One of the biggest criticisms Ralph Northam received while running for the governorship of Virginia was that he’s too boring. Problem solved. Perhaps he should have been a little more boring during his med school days.
Late Friday afternoon, a photo emerged from a 1984 medical school yearbook that shows a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe. One of the two men is Virginia’s Democratic governor, who was also listed in the yearbook with the nickname “Coonman.” The funny-not-funny thing is we’re not sure which of the two men is the governor. Does it matter?
Northam is a progressive Democrat and many in the state believe his criticism of the Nazi tiki marchers in Charlottesville helped elect him to the state’s top job. He’s spent his political career, which includes a term as Lieutenant Governor, on the correct side of race issues. Northam held great potential for Democrats despite being boring.
Northam quickly released a statement in a video acknowledging the photo and said, “It will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.” He didn’t mention any plans to resign.
He didn’t do a Brett Kavanaugh and try to explain it as something that it wasn’t like boofing meant farting and not shooting beer up your bum. Northam owned it.
Even with his accepting responsibility there have been calls for his resignation from the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, the Republican Governors Association, Virginia’s Republican Party, some national Democrats including presidential hopefuls Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, and even singer John Legend.
Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine along with members of the state legislature’s Black Caucus criticized Northam but stopped short of calling for his resignation.
When a Republican’s racist past comes to light, or his present, Democrats always call for their resignation. But, it doesn’t hurt Republicans with their base because their base is just as racist. Democrats and liberals don’t go after the racists with glee and hoping to score political points. They know it’s bad for the nation to have racists in elected positions with political power.
When a Democrat’s racist past comes to light, Republicans go after them with enthusiasm and try to score political points, while ignoring their own racism.
Democrats have to call for Northam’s resignation. You can’t pick and choose which racist behavior you’re OK with. The echo chamber that is the comments under my cartoons on social media have mostly been calls for his resignation. I’ve only counted two liberals among those who believe he should hang in there.
One of my best friends argued by asking if you should give up everything over something stupid you did 34 years ago. Of course not. You shouldn’t stop being a doctor, pilot, or even a cartoonist. But, we’re not governors. If there’s something from your past that prevents people from trusting and following you, then you can’t do your job. In this case, we weren’t aware of Northam’s racist party photo when we were voting for him.
Northam has to resign because he can’t lead anymore. From this point on, he’s no longer Governor Northam and is now Governor Blackface. Governor Northam could accomplish great things and even reach across the aisle. Governor Blackface doesn’t accomplish anything. There are legislative elections in Virginia this November and no Democrat will want to campaign with Governor Blackface.
Northam wants to win our trust back, and he deserves that opportunity, as a private citizen. He shouldn’t be spending the next three years as governor trying to convince us he’s not the same racist guy he was at 25. Yes, 25. He wasn’t a kid. He was a grown man. Northam had the campaign to win us; he’s not to spend his time as governor wooing us back.
As I mentioned, Republicans are all over this while ignoring the racists in their own party. For example, the photos of Northam were exposed by the website Big League Politics, founded by Patrick Howley, a former writer for the Daily Caller and Breitbart. This website is operated by a political consultant who worked on Roy Moore’s campaign, the racist Alabama Senate candidate accused of being a pedophile. Do you really believe these people are out to fight against racism?
I’ve seen posts on social media by Republicans and Trump defenders celebrating the “gotcha” of Northam’s photos. Yet, these same right-wing hypocrites never went after Roy Moore, Steve King, or Donald Trump. They never criticized the Nazis who marched in Charlottesville. They never call for a Republican’s resignation over racism and are always the first to defend them. They even elected Cindy Hyde-Smith to the Senate from Mississippi, after she made jokes about attending lynchings, which is even less funny than blackface. And, Hyde-Smith didn’t make that joke when she was 25. She made it last November and she’s 59.
While liberals may think it’s unfair they have to be better people and live up to a higher standard than conservatives, that’s just the way it is. We don’t want to be like them and we have to present a better example. When a Republican gets caught again, which will be next week, we won’t have any credibility calling for his ouster if we didn’t call for Northam’s. Republicans don’t have credibility. For us, it’s a burden to be ethical. I became a liberal because I like to use facts. We have to use ethics and principles. We can’t Breitbart and Infowars shit. That’s what they do.
When this story hit, I thought I should put it off for a day or so because it was developing. But it just got bigger and bigger by the minute and I realized I’ll probably end up doing two cartoons on it. Virginia is my state. I voted for Northam. I also voted for his potential replacement, Justin Fairfax.
Northam probably won’t survive the weekend. So, Republicans…when you see a photo of our next governor, try not to freak out.
He actually is black.
Watch me draw.