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The Sorry State of the Great Commonwealth of Virginia

Our beloved state of Kansas occasionally finds itself in some embarrassing national news stories, usually because the otherwise outstanding religious and business communities got a bit overzealous, but for now Virginia is the butt of all the late night comedy show jokes. Virginia’s an excellent state full of excellent people, and has played an outsized role in American history since the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, although it’s political leadership at the moment isn’t quite up to those high standards.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has been facing widespread calls for his resignation ever since a right-wing web site unearthed a photo from his personal page in a medical school yearbook depicting a white person in blackface standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. Northam immediately apologized for such insensitivity, then implausibly denied he was either of the men in the picture he’d chose for his yearbook, and talked about the time he did do partial blackface in a dance contest, and none of it halted the calls for his resignation from both the left and right.
The calls were especially loud from the more race-conscious segments of the left, of course, and they didn’t mind defenestrating a Democratic governor who had beat a Republican who’d run on keeping all the Confederate monuments in Virginia, in part because he would be succeeded by naturally black Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. Unfortunately, Fairfax was then accused of a 2004 sexual assault, and then the accuser stepped forward by name, and given that the Democratic party has the same zero tolerance for sexual abuse charges that it does for allegations of racism, that was awkward. The woman is as impeccably respectable and credible an accuser as was the woman who came forward with allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and she’s got the same lawyer, and Fairfax has hired the same lawyer who represented Kavanaugh, and that further complicates things for the Democrats, ¬†and to a lesser extent for those Republicans who would defend Kavanaugh and damn Fairfax.
Next in the order of Virginia’s Democratic elected officials is Attorney General Mark Herring, but on Wednesday he confessed that he’d donned blackface at party back in ’80.
None of this is likely to redound to the benefit of what’s left of Virginia’s Republican, which did run its last gubernatorial election on an uncomfortably neo-Confederate platform, but it’s not doing the Democrats any good. Virginia’s an excellent state full of excellent people, so we’re sure they’ll work it out eventually, but in the meantime we’ll take some Kansas pride in the fact that none of our high elected officials stand accused of blackface or sexual assault, and is out of the national news.

— Bud Norman

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Racism, Abortion, the Super Bowl and Other Current American Topics

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