Despite the distractions of a Super Bowl and all its attendant hype and controversies, the plight of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was stil prominent in the news all weekend.
The Democrat has championed a Democratic abortion bill being considered in the Virginia legislature that comes too close for most Americans’ tastes to allowing infanticide, and made remarks that suggest he’s quite comfortable with abortions being performed right up to the point of dilation, but the hubbub was instead about a 35-year-old picture in his medical school yearbook. The photo depicts a white man in blackface and minstrel show costume standing next to someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and pointed hood, and although it’s not clear which is Northam, and although he denies he’s either one of them, the picture was undeniably chosen by Northam to adorn his personal yearbook page and there’s no denying that it’s pretty damned offensive.
The photo was unearthed by a previously little-known right-wing web site called Big League Politics, which clearly hoped to embarrass the radically pro-choice governor, but the Democratic Party in Virginia and the rest of the country quickly piled on. In some of these racially-charged imbroglios a public figure can credibly claim that it’s a much ado about nothing, as it was in a different time when he was a mere callow youth, but blackface and KKK robes are hard to slough off as just joking, and even in 1984 it was already considered very uncool, and Northam was a 25-year-old medical student at the time. To its credit today’s Democratic party takes a dim view of this sort of thing, and with an African-American Lieutenant Governor waiting in the wings to take up the party’s radical pro-choice torch it has no reason not to abandon its Virginia standard-bearer, and with the Republicans similarly aghast at such outrageous racism we hope for and expect Northam’s resignation early this week.
Which is not to say the Republicans will get much good out of it, however, as the story is full of ironic twists. Northam won the governorship in ’18 over Republican Ed Gillespie, who had a solid record of sensible Republican centrism over a long and distinguished career of public service but chose instead to run in the antiestablishment mold of President Donald Trump and make a big issue of keeping all the Confederate monuments in a place of honor in Virginia’s public squares, Given all the black votes in the inner-cities and rural districts of Virginia and all the guilt-ridden white votes in the well-educated suburbs of Richmond and Washington, D.C., Northam easily won the swing state’s governorship. Northam barely won the Democratic nomination over another more liberal Democrat, who surely wishes his inept opposition research team hadn’t unearthed that damning yearbook photo during the primary, and Virginia’s quadrennially crucial electoral college votes once again seem likely to go to the Democrats no matter how this embarrassing mater turns out.
Here’s hoping, though, that some good comes out of it. Perhaps the more promising young Democrats and Republicans alike will learn that blackface and KKK robes are not cool, and haven’t been for far more than 35 years, and we can get past all that nonsense and start carefully considering both parties’ most radical positions on abortion and taxes and America’s place in the world and other important matters. Here’s hoping . too, that we find some sane place in the sensible middle, and do so without the likes of Northam and Gillespie and that awful choice America had in its last presidential election.
We notice the New England Patriots won yet another Super Bowl victory over the Los Angeles Rams, which makes little difference to us, but we wish you all congratulations or condolences depending on which side you took.
— Bud Norman