February 17, 2019

Democratic Chaos in Virginia

“The fraught politics surrounding race, gender, and the #MeToo movement are creating a combustible challenge for Democrats that raises uncomfortable questions about their zero-tolerance policy towards any type of sexual misconduct, past or present—and threaten to prevent them from winning back control of the Virginia state legislature this November.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has given Democrats their worst political headache since losing the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump. Any photo of a politician wearing blackface is a massive political scandal—and would have been at any time or any place since the photo was taken in 1984. The only difference between the politics of today and the politics of the recent past is that Northam probably would have received more space from his party to apologize, make amends, and try to salvage a respectable political career.

Northam expected that his solid civil rights record, long-standing support from the black community, and praise for his reaction to Charlottesville (as a candidate) would sustain him during this scandal. Presumably that’s what he was thinking when he offered a taped apology seemingly acknowledging he was pictured in a medical-school yearbook wearing either blackface or a KKK hood and asking for forgiveness.

But Northam was utterly unprepared to handle the speed with which the news would spread and his closest political allies would call on him to resign. The day after the story broke, he gave a cringeworthy press conference in which he denied being pictured in the racist yearbook photo but acknowledged wearing blackface that same year imitating Michael Jackson at a dance party. This was damage control out of a sleepy state Senate race—not what you’d expect during a national political firestorm that swept talk of Trump’s State of the Union address out of the headlines.”

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