Let’s recap. Last February, 35-year old photos emerged of what appeared to be Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, in blackface at a frat party standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe. The governor apologized for wearing blackface at the party, then later said he didn’t recall attending that party in blackface but did recall entering a moonwalk contest wearing blackface. Then, his wife had to stop him from physically performing the moonwalk for the press. Then, it was revealed the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, had also once wore blackface. The state looked for salvation from it lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, whose face actually is black, until he was hit with accusations of committing rape…twice.
There were calls for resignations for all three men. Today, nearly six months later, all three still have their jobs.
Granted, there weren’t massive protests in the streets of Richmond requiring police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd (most Virginians would have to know who their leaders are first), but maybe Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, can take small comfort from Virginia’s leaders. Or not.
Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million people, who don’t have voting representation in Congress or a vote in presidential elections, have been suffering from heavy debt, bankruptcy, hurricanes, unemployment, economic restructuring, congressional-imposed austerity measures from a Congress they can’t vote for, and corruption for years. Now, the release of nearly 900 pages of transcripts of Telegram messaging app chats involving the governor and 11 of his friends and advisers may be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Puerto Ricans.
The chats display the arrogance of what many call a “bro” culture of elites. They joked about making chumps out of their own supporters, ridiculed an obese man, a gay pop star, and several women.
Now, hundreds of thousands of the island’s citizens have been protesting in the streets and in front of the governor’s mansion demanding Rossello’s resignation. The governor has promised to quit the leadership of his party, the New Progressive Party, and not to run for re-election in 2020 as if he stood any chance of winning anyway. That’s not good enough for Puerto Ricans as thousands, many flying in from the mainland, are demanding his resignation.
Appearing on Fox News, the governor was unable to name one Puerto Rican who supported him continuing as governor. He did name one mayor, but that mayor later denied supporting the governor.
Donald Trump, who has been feuding with the governor over disaster relief (and lying about it), accused him of being corrupt, which is like the time he accused someone else of sexual harassment, or yesterday when he accused other people of racism. Trump and Rossello have one thing in common. They both won their jobs with a minority of the vote. The majority of their constituents don’t want them.
Rossello says he’ll be able to focus on his job since he won’t be running for re-election. But, how can he focus on his job when there are thousands of people outside his house screaming for his resignation? I have a hard time working when someone’s doing laundry outside my door.
Puerto Rico is frustrated and they have every right to be. Washington treats them like an unwanted stepchild, the president seems confused over whether he’s president of Puerto Rico and only recently learned it’s an “island surrounded by water,” and the governor is mocking them while the majority of them live in poverty.
Virginia’s governor might have worn blackface, but Puerto Rico’s governor has a face no one wants to see anymore.
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