picking out the word boy in "white boy" which is a term of art, then I'm sorry you missed my overall point.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 2:00 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


What's the age cutoff for forgiving someone for being an ignorant dumbass? Should there be one? Is there a sliding scale? I don't know how to phrase that without sounding snarky but I don't mean it that way - I really just don't know. There's certainly a little more moral clarity in taking the position some have in comments above that blackface is flat out never okay and represents a level of racism that makes a person forever unqualified to hold public office. I don't think I agree but it's easier than deciding that there's something that happens between 19 and 25 that tips the scale.

My personal inclination about looking back on shit, across the gamut of bad behavior, has a lot less to do with age then than it does their apparent growth since and contrition and words now. I think that's a lot easier to figure out fairly since people are different degrees of dipshit at 12, 15, 18, 25 and even older.

That's kind of an unfair grade-on-a-scale since it gives more slack to the presumably sheltered and privileged white dude than folks who have to cope with life sooner. But I think most of us here, left of center, believe in redemption for folks who have gone through the criminal justice system. I know I personally do even in cases when people may have hurt or killed others. And certainly rich old white dudes don't need my sympathy or support the way people who have been chewed up by the prison industrial complex do, but it's tough for me mentally to hold radically different attitudes about forgiveness and growth in these two areas.

Mostly that's not a problem because societally nobody gives a fuck what I think and when it comes to stuff like this I do my best to defer to the people actually hurt by this racist trash. But if we're gonna talk about splitting the hairs for the sake of keeping the less evil party in power it probably matters.
posted by phearlez at 2:08 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Former FBI agent (and former law school dean) Asha Rangappa tweets about putting past transgressions into perspective. It's too long to quote in its entirety.
posted by Jpfed at 2:33 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Um, guys, I am fucking aghast at this, but apparently the tradition of politicians in the eighties doing blackface reached heights I previously to reading this article could only fucking imagine and now I want to whimper in a corner.
posted by corb at 3:25 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]




I don’t think Northam should resign. I think Northam should use this opportunity to promote some people of color into prominence in state politics. I think he should have some serious conversations with black thought leaders. I think he can use this as a chance to heal part of the antebellum south.

One of the problems with Northam is that his reaction to the scandal has shown that he’s still a relatively remedial dumbass about racism. That means he’s not competent to lead that effort. He’s not going to Forrest Gump his way through, and at this point it’s not about him, it’s about the people of Virginia. If his remaining in office will exacerbate that wound for them, then, you know, too bad. Someone who’s competent can lead.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:02 PM on February 7 [11 favorites]


Actually, that’s a different yearbook. That’s a 68 yearbook from VMI, whereas the picture which set off the firestorm was from his medical school, almost two decades later.

What it does go to prove, is my point that this behavior was endemic in the South.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 4:26 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


For context: Here's a (growing) list of celebs and lawmakers who got in trouble over blackface [CNN]

*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 5:16 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


My family is moving to Virginia next week.
Seriously.
This whole story is... I don't think we have words yet.
posted by doctornemo at 5:21 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


What it does go to prove, is my point that this behavior was endemic in the South.

Endemic is the word I was struggling to find. Yes.

In my experience, civil rights had a movement and someone declared it a success. Congratulations all around, and make sure to update the history books.

The very worst of the bigots were driven underground, but the rest of them? Millions of bigots and racists and supremists still walked the earth and lived lives and had families and made money and gained insights and followed unexpected paths and experienced unexpected things and a few were sincerely moved to reject long held views/teachings/beliefs but the rest of them just stopped thinking about it and now the worst of them are climbing out of their holes and unless they're braying, it's sometimes hard in Virginia to tell them all apart.
posted by ezust at 5:25 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


So right now the legislature is barely-majority Republican, right? But how many of them have been photographed in blackface? Presumably at least a half-dozen, perhaps more. As the groundswell builds and more and more of the Virginia establishment calls for Northam's resignation, it may well be that the Republican majority will crumble as well, meaning that all three could be removed and we still end up with Democratic rule in Virginia. Heck, if we can get this rolling nationally, I bet there are literally hundreds of state legislators -- most but not all Republicans -- that we can oust. So there's definitely a long-term upside for calling for everyone's ouster, particularly if it's directed in a way to build a national, bipartisan norm.
posted by chortly at 5:48 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


So right now the legislature is barely-majority Republican, right?

House of Delegates: 51-49 GOP
Senate: 21-19 GOP
posted by Chrysostom at 6:17 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Has there been any analysis of how redrawn districts may affect the 2019 elections?
posted by C'est la D.C. at 6:35 PM on February 7


Latest statement from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Still calling for Northam's resignation; not yet calling for Fairfax or Herring.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:41 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Has there been any analysis of how redrawn districts may affect the 2019 elections?

Do you mean from the racial gerrymandering case, Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Bd. of Elections?
posted by Chrysostom at 6:43 PM on February 7


Do you mean from the racial gerrymandering case, Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Bd. of Elections?

If so, this is an analysis from VPAP on changes in partisan performance based on historic data. Most of the people I read guess at least a three seat pick up for democrats based on the past.... but much of the redistricting is un-packing heavily African-American districts, so this chaos will be a big wildcard for turnout and enthusiasm.
posted by peeedro at 6:51 PM on February 7


I spoke with my parents this evening. They live in Virginia and are more in touch with the relevant politics than I am.

Earlier I had called for more focus on recent demonstrations of his character than on what he did in 1984. (Character is just one way of deciding "should this person be in office", but I think it's a useful one.) And from what I could see online, his record looked pretty decent, but that's a poor source of information! But I trust my mom's opinion on this, since she follows state politics.

Well... my mom had some things to say for sure: 1) His actual record is pretty mixed, and there's no particular evidence that he has actually learned much about racism. 2) Worse, he rigged a vote so that a natural gas compressor station would be built in a historic black community. Like, two members of the citizen board tasked with studying the issue said this is a problem, and so delayed the vote... and removed those two people first. And this is apparently part of a pattern of environmental racism.

It's still not clear from my parents' perspective what the best outcome is here, but I think I can rest easy now about whether or not this guy is progressive on race issues. He's not.
posted by Belostomatidae at 6:59 PM on February 7 [12 favorites]


So right now the legislature is barely-majority Republican, right? But how many of them have been photographed in blackface? Presumably at least a half-dozen, perhaps more.

I mean...they all but ran the last statewide campaign in blackface. This isn't a standard that applies to Republicans.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:29 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]


Standards change. The n-word wasn't enough to get a Republican kicked out 30 years ago, sexual harassment wasn't enough to get a Democrat kicked out 5 years ago. And the way standards change is like this.
posted by chortly at 7:36 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


And so as not to abuse the edit: whether we think this could ever result in a Republican resignation, in any case I think we would all agree that it would be great to get a massive phone-bank going and call up the office of every state rep in the South and ask them if they ever wore blackface. Even if the payoff takes years or decades to reach fruition, it can't hurt to get everyone to fess up or lie on the record.
posted by chortly at 7:41 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


How Ralph Northam and others can repent of America’s original sin by Rev William Barber in the WaPo. A pull quote won't do it justice, it's worth a read.
posted by peeedro at 9:06 PM on February 7 [10 favorites]


Joint statement from entire Virginia Dem Congressional delegation. tl;dr: Northam needs to go, punting on Herring, says Fairfax accusations very serious.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:06 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


How Virginia Gov. survives scandal by staying out of sight (Alan Suderman, AP).
For the past week, Gov. Ralph Northam has defied widespread calls for his resignation after a racist yearbook picture and a bungled response upended his career. The 59-year-old Democrat has hired a crisis communications firm, used underground tunnels at the Capitol to stay out of sight and unveiled no strategy for how he might govern effectively over the next three years.

... Northam’s long-term plans are still a mystery. The uncertainty has led opponents to pile on, left his staff rudderless and prompted supporters to urge him to act quickly.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:42 AM on February 8


Assuming that more Republicans , the national Republican response could well be be "Nice try deflecting, Democrats. It's already been established that blackface is your party's thing, not ours." And thus the confirmation bias continues. That's basically already been their reaction to it at present anyway.

parallellines: Blackface is one of the very few things that our society has settled on seeing as unambiguously racist. Think about how much racism we see everyday that is given a veil of plausible deniability by white culture. By ducking behind excuses about intent or who they are in their heart of hearts, white people are able to get away with almost anything barring wearing blackface, using the n-word, or literally advocating for slavery.

It's more than a little frustrating how this prevents a truly national conversation. Yes, there's this set of Specific Things that society has managed to classify by consensus as racist (a list usually topped by "KKK and blackface"), while everything else is put into either the "not racist" or "it's complicated" box. And I think progressives tend to give up arguing in the "complicated" zone because it's tiresome and rarely achieves, on the part any other participants, the lightbulb moment that this country has been white-supremacist at its core from the get-go, and that most racism is insidious.

In these conversations it's common for Republicans to reveal (like they're Nic Cage uncovering secrets from the depths of time) the Democratic Party's history as the party of segregation. (Sometimes they add "and slavery" by mistake, momentarily forgetting their own story of how the late unpleasantness was really about tariffs.) Sometimes Democrats respond by saying "Wow, if you have to go that far back to a time you were the good guys..." but what's being missed by those Dems is the larger attempt at a narrative of continual Republican good-guy-ness that starts with abolishing slavery (again in a way that somehow makes room for the Lost Cause narrative) and ends with today's noble fight against voter fraud, welfare cheating, political correctness, etc. Ugly, themselves-racist terms like "Democratic plantation" are key to this idea.

If there must be a comparison, is Steve King more racist than Ralph Northam? Probably yes. But the national consensus, at least among whites (and even including a fair portion of the Democratic party) would be no, Northam is obviously more racist, because he Did the Racist Thing and the other guy did not.

I used to truly think that, when it came to civil rights, the tendency was for yesterday's activist/academic/radical thinking to become today's common sense. Just as MLK is now celebrated even by the ideological heirs of his opponents, I thought I'd live to see Republicans awkwardly telling constituents their plans to grapple with "white privilege" and "systemic racism".

But it seems more that white society just wants a grocery list of The Things That Are Racist and will refuse to hear anything deeper. (Thus the cross-talk whenever cultural appropriation is a topic of conversation -- it's not always a matter of opposition and defense, but "Please tell me what I can and can't do, and I'll accept some while quibbling with you about others" versus "Please try to be more generally considerate and educate yourself about the broad patterns here".)
posted by InTheYear2017 at 8:07 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


It sounds like the strategy across the board is hunker down, wait and see, Virginia Gov. Northam, isolated, gets space to ponder his fate as Democrats absorb scandals (WaPo):
Party leaders have urged elected Democrats to stay off television, say as little as possible publicly and wait to try to regroup until the situation becomes clearer.

“We’re just trying to get some breathing room,” a senior Virginia Democrat said Thursday.

After meeting in his Capitol Hill office Thursday with most of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation, Kaine said they are withholding judgment on Herring, who is trying firm up support from Virginia’s black leaders.

While they continue to call publicly for Northam to resign, most Democrats now want the governor to stay in office at least until there is clarity on the issues involving Fairfax and Herring.
posted by peeedro at 8:10 AM on February 8




Rev William Barber (of Repairers of the Breach, in WaPo piece that peeedro pointed to):
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. To confess past mistakes while continuing to insist that you are still best suited to lead because of your experience is itself a subtle form of white supremacy.

At the same time, we cannot allow political enemies of Virginia’s governor to call for his resignation over a photo when they continue themselves to vote for the policies of white supremacy. If anyone wants to call for the governor’s resignation, they should also call for the resignation of anyone who has supported racist voter suppression or policies that have a disparate impact on communities of color.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:51 AM on February 8 [12 favorites]


NYT: Vanessa Tyson Draws Support for Assault Allegation Against Justin Fairfax
In interviews with The Times this week, five people said that Dr. Tyson told them over the last two years that she had been sexually assaulted in an encounter at the convention, and that her account was consistent with her public statement this week. The people said she provided varying levels of detail to them, but three of them said she identified the assailant as Mr. Fairfax, a lieutenant governor, or a politician on the rise.
It was already time for Fairfax to go, but this takes it to a whole other level.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:54 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


One of the first polls is back from Civiqs.

Northam should resign:
All voters: 60/24

Dems: 58/27
GOP: 72/15
indies: 52/28

Black: 64/27
White: 60/22
posted by Chrysostom at 1:16 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


@Bencjacobs [statement attached]: Another accuser has just come forward to accuse Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax of raping her in college

I've been wondering if something like this would come, not that sexually assaulting only one person is acceptable. Ms. Watson apparently told friends at the time it happened and has emails and Facebook messages.
posted by zachlipton at 1:18 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


AP, The latest: Official: Gov. Northam tells staff he’s staying
A senior official in Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration says the governor has told his top staff that he does not plan to resign over a racist photo despite intense pressure to step down.

The official says Northam told his Cabinet during a Friday afternoon meeting that he intends to stay. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
posted by zachlipton at 1:31 PM on February 8


The Post has more of Ms. Watson's story: Second woman accuses Va. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, including a classmate who was told at the time in 2000.

----

BuzzFeed, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Plans To Survive By Changing His Agenda To Focus On Race. His staff is assigning him homework, including reading "Roots" and "The Case for Reparations" and looking at a broad new platform focused on equality and justice. If he actually means it and spends his time listening, that could look something like the form of repentance Rev. Barber described.

Also in this article, Northam apparently doesn't think the yearbook picture is of him because it shows the individuals holding the beer in their right hands.
posted by zachlipton at 1:41 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Wait, his staff can give him homework? This is not how jobs work!
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:45 PM on February 8


jenfullmoon: Wait, his staff can give him homework? This is not how jobs work!

It really should be, though. (Setting aside the issues of this particular context.) And arguably it already is; government staff frequently brief their supervisors, the work "homework" is just being used cutely unless they actually want him to write an essay.

Heck, even something like that should be part of jobs. (Again, setting aside this context.) Bosses should continually demonstrate their value to their workers at least as much as the other way around.
posted by InTheYear2017 at 2:02 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]






Just fucking now you're going to read the case for reparations? Now you're asking for homework? Motherfucker, google has been a thing for a WHILE. I just...I am not impressed.

And Fairfax is exactly what he appeared to be from his first reaction. He's a fucking monster.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:30 PM on February 8


Vanessa Tyson Receives Wave Of Support After Detailing Sexual Assault


Vanessa Tyson has received an outpouring of support from fellow academics in the days since she publicly came forward with allegations of sexual assault against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D).

More than 740 academics and allies signed onto a letter of support for Tyson as of Friday afternoon and demanded an investigation into her allegations, organizer Nadia E. Brown, a political scientist at Purdue University, told HuffPost.

“As scholars we ... know that decades of empirical evidence make clear that problems with reporting sexual violence are ones of under-reporting, not of fabrication, and that rates of reporting are particularly low for women of color,” the letter states.

It continues:

This evidence makes clear as well that people who report sexual assault stand to gain nothing and, in fact, risk a great deal. Vanessa has fought hard to carve out a career as a woman of color in academia. She has been incredibly successful, not only in terms of her external successes―as a tenured faculty member and the author of an important book―but more importantly, on her own terms. [...] Such a woman would not risk her career and reputation for anything less than a grave injustice. We therefore trust her when she says that a grave injustice has been committed.
posted by bluesky43 at 2:39 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Northam didn't realize that blackface was offensive in 1984. I'm sure he he knows nothing about reparations. Or Google.
posted by sumdim at 4:42 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


doesn't think the yearbook picture is of him because it shows the individuals holding the beer in their right hands

He's pathetic.
posted by sumdim at 4:55 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Northam would never hold a beer with his right hand.... whoops.
posted by peeedro at 5:04 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Fairfax latest: Six of seven of Virginia's House Dems call for Fairfax's resignation; Democratic House of Delegates member says he'll introduce articles of impeachment if Fairfax does not resign. Unlike Herring/Northam, VA Constitution likely supports impeachment ("offending against the Commonwealth by malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor").
posted by Chrysostom at 5:06 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Is there any possible way to also get rid of Northam?
posted by schadenfrau at 5:08 PM on February 8


Not for the pictures, not really - they weren't a criminal act or any of the other stuff you can impeach for.

Northam sent out an email to state employees earlier saying he's sorry, etc., but won't be resigning.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:12 PM on February 8


Just in: VA Senate Dems tell Fairfax to resign. The LG's day job is presiding over the Senate, so that's bad.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:13 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


What an absolute piece of shit. Even given that Northam doesn’t think he should have to resign, there’s the fact that everyone else has said he’s lost their confidence. How much of an absolute asshole do you have to be to insist on governing without the ongoing consent of the governed?
posted by schadenfrau at 5:17 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I'm a Virginia Dem that donated my time and money to elect all three of these assholes to office. Glad that LG Fairfax will finally be impeached (hopefully he has the sense to step down before Monday but I doubt it). Northam should also resign and if he won't resign then impeach his ass. I also would like Herring to resign after appointing either Democratic Minority Leader Delegate Filler-Corn or Delegate Carroll Foy as LG to serve the remainder of the gubernatorial term. Furious and disappointed at all of these men and from here on out I'll be supporting women, with women of color first and foremost, as candidates in any Democratic state/local primary over any male candidate.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:43 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Some chatter that party wants state Senator Jennifer McClellan to fill an LG vacancy.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:09 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Statement on Most Recent Sexual Allegations Against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax

It's very short and says they've decided it would be best for him to resign.
posted by zachlipton at 6:30 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Perriello on Fairfax:
LtGov Fairfax should resign. I hope he will be replaced by a strong, experienced woman of color ready to serve as Governor when Northam inevitably steps aside. Virginians voted for a Dem Governor and deserve one who can immediately restore dignity and lead an inclusive VA.— Tom Perriello (@tomperriello) February 9, 2019

posted by sumdim at 6:39 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]


LtGov Fairfax should resign. I hope he will be replaced by a strong, experienced woman of color ready to serve as Governor when Northam inevitably steps aside.

Northam is not stepping aside. He's been cuddling up to Republicans in the legislature and shunning Democrats, and just cut a deal today on a massive Republican backed tax cut. He's not leaving. He's more likely to flip parties or leave the Democratic party and stay on as a Republican backed independent than resign.

So again I want to ask Perriello...dude. What the fuck were you doing for a year in the primary?
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:45 PM on February 8 [9 favorites]


I apologize for my ignorance about my state's government, but to clarify: articles of impeachment will be introduced on Monday if Fairfax hasnt resigned. He is replaced by
Steve Newman, or is it Northam's appointment?
posted by sumdim at 8:15 PM on February 8


The general understanding is that upon vacancy of the LG office, the President pro tempore of the Senate - Republican Steve Newman - will take the office until such time as the governor appoints a new LG.

There is at least *some* reason to believe that the governor cannot fill that vacancy and that it would be permanently Newman. So, there could be a court battle over that, although that seems like a pretty bad look for the GOP.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:28 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Chrysostom.
posted by sumdim at 8:34 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


The general understanding is that upon vacancy of the LG office, the President pro tempore of the Senate - Republican Steve Newman - will take the office until such time as the governor appoints a new LG.

I completely defer to your understanding of the issue, but seems to me the plain language reading of that statute directs that the Pres. pro temp of the Senate will assume the "duties" of Lt. Governor for the period of the vacancy, not assume the "office," especially since he will retain his title as senator. It's like, a couple years back, my manager became sick and I had to assume her duties, but I sure as hell was not given her title or, um, salary.

Anyway, Fairfax is deservedly toast, shame prison's not a likely option.
posted by xigxag at 8:48 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


That's fair; I wasn't trying to imply that we would be calling him Lieutenant Governor Newman, just that he'd be doing the job for (hopefully) a short period of time.

From what I can see, the job is basically presiding over the Senate, breaking the rare tie votes, and sitting on a couple of boards, so perhaps he wouldn't be able to do too much damage.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:52 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Yeah, "assumes the duties" is not the same as filling the position, because if that statute was supposed to be an act of succession, it would be like § 24.2-211. Discharge of duties when office of Governor is vacant or Governor is disabled. Like the part that says

"If a vacancy exists in the office of Lieutenant Governor when the Lieutenant Governor is to succeed to the office of Governor or to serve as acting Governor, the Attorney General, if he is eligible to serve as Governor, shall succeed to the office of Governor for the unexpired term or serve as acting Governor."

All the language around people actually assuming offices is "succeed". When it says "discharge", it's in contexts like

"Whenever the Governor transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Lieutenant Governor as acting Governor."

"the duties shall be discharged" means the President pro tempore does the job when there's a job to be done, not that they take over the position itself. Any 1L could tell you that.

It's almost like the Cato Institute guy who's written two books about the Constitutional problems with Obamacare might not be the best, most unbiased source on whether or not a Republican can just snatch up that vacancy for good!
posted by kafziel at 2:28 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


Why in God’s name is Northam still holding on? He’s just making more and more enemies the longer this goes.
posted by corb at 3:56 AM on February 9


The pessimist in me says it's because he knows that despite their calls from him to step down the Republicans who control both chambers of the state legislature don't actually give a shit about racism (or are just in favor of it) and will gladly back him if he leaves the Democratic party.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:54 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


At this point I think the explanation is "because he's an enormous entitled asshole."

It's really stunning.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:35 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


Northam was probably always going to retire at the end of his gov term anyway. He's going to hang on in the hopes of doing some reputation management before he goes. He doesn't want to go out as "black face guy." I mean, he probably still will, but he's going to spend the next three years trying to change that (probably in the most ignorant and empty way possible, natch), Virginia and Virginians be damned.

Of course it's selfish and not the right thing to do, but apparently it's going to be his move anyway.

I was watching Rachel Maddow last night and she had my VA House delegate on, Charniel Herring. I really like Herring, she has a very cool head even when people are giving her trouble -- and I was very proud to see her on Maddow's show! But even normally cool-headed Herring almost broke down and started crying when she was talking about how it's essential for the VA govt to help and respect vulnerable Virginians and how this bullshit (and these betrayals by party/state leaders) is stopping that from happening and stopping important policy from being made. We had very high hopes going into this legislative session, including for the ERA, and it has been devastating to see things instead get worse than anyone could have imagined.

I know it's cool to be all cynical and to have expected something like these revelations about racist and misogynistic acts by our top brass, but I have to say, I'm blindsided. Especially by the accusations against Fairfax, who always seemed like a nice guy and a rising party star. And if I feel so betrayed and horrified as a democratic voter in VA, I can't imagine how the other legislators in state government feel. Some of them were probably mentored by these men, looked up to them, were being groomed by them for higher profile roles in the party/state. State politics aren't a huge world here and I think these betrayals feel really personal to a lot of people.

I was listening to Pod Save America yesterday, and one of the pundits was saying that apologies are fine and all but what she really wanted was to hear how the politicians were going to stand up against racist and misogynist policies and how they were going to champion progressive policies in their place. Personally, I think Mark Herring is able to walk that walk and not just talk that talk, based especially on his record and on his current statements/responses, and also based somewhat on the nature of his transgression. But Northam and Fairfax, I dunno. They've both had lousy responses to some really serious allegations and their records aren't as good. That seems to be the consensus among the people I've talked to about it, too. But of course, it's been hard to talk about because everyone, especially the most politically active VA Dems I know, are just feeling really raw and reeling and most don't yet know what to even say. When I see acquaintances I know from local politics -- which is often, I helped host a pretty big civic event just on Thursday -- we avoid the subject or just vaguely hint at it at most. Haha and that's also Virginia for you.

I have to say, though, I'm not especially impressed by Perriello and never have been -- seems like a careerist saying whatever he thinks will score him the most points, to me. Maybe that's unfair, but that's the aftertaste I always get from him. If we have some special elections after all, it's fine with me if he throws his hat in the ring, but he really would need to step up his campaign -- and I wouldn't mind some fresh blood, either. And honestly, I am still so shocked and disgusted by what's going on right now, that I don't even feel ready to start evaluating other pols yet. I mean, I voted for every one of those men in the general, and I worried a bit about their progressive bonifieds (Northam especially) but it didn't even occur to me to worry about whether they'd ever worn Klan robes or raped women ffs. More the fool, me.
posted by rue72 at 8:51 AM on February 9 [23 favorites]


rue72, I really appreciate the thoughtful updates like yours from folks on the ground there. Thank you.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:58 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]


More on Senate Majority Leader Norment's time teaching at William & Mary: A significant part of the course consisted of students being assigned into two teams: One side argued in favor of Confederate flag license plates, William & Mary’s traditional pro-Confederate campus imagery, and the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Norment’s own Confederate-linked alma mater; the other side argued against. Students of color were often assigned to defend the Confederate side, which various students described as deeply uncomfortable. [...]

A third student told ThinkProgress that in addition to pro-Confederate remarks, Norment demonstrated insensitivity to Native American and transgender people.
The student noted that Norment defended the Brafferton Indian School, where Native American kids were once taken from their parents to be re-educated.
Norment praised the removals and claimed that today “there are no Native American students at William & Mary.” The president of the university’s American Indian Student Association was in the class and had to correct him.

posted by TwoStride at 10:08 AM on February 9 [8 favorites]


The the WaPo has this article, Va. Gov. Ralph Northam says he wants to focus rest of his term on racial equity. He is chastened and says Black lawmakers have explained blackface and white privilege to him; he is working with his cabinet on proposals to address issues of inequality for the remainder of his term. Here's what jumped out at me:
Northam’s office restricted the interview to 30 minutes and stipulated that neither the audio nor a full transcript of the interview be released. Otherwise, there were no limitations on what could be asked or published.
Okay, he's shown with this comments on abortion and the moonwalking press conference that he's not able to effectively communicate with the public. Here we go...
“The things that I did back in medical school and - and - in San Antonio were insensitive and I have learned since that they were very offensive. We learn from our mistakes and I’m a stronger person,” Northam said.

Asked later what Northam meant by saying “medical school and San Antonio”, spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said he misspoke - that he meant in medical school in San Antonio, where he did his residency.
The yearbook photo is from Eastern Virginia Medical School, the dance contest occurred when he was in residency in San Antonio's Brooke Army Medical Center which is not a medical school. So even in a tightly controlled setting, he's unable to keep to a single narrative or speak clearly to issues with his past conduct.
posted by peeedro at 10:33 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


The possibility of Northam flipping that TD Strange mentioned above. How likely is that? I hadn't even considered that.

I do like Perriello. I appreciate that he organized behind Northam after he lost the primary. I like that he walked the plank in 2010 over his Obamacare vote and, even though he was probably always going to do that, recently gave Pelosi a lot of credit for bringing him to that point when people were attacking her. Bob Goodlatte was the rep of my district for 13 terms. I appreciated his support of Jennifer Lewis in her doomed bid for his seat. I'm eagerly scouring politicians for signs of decency, and this is a very little thing relative to what's going on, but that he always emphasized the true history of the Civil War and loudly countered the ridiculous Lee-Jackson Day nonsense was so nice. This is probably just because any of his point scoring wouldn't win him points here.
posted by sumdim at 10:51 AM on February 9 [7 favorites]


I don't think he will actually flip parties. But the state party has basically no leverage over him to put any more pressure to resign than has already been brought, and he has no reason to appease the national party figures either. He could decide to say screw all of you Democrats, and stay on as independent.

But today's interview where he's (incompetently) trying to make amends makes me think leaving the party is less likely than I did yesterday, and he'll try to hang on as a Dem regardless. And hey, if he's going to make a real effort, that's maybe the least worst outcome? But like rue72 and Brittany Packnett said on Pod Save America, saying sorry isnt really enough, if Northam is going to hang on, he needs to start backing actual policy change, real criminal justice reforms, etc, and not cutting deals with Republicans for more pipelines and tax cuts. Actions make amends, inept apologies don't.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:01 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


He is without credibility, his apologies too little and too late. He cannot lead, he cannot govern. All he can do is sit in the office like a malignant tumor, keeping anyone else from occupying it. And that's what he's dead-set on doing, because it means he gets to still be governor.

No shock the Pod Save America dipshits think that can be turned around. They think M4A is compatible with an intact private insurance industry. Keeping the tumor intact is their brand.
posted by kafziel at 12:11 PM on February 9


That's an incredibly uncharitable take on their healthcare stances, and also Packnett isn't one of the main PSA bros, she's a contributor usually on Pod Save the People and goes on the road sometimes with PSA for their live shows. And I believe she was also referring to Herring in her comments, I was extending her logic to what Northam needs to do as well, since he's clearly not going to resign. If you want to blame the PSA guys for that decision bizarrely, I guess go for it.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:27 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


PeteJamison [graphs attached]:
Very interesting results from new Post-Schar School poll on Virginia's scandal-beset capital. African Americans think Northam should remain in office by a wide margin -- more so than whites -- even when accounting for party affiliation. Northam is not in the clear. His 43% approval rating is the lowest any VA governor has held in a Post poll since 1997 -- and six points below fmr Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2013, shortly before McDonnell was indicted on federal corruption charges. But it's clear that the picture anyone would have formed from paying attention to the social media megaphone over the past week -- that desire for Northam's resignation was near-unanimous, and that this resignation was inevitable -- is simply wrong.

A recurrent theme among respondents, in poll and interviews: They were ready to forgive Northam after his initial apology, but became convinced he was lying when he backtracked w/in 24 hours, asserting at live national news conference he wasn't in the photo. More than 7 in 10 Virginians don't believe Northam's explanation of how the racist photo showed up on his 1984 yearbook page.
Also in this poll: 11% have worn blackface or personally know someone who has.
posted by zachlipton at 3:55 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Ralph Northam snuck in and signed a $750m incentive bill for Amazon. All of a sudden, the Amazon-owned Washington Post drops a poll saying African-Americans overwhelmingly want him staying in office, even more than whites, even more than Democrats broadly? Wow. Wow, I must say. How shockingly convenient.
posted by kafziel at 6:48 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Also in this poll: 11% have worn blackface or personally know someone who has.

Call me cynical if you must but I'm guessing the percentage is a LOT higher than that, given the current state of two of the top three in Virginia government....
posted by bluesky43 at 7:03 PM on February 9


That's a really cynical take, kafziel. If you have evidence that Bezos has influenced the Post's content, please share it.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:37 PM on February 9 [8 favorites]


It's not even solely managed by the Post; they do it jointly with George Mason University.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:57 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


If there's no leverage, seeing what he can be compelled to do seems the most useful option at the moment.
There is no path forward for Gov. Northam without justice for Union Hill. This largely black community traces its roots to freedmen who lived in the area after the Civil War.

We call for a stop to a compressor station which will poison black lives.

We stand with Union Hill. https://t.co/yVNvUYAXkk— (((Sam Rasoul))) (@Sam_Rasoul) February 9, 2019

posted by sumdim at 8:25 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


The flipping parties thing is whack. Why would the Republicans want Northam? He's damaged goods, and his legislative record is very left-leaning from their perspective.

They don't want him, they want to see him burn, and his legislative agenda with him.

There's zero reason for them to do anything other than to sit back and let the circular firing squad work itself out, then try to bayonet the survivors. Anything else would be stupid.

Although, in fairness, "stupid" does describe a fair amount of Trump-era Republican strategy, so who the hell knows. If the Trumpists are running the show all bets are off.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:19 PM on February 9


Republicans have made it abundantly clear that they don't give a shit how damaged the goods are as long as they afford them access to the levers of power (see Trump, Moore, Kavanaugh, etc.) Also, they'd already tried to flip Northam back when he was a state legislator (and nearly succeeded once), so there's at least some potential there from their POV.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:36 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


JMM: Not going anywhere.

Tl;dr: polls say not enough people want him gone.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:34 AM on February 10


> All of a sudden, the Amazon-owned Washington Post drops a poll saying African-Americans overwhelmingly want him staying in office, even more than whites, even more than Democrats broadly? Wow. Wow, I must say. How shockingly convenient.

Polls have biases, but they're usually due to issues with their sampling methodology: Do their undercount younger voters? How do they screen likely voters? etc. Pollsters generally don't just make up numbers for political reasons. (In the entire time 538's been around, I think they've caught one pollster doing this.) Secondly, news organizations usually hire professional pollsters to do polls for them. In this case, the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University conducted the actual poll. It's the pollster's reputation, methodology and track record you need to look at.

Black voters who live in Virginia are likely to be personally impacted if Cox, the Republican House speaker ends up taking over for Northam as a result of all this. An 'Oh, hell no!' reaction from a lot of black Democrats in the state is understandable, even if most them are not very happy with Northam. It's important to have a Democrat in the governor's seat to veto racist laws and changes to the legal code the Republican legislative majority tries to pass. It's not an abstract issue like it is for white people who live in other states.
posted by nangar at 7:42 AM on February 10 [17 favorites]




He's getting a lot of crap for that on Twitter, and it's a dumb thing to get into a historical debate on when did all the elements of American slavery develop as compared to also-forced-labor indentured servitude that amounted to a different form of slavery when his language seems to be minimizing slavery, but it's not entirely wrong (see also here, but contrast with Nikole Hannah-Jones's view).
posted by zachlipton at 12:45 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


the Amazon-owned Washington Post

Amazon does not own the Washington Post. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. And has no say in its day-to-day operations.

There are inherent problems with Billionaires bankrolling media companies, but this is parroting a straight-up Trumpist well-poisoning talking point. Not a big fan of that, myself.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:29 PM on February 10 [14 favorites]


Tl;dr: polls say not enough people want him gone.

So he’ll remain in office knowing everyone called for him to be out? That sounds....super unhealthy.
posted by corb at 2:48 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Sounds Trumpian.
posted by riverlife at 2:50 PM on February 10


Great historical accounting of 'indentured servants' reference by Northam. Long twitter thread but well worth reading. Two highlights:

When Northam said this morning that those people were servants, he was not engaging an earlier historiography. He was engaging a narrative of white innocence, of Virginian innocence, a narrative that slavery wasn't that bad. 18/

Northam joins a long line of people who want to maintain white innocence about race and slavery by equating slavery and indentured servitude. That's a bad idea, esp since this year white Virginians has an opportunity to honestly confront a pretty horrifying past. 19/
posted by bluesky43 at 3:40 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Amazon does not own the Washington Post. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. And has no say in its day-to-day operations.

There are inherent problems with Billionaires bankrolling media companies, but this is parroting a straight-up Trumpist well-poisoning talking point. Not a big fan of that, myself.


You are right, I was mistaken. That was my bad, I do want to sincerely own that, and I'll try to be more clear in the future. I think calling it "Trumpist well-poisoning" to conflate Amazon and Bezos is more than a little excessive, aspersioncast, but I'll rephrase.

Beginning the very day after Northam snuck into office to grant one of Jeff Bezos's businesses a $750m giveaway, despite numerous outcries from all sorts of local legislators and citizen upset and amidst scandal and a big stench of corruption throughout the entire HQ process, another of Jeff Bezos's businesses began conducting a poll with questionable methodology and some deliberate weighting of results, and released it three days later to show shocking, bizarrely counterintuitive pro-Northam results among the demographics most diminished and dehumanized by both his racist behavior before taking office and his racist actions in office.

Is that better?
posted by kafziel at 4:15 PM on February 10


began conducting a poll with questionable methodology and some deliberate weighting of results [...] Is that better?

Not really, unless you have some actual legitimate criticisms of the methodology beyond "I don't like the results". It's possible that's the case but I haven't seen you make them.
posted by Justinian at 4:33 PM on February 10 [8 favorites]


Don’t Worry Governor Northam, David Duke Has Your Back (Angry White Men)
But while blackface-wearing politicians have faced bipartisan calls for resignation, they at least have one ally: white supremacist and ex-Klan leader David Duke. In a February 5, 2019 livestream, Duke defended the use of blackface, and even tried to portray the racist practice as a compliment because of course he did.

Duke dismissed the idea that “there’s hatred against black people, racism all over the place against black people” because blackface is all in good fun. And in case you needed additional evidence that Duke is completely detached from reality, he claimed that blackface was “often done very nicely about blacks years ago, you know, it was considered entertainment — it was not really hatred against them.”

He added that it “was more done in a loving way, years ago.” No. No it wasn’t.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:56 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


The WaPo and NYTimes are both reporting that Va democratic lawmakers are circulating a draft resolution to begin impeachment proceedings against Lt Gov Fairfax.
posted by peeedro at 5:26 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Not really, unless you have some actual legitimate criticisms of the methodology beyond "I don't like the results". It's possible that's the case but I haven't seen you make them.

Jesus. If you read the actual poll, they polled exclusively the youngest adult in the house for the 643 random respondents out of their 706-respondent sample, and the other 63 weren't random at all, but hand-selected from of African-American respondents to previous polls, claiming it was to adjust to census benchmarks. 9% of their total sample, all black, was inserted specifically to massage the results.
posted by kafziel at 7:09 PM on February 10


But... that's how polling works.
posted by Justinian at 7:28 PM on February 10 [10 favorites]


I'll be sure to inform the university that gave me my public affairs masters that the way polling is actually supposed to work is that if the results of your sample doesn't line up with your expectations, you hand-select a bunch of people from previous tests whose results fit what you're looking to amplify and add them to a second wave of testing, and just present a single combined result.
posted by kafziel at 7:50 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


But don't you see that you're purely begging the question? Of course if they hand selected 63 black respondents whom they knew would respond in a certain way that is invalid methodologically. But you're asserting that's why they were selected and then using that assertion as proof the poll is invalid.

The poll says they added 63 more black respondents in order to get the demographics of the sample more representative of Virginia. That's a common thing. You could watch it happen in real-time with the wonderful NYT/Siena polls where hispanic voters were often way underrepresented so they would make 100% of the remaining calls to Hispanic households.

Do you have evidence that they called those 63 black voters knowing what the response would be, or are you just claiming it without evidence in order to discredit the polling?
posted by Justinian at 8:14 PM on February 10 [13 favorites]


I don't understand how the conspiracy you're describing would work. How would the alleged-poll-riggers know what the 63 respondents thought about Northam now before they polled them? Are you alleging that they purposefully had a pool of past respondents who identify as African American that the pollsters somehow knew ahead of time would still be pro-Norham after the past week and they intentionally put them into the poll to produce this result? How would they do that?

There's a huge difference between "they interviewed some more black people from a previous panel for this poll as part of a stratified sample strategy, and we should talk about the ways that could influence the results of that subsample" and "this poll is the result of a conspiracy requiring the cooperation of a billionaire owner, a tech company, a newspaper, a university, and a polling firm."
posted by zachlipton at 8:14 PM on February 10 [9 favorites]


[Let's maybe let this polling arglebargle drop at this point.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:31 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


The WaPo and NYTimes are both reporting that Va democratic lawmakers are circulating a draft resolution to begin impeachment proceedings against Lt Gov Fairfax.

Delegate Patrick Hope:
Yesterday I sent draft language to my colleagues on the first step of an impeachment action regarding the Lt. Governor. There has been an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed.
We owe it to all parties involved- especially the victims- to make sure that we have thought through every option the General Assembly has. That's what these conversations are for- so we can build more consensus on a path forward.
I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson. I promise that my work on this issue will be tireless until we have a process and outcome that treats these women with the respect they deserve going forward.
So impeachment is not forthcoming.
posted by peeedro at 7:07 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Richmond Times-Dispatch: Staffers to Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax resign following second sexual assault allegation. Since Friday, he has lost his policy director and scheduling director, as well as the executive director and fundraiser from his PAC.

The PAC's departing executive director is a former chairman of Democratic Party of Virginia and is married to the vice chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, so this departure signals very low confidence in Fairfax's future.
posted by peeedro at 2:46 PM on February 11 [7 favorites]


BuzzFeed, Darren Sands, Ralph Northam Will Launch A “Listening Tour” About Race Amid Blackface Scandal
As Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam continues to resist calls to step down over the racist photo on his medical school yearbook page, he and his advisers are close to finalizing plans for a statewide “listening tour” to engage different communities in conversations about race.

Additionally, a source close to the governor said Northam is telling people privately that if the Commonwealth’s legislature puts a bill on his desk that gives them the authority to bring down Confederate statues that he would sign it.

But for all of his belief in a greater purpose, the idea of a refocused policy agenda threatens to cause a rift between younger, more vocal activists who consider indifference toward racist symbols and imagery like the Northam case as disqualifying for office, and older leaders in communities who if not yet enticed, could come to express support for a groundswell of reversals and investments in black communities. Northam, one person advising him said, has to talk to both groups.
Northam's advisers are also now reportedly telling him to watch portions of The Birth of a Nation to better understand the historical context of blackface "(Northam was not previously familiar with the racist depictions in the film, an adviser said)."

In other news, Fairfax's law firm, Morrison & Foerster, (yep, Lt. Gov. is a part-time gig) has put him on leave.
posted by zachlipton at 2:56 PM on February 11


Everything we've seen from Northam this week says that putting him in front of a camera more often is going to be disastrous. The man is a fucking trainwreck. At this point if he's going to stay in office, the play is to ignore backlash, roll out a more responsive and aggressive policy agenda, and keep Ralph fucking silent before he tries to moonwalk again. The absolute worst thing possible is more exposure for Gob Bluth Northam. Whatever path to making this better exists...more Northam in public is not it. Go away and be unseen, or resign.

Not only is Northam a goddamn incompetent, however many millions he's paying his army of PR advisors so far has been lit on fire.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:08 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]


So the best thing for everyone here is to shove cameras in his face until he stops pretending he can stay in office.
posted by kafziel at 11:18 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


@MikevWUSA:
JUST IN — @GovernorVA announces he’s restored the rights of 10,992 Virginians previously convicted of a felony since he took office...

Adds to the announcement:

“I believe in second chances and making our Commonwealth more open and accessible to all”
The "I believe in second chances" bit is rather on the nose.
posted by zachlipton at 9:45 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


>>>Delegate Patrick Hope:
>>>...
>>>I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson. I promise that my work on this issue will be
>>>tireless until we have a process and outcome that treats these women with the respect they
>>>deserve going forward.

So impeachment is not forthcoming.
posted by peeedro at 7:07 AM on February 11 [1 favorite +] [!]


Perhaps not. Resignation may be in the offing. We'll see.

In any event, I took his words as sincere. You can believe the women and still want to hear both sides, without assuming equal weight to each side's credibility, before taking action. It's certainly how I approach such matters. Is there a reason to suspect cynicism from this delegate (on whom, I admit, I have no prior distribution)?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:02 AM on February 12


Perhaps it's naïveté on my part, but my guess is they talked to some legal experts and found that impeachment might be dicey. The problem with an investigation is that these incidents happened out of state, and the GA can't compel out of state witnesses to testify, out of state police to investigate, etc.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:31 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


I wonder how many other yearbooks out there hold similar problematic photos; here in Augusta, GA, the local paper looked into the issue for the two main local schools and of course they found a lot of blackface pictures, as shown here. As it happens I went to both of the schools in that article and found at least one photo they missed, as late as 1989. For the record I was not in any of the photos, and don’t recognize any of the people in them, although realistically I bet I knew some of them. It seems like a pretty easy article for local journalists to do, so wouldn’t be surprised to see it come up in a lot of college towns in the south.

Also not surprised to see VMI come up in this. Most people who have heard of VMI know about how it was one of the last (perhaps the very last) publicly funded schools to admit women, and didn’t admit blacks until 1968, but a lot of people don’t know it was founded specifically to train militia to put down slave rebellions in the wake of Nat Turner’s rebellion. (The Citadel in South Carolina was a similar response to Denmark Vesey; most slave states had similar institutions.). One of the most openly racist people I know, a high level bank executive who referred to President Obama as “that n****r from Kenya”, went there.
posted by TedW at 1:38 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Massachusetts DA willing to investigate Tyson claim if Tyson files a criminal complaint.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:30 PM on February 13


All three of them have survived, the news cycle has moved on, none of them will resign now, and the VA House Democrats have moved on to the real enemy, primarying their own newly elected progressive incumbents with ex-Republicans.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:06 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


New polling from both Quinnipiac and Ipsos/UVA shows Northam gets low approvals, but people don't want him to resign. Not just whites, either.

See also this Twitter thread from Kyle Kondik.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:00 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


More Virginia politics update because why not:

Democrat Ibraheem Samirah won Tuesday's special election for the 86th House of Delegate seat. This was vacant after Jennifer Boysko was elected to fill Jennifer Wexton's state Senate seat. Samirah, 27, a is the second Muslim elected to the general assembly in a race that focused on his prior online statements critical of Israel.

Al Gore has gotten involved in the Union Hill compressor station plans and sees it as an opportunity for Northam to provide more than lip service to his push for racial justice.

And we may not have seen the last of Fightin' Joe Morrissey. The former republican delegate, who lost the 2016 Richmond mayoral race, is considering a run for a state senate seat. His previous hits include:
  • being disbarred twice for misconduct
  • being sentenced to five days in jail while serving as Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney for punching a defense attorney in the face during trial
  • being indicted but not convicted of five felony counts of bribery and perjury for a scheme to dismiss rape charges in exchange for campaign donations
  • pleading guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor for having sex with a 17 year old employee who he later married
  • winning the special election to fill his own vacant delegate seat while he was in jail
  • showing his opposition to gun control by brandishing an AK47 on the floor of the House of Delegates and losing two assault rifles borrowed from the state forensics lab
  • being credibly accused of exposing himself to a client then providing inadequate legal representation after she rebuffed his advances
  • and sharing a family photo that the WaPo describes this way:
    Among Morrissey’s more infamous moments was when he publicized a photo of himself and [his wife] Myrna, who is black, dressed in antebellum costumes. His adversaries contended that the photo suggested a master posing with his slave.

  • posted by peeedro at 1:55 PM on February 20


    Sigh. Ask me again why I want Northern Virginia to secede.
    posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:10 PM on February 20


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