Northam Gets a Couple of Things Right

by James A. Bacon

I do have my issues with Wise King Ralph, but I have to give credit where credit is due. He has done two things right in the past few days. He has given the OK to move to Phase 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown on July 1, and he has refused to buckle under to violent protests in Richmond. Virginia’s capital city will not turn into Portland or Seattle East.

It was not a foregone conclusion that the Governor would accede to a further relaxation of the emergency restrictions promulgated to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While Virginia metrics were all heading in the right direction, the national media were in full-blown hysteria mode over a rise in infection rates in other states that had moved to reopen their economies. Even local media, which reported on beach vacationers bringing the coronavirus with them back to the Roanoke region, were sounding the alarm. Indeed, Northam said explicitly that he was paying attention to what was happening in other states.

But in the end, Wise King Ralph did the right thing. Phase 3 represents a big step forward in getting back to normal. The measures it continues to maintain — restrictions on mass gatherings with the potential to turn into super-spreader events — are defensible.

Meanwhile, the Governor, while not exactly posing as Mr. Law and Order, defended city and state police officers who earlier yesterday used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a sit-in outside of Richmond City Hall that was blocking traffic. As The Virginia Mercury put it, Northam expressed “befuddlement” at the ongoing protests against police brutality even though he had promised “future action on police reform and other important equity issues.”

“Mostly these demonstrations have been peaceful, but here in Richmond we continue to see nightly conflicts between demonstrators and our police,” Northam said during a press briefing yesterday. “After three weeks it is no longer clear what the goals are or a path to achieve them. Clearly Richmond needs a different path forward. These nightly conflicts cannot continue indefinitely.”

To many Virginians, that’s pretty tame stuff. But remember where the Governor is coming from. In contrition for his blackface scandal, he has made a push for social justice and equity the centerpiece of his administration. He is sympathetic to the broad aims of the protesters. Also, his Democratic Party peers in other states from Minnesota to Washington and Oregon have been extremely reluctant to deploy police force to stifle outbreaks of violence. It would have surprised no one had Northam chosen a hands-off approach to the sporadic violence and lawlessness associated with the protests. But so far, he is enforcing the law.

In this day and age, that’s saying something.

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6 responses to “Northam Gets a Couple of Things Right

  1. It’s good to see you giving the administration credit when it is deserved.

    I was curious about your comment about the national media being “in full-blown hysteria mode over a rise in infection rates in other states that had moved to reopen their economies.” Would you rather that the media not report those increases in infection rates?

    • Dick, you’re falling into the fallacy of false dichotomy. (Perhaps CrazyJD can tell me if that’s a real thing.) Of course the increase in infection rates is a real story. But it needs to be set in a larger context, which we aren’t getting — certainly not from cable TV. Are hospitalizations up? Are deaths up? What about the things we can’t measure, such as the anxiety and stress from joblessness and failed businesses, and the resulting incidence of mental illness and suicide?

      • I assumed that you would protest that there is a middle ground. I was just curious as to how you would define that middle ground. I cannot fully respond because I do not watch cable TV (at least not the news). I find all TV news too shallow; they have to compress stories to 30-second sound bites. It sounds like we have the same complaint, just from different angles.

        The newspaper articles I have seen do report that hospitalizations are up. The New York Times does provide, daily, a 14-day average for infections and deaths. That chart shows infections up and deaths down. But, the story does note that deaths lag infections by at least 1-2 weeks. And the newspapers have had stories about the “intangibles” such as depression.

  2. this is WSJ:

    “Coronavirus Numbers Are Accelerating Across U.S.
    Covid-19 cases are accelerating around the country, reaching new daily highs in states including Texas and Arizona and spurring concerns about prospects for an economic and social revival.17 minutes ago

    Three States Tell Travelers From High Covid-19 Areas to Quarantine
    Cases Surge in Three Most Populous States

    U.S. Stocks Drop as Infections Jump

    Several U.S. states reported new daily records of infections, adding to concerns about a second wave of cases around the world that could lead to renewed restrictions on business activity.42 minutes ago”

    Is this national media in full-blown hysteria mode?

  3. There’s no mystery about spikes in infection rates when people travel to vacation areas and family and church gatherings without distancing and masks and then come back to other states and get sick and spread it to others who aren’t aware of, or thinking about who might have traveled or where.

    The spikes don’t just happen. Someone has to go to an active virus area to catch it or interact with someone who has.

    The virus is out there. It’s not going away. There is no vaccine available. If you want to avoid it, you take precautions. But as long as people interact, there will be some spread, in spite of personal precautions.

  4. “Northam Gets a Couple of Things Right”

    Like a stopped clock.

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