The revelations over the last several days of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam apparently taking a disturbing racially charged photograph while a medical student 35 years ago and the non substantiated accusations of sexual assault of Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax have exposed the depths of Republican hypocrisy (as well as their aptitude for gutter politics) and the potential pitfalls of Democratic zero tolerance when these matters are first brought forth before hearing all the details and circumstances surrounding the events.
Republican Hypocrisy knows no bounds
Republican outrage on the accusations against both of Northam and Fairfax is astounding considering the current Popular Vote Loser occupying the White House, a member of their party was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan who tweets/makes verbally repulsive remarks about individuals or groups virtually every single day while also standing accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women.
Furthermore, their hypocrisy regarding these men would be funny if it were sadly not common behavior for them. Where was the Republican indignation on events from the 1980s when Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual misconduct (a far more serious offense, if true, than a 35-year-old photograph) while being considered for and being (despite his despicable behavior before the Senate Judiciary Committee) confirmed to the Supreme Court? Where was the Republican outrage in Arizona when Legislative District One Representative David Stringer made racially disgusting remarks last year only to be referred to the ethics committee in the Arizona State House after 35-year-old revelations of apparent sexual misconduct were made public? At least Kavanaugh and Stringer received or will receive a hearing. Northam and other public figures like former Senator Al Franken (whatever did happen to those allegations of sexual misbehavior) did not even get that consideration.
Democrats run the risk of becoming a lynch mob out of a Frankenstein movie.
Should Ralph Northam resign over a stupid and grotesque picture he at first admitted to taking 35 years ago? Should Justin Fairfax resign over the accusations asserted against him? Yes if it becomes clear the former cannot govern effectively given the current circumstances and if the charge of sexual assault proves true for the later. Northam’s press conference on Saturday, February 2 after he first admitted to being in the picture, did not help his cause and may have only reinforced calls that he resign despite leading a life of public service as a physician, military veteran, and politician (including his time as Governor) that demonstrated a centrist-progressive temperament with no hint of racism. It should be noted that Fairfax, before the surfacing of the recent sexual assault allegations, has also been viewed as a rising progressive voice in the Democratic Party who was looked on favorably just this last weekend (February 1-3) when it looked like Northam was poised to resign.
What should be apparent from these two disclosures from the opposing political party is that everyone should stop the immediate move to reprisals on any individuals by partisans, opportunists, and pundits until all the facts and circumstances are established. Democrats, after the Franken and now this matter regarding Governor Northam and Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, run the risk of acting like a lynch mob out of a 1930’s Frankenstein movie if the actual facts clear these men.
These knee jerk reactions can also potentially backfire as the same conservative group that revealed Northam’s yearbook photo waited 72 hours to unearth the, to date, uncorroborated sexual assault claim against Fairfax. What are Democrats to do now as they have fallen for Republican Gutter Chess Politics? Do they treat Fairfax differently than they treated Franken, Kavanagh, or Northam? Should they make both of them resign to be consistent with their zero-tolerance policy before knowing all the information or do they learn the lesson that when future incidents occur, these people should consider all the facts of the alleged incidents (which include giving Northam time to clear his name and hearing from both the accuser and accused in the Fairfax matter) before passing judgment.
People should also consider and remember that many of our leaders we revere today led checkered lives. Thomas Jefferson sired children by his slave mistress. Respected civil rights leaders in our history like Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson had racist tendencies. Does that mean we defile the Lincoln Memorial and chisel his (and Jefferson’s) face off Mount Rushmore? Does that mean that Monticello (the Jefferson home), the Truman and Johnson Presidential Libraries should be boycotted? Probably not.
We become mob rule complete with torches and pitchforks if we do not handle these matters in a careful and prudent fashion. We need a fair and diligent process to examine these matters before rendering judgment. If a suspected sex offender can become an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court with near-unanimous Republican support in the Senate after a confirmation hearing and if a racist from Prescott who apparently committed sexual misconduct acts 35 years ago can get a hearing in the Arizona State House, why can not the Governor of Virginia get his day for an obviously obscene picture taken 35 years ago or his Lieutenant Governor for the serious misbehavior he is accused of? Justice needs to be fair, impartial, devoted to finding the truth, equal, consistent, and free from hypocrisy and knee jerk reactionism. If this is not guaranteed, our system is doomed to perpetual chaos and the addressing of the needs of our countries citizens may be permanently handicapped.
UPDATE: On February 6, the Virginia Attorney General admitted he wore blackface at a college party in 1980. This revelation reinforces the points made in this piece and perhaps is a signal that the Virginia Democrats, as a group, need to schedule an emergency gathering where they can discuss and decide on a plan to move forward from all of this.