07 February 2019

The Virginia mess (updated)

It's a bizarre and alarming situation.  Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is under fire after a photo from his 1984 yearbook surfaced showing a man in blackface and another in a KKK outfit (it's not yet established whether either figure was Northam).  Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has been accused of a sexual assault in 2004.  And Attorney General Mark Herring has admitted to wearing blackface at a party when he was 19.  All three are Democrats; if all three leave office, the next in line for the Governorship is the Speaker of the House of Delegates, a Republican.

This certainly looks like an unfolding disaster, but I don't think any one of these men can be written off just yet, much less all three of them.

First off, I reject the view that Northam's photo can be dismissed as meaningless youthful stupidity because it wouldn't have seemed all that bad by the lower standards of the time.  I can remember 1984 (I was 24 that year) and it was certainly recognized that blackface was offensively racist -- and a KKK outfit far, far more so.  Choosing such a photo for a yearbook would not have been a mere act of harmless thoughtlessness, even then.  It's a serious issue, and the calls from many prominent Democrats for Northam to resign reflect that.

(For another view of this question, see Bluzdude.  I disagree with the thrust of his post, but he's always worth reading and this is a discussion that we as a party need to have.)

Of course, people can change over decades (I certainly believed in some cringe-worthy things that far back).  The question is, has Northam changed?  His adult political career doesn't suggest racism, but if his views have evolved, he needs to convincingly explain how and why, and completely repudiate the mentality shown by the 1984 photo, not try to minimize how bad it was.  Otherwise he can never regain the confidence of the non-white members of his state's population, or of whites who abhor racism.  So far, he hasn't done this.  But it's possible he may yet rise to the occasion.

The accusation against Fairfax is by far the most serious.  A person can repudiate offensive attitudes over time, but a violent crime must be punished, if proven, regardless of how the perpetrator's views of it have evolved.  However, Fairfax continues to flatly deny the accusation, insisting that the encounter in question was consensual and that the accuser showed no sign of discomfort with it at the time.  I'm inclined to give more credibility to him here than to other similarly-accused figures of recent years, because there is only one accuser.  Sex abusers, whether they're cold-blooded predators or horny frat-boy types who genuinely don't recognize the seriousness of what they're doing, tend to rack up multiple victims -- Moore, Kavanaugh, Franken, Weinstein, and others all faced multiple accusers.  So I'm not prepared to judge Fairfax as probably guilty yet, as I do those others.  If more women come forward to accuse him, of course, it will be a different matter.

Finally, Herring's situation differs from Northam's.  There was no KKK outfit involved, and what he confessed to was gross behavior at a party -- a semi-private setting -- not choosing a photo to represent himself in a yearbook.  It's at least possibly more analogous to telling an offensive joke among friends which one wouldn't repeat in public.  Even more than with Northam, he deserves the chance to repudiate his past racist stupidity and explain how and why he's renounced such attitudes since then.

So don't write off Virginia to the Republicans just yet.

But W. Hackwhacker makes a solid point here.  We'll have a lot less of this kind of headache to deal with if we run more women for office.

Update (Friday afternoon):  There is now a second accuser against Fairfax.  If this is indeed "ratfucking", it's a highly professional job.


Anonymous PsiCop` said...

The clusterf--- which is the Virginia state government just got even worse. The GOPer who leads the state senate turns out to have edited a VMI yearbook with racist pictures and references in it, from 1968.

These accusations have followed after each other in a matter of days. I wonder if various folks in Virginia, or even elsewhere, already had their "oppo research" queued up, ready to go, and they were released rapid-fire, after the opening salvo was launched against Northam, and even members of his own party called for his resignation.

I can't help but view this entire debacle as an example of how infantile America's politics has become. Not only have politicos taken to following the dictum of, "If you can't beat 'em, scandalize 'em," but it's become an immense, tit-for-tat game.

That's not to say the accusations here are unimportant or insignificant, but they've been weaponized disproportionately. Perhaps the effort here is actually to tamp down all the individual accusations by surrounding them with a cloud of different scandals. Perhaps the final result is that all of these people will end up remaining in office, because what each of them did isn't comparatively all that much worse than what some others did.

To be sure, the accusations against Fairfax are criminal, if true. Should they appear to have any merit, an investigation is needed, and if appropriate, he should be prosecuted.

07 February, 2019 12:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

PsiCop: Yeah, but he's a Republican. They're supposed to be doing that crap. It's what they do.

It wouldn't surprise me if the surfacing of these allegations were a case of Republican "ratfucking", as they call it. Nevertheless, the photo is real, the accusation against Fairfax is real, and Herring's admission is real. They need to be addressed. And it's not much of a "cloud of scandals". How many Democrats in office are facing such accusations? Very few.

I wouldn't say such accusations have been "weaponized disproportionately". Rather, we've learned to take seriously things that a less enlightened time wrongly dismissed as trivial. Northam and Herring have ample opportunity to exonerate themselves, and may yet do so; as for Fairfax, as I said, as yet I don't see adequate reason to judge him probably guilty or expect him to resign. But the suspicions and accusations must be addressed. If the attitudes and responses of 1984 were that different, then they were not just different, they were wrong.

07 February, 2019 15:32  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

Re: "disproportionate," I don't think an assault allegation equates with blackface/KKK photos. If Fairfax did what's alleged, he needs to be in jail. Granted, that's a big "if," and I don't mean to sound as though it's true, but it is a different animal.

Re: Only GOPers "ratfucking," Norment, an "R," is now a target. As I said, I think people were standing by with "oppo research" and let rip once they knew they needed it and could use it.

07 February, 2019 18:25  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I haven't really read up on any of this. But I first seen the black dude/ klan dude photo when over at my daughters house one evening, it appeared on her 70" or 80" inch or so tele screen, the sound was muted though ... but when I seen this on the tele screen, I actually laughed and said to my daughters husband "what the fuck is this, guy?!!"(being on mainstream tele), thinking to myself, why would these 2 be together?, well he briefed me. The attire on the black face one was so "early 70's" style, and then the traditional KKK attire, on the other one. No, black face is not cool, the pressure on this shit is big time too. I think blacks feel offended, because black face pictures were used like way back in the 30's or whenever by racists, depicting blacks and insulting them. I remember being at a Halloween Party before years back and seeing black face, but I also seen like, green, blue, red too ... oddly there was even a few black folks at the party, but that had to at least be 30 years back. I know quite a few black people myself, but they never mentioned it to me, that I recall, we don't even talk race much, anywayz. That other dude is like up for sexual assault, that is not cool either ... yeah, it's a mess.

09 February, 2019 09:00  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

A Republican would be very unlikely to resign over such photos, so he's not being harmed by them surfacing. If it was Democrats who found them, though, I applaud their efforts.

I think Fairfax is doomed now that a second accuser and a corroborating witness have come forward. But Northam will probably stay on since a recent poll says that Virginians are tied 47%-to-47% over whether he should quit -- and a solid majority of blacks want him to stay.

10 February, 2019 08:57  

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