Why Virginia Democrats Are Pushing Ralph Northam to Resign

by Peter Galuszka

Virginia Democrats were on a roll politically until a story broke Friday that a photograph on Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) 1984 medical school yearbook page showed a man in blackface and a man in Ku Klux Klan garb.

Democrats had seemed to be in a good position to win control of both the state Senate and the House of Delegates in this November’s General Assembly elections.

A strong anti-Trump spirit showed up in last year’s congressional elections in which three moderate Democratic women won. A court recently ruled that the latest Republican-led redistricting disenfranchised African Americans. Demographic changes seem to be making make the state less conservative.

That all seemed to add up to a good chance of a Democratic sweep this fall. True, this year’s General Assembly has been a mixed bag for Democrats and centrist or progressive legislation. But the short session was seen as a sounding board for themes that would help them fine-tune their campaigns.

This is why Northam’s predicament is such a disaster for fellow Democrats regardless of whether he resigns. It will define the 2019 elections, pushing away such worthy topics as gun control or ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, both of which were successfully blocked by Republicans in this General Assembly session.

Republicans had been licking their wounds after failing to win statewide offices for years. Compounding their weakness is that such prominent conservative leaders as Dick Black (R-Loudoun) and Bill Howell (R-Prince William) have retired or plan to.

Northam’s dithering claims that he was not in the yearbook photo but did, in fact, appear in blackface at a dance contest only make the Democrats’ position worse. It’s especially sad because Northam had broken through such GOP-led logjams as refusing to expand Medicaid coverage to lower-income Virginians.

Just about every significant Democratic leader in the state is urging Northam to resign. Some argue that they are enforcing a strict discipline against transgressions by leaders to gain moral high ground over President Trump. The real reason seems to be that Northam has to go so the Democrats can salvage at least part of the political roll they had been enjoying.

Peter Galuszka is a journalist living in Chesterfield County. This opinion piece was published originally in the Washington Post.

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19 responses to “Why Virginia Democrats Are Pushing Ralph Northam to Resign”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    So….practical politics, not any moral high ground, right Peter? I don’t disagree, but just want to be sure we see it the same way…..

    But wait, there’s this: This is why they want him gone.

    A lot of Republicans are worried that if Northam does quit, they can’t keep using his radio comments about what sure sounded like infanticide to me. But it won’t matter. The Democrats have been pushing for late term, right up to the last minute abortions in bill after bill and state after state. It was an under-appreciated reason for Trump’s win. It will remain a powerful issue because it is a wedge issue, splitting the extremist Democrats from those of less murderous intent.

    Democrats are hoping if he goes away, so will that issue. That’s why somebody on his side released the yearbook page, to change the subject. No such luck. What the GOP needs to do is shut up and save it for October.

    1. Here’s another take, by Larry Sabato at U.Va: http://crystalball.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/
      This is a special edition of his newsletter dated today and titled, “Yes, Virginia, This Is Chaos.”

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Glad to see Peter back to pontificating!


    unfortunately, I don’t see getting rid of Northam as “fixing” it….

    but the stink is overwhelming… and the source of it has to be removed.

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Once again Peter shows his obvious journalism skills by matching his story with a good photo. WADR, he leaves the rest of the professional journalists in the dust in this area.

    I tend to agree with his points in the post as well. An almost MD wearing blackface, contradicting his stories like a common burglar from one day to another and who supports allowing a newly born infant to die without an medical attention is not the way to appeal to the suburbs. And there will also be suspicion that Northam’s goons came up with the supposed dirt on Lt. Gov. Fairfax. How Clintonian!

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    from the NYT…
    ” A racist photograph on the 1984 yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia.

    An accusation of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

    Both reports — the first triggering an earthquake in Virginia politics last week, the second setting off an aftershock on Monday — were originally published by an obscure right-wing news site, Big League Politics, which has promoted conspiracy theories and written favorably about white nationalist candidates.

    from the Washington Examiner:

    ” A “concerned citizen” upset by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent comments on abortion legislation tipped off a conservative news site about a racist yearbook photo now threatening the governor’s career, the site’s editor said Monday.

    The photo of someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe that appeared on Northam’s page in a 1984 medical school yearbook became public when Big League Politics published it Friday.

    The site’s editor-in-chief, Patrick Howley, said in an interview that the tipster was “absolutely not a political operative, absolutely not – just a concerned citizen” but declined to elaborate on their identity. He said he published his story later that day after confirming the photo’s authenticity.

    “I can say that the decision to publicize this photo by bringing it to me was based on this person’s anger about what Gov. Northam said about infanticide,” said Howley, a 29-year-old who previously worked for Breitbart News.”

    From WSJ:

    ” Site Behind Northam Revelations Is Backed by GOP Operatives
    Big League Politics was first to post a photo from the Virginia governor’s medical-school yearbook page of a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume

    from BLP:

    ” A woman named Vanessa Tyson, who is a fellow at Stanford University, says that a man who allegedly sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention is now an office-holder about to get a “very big promotion,” according to a screenshot provided by a tipster. A friend of Tyson’s named Adria Scharf, based in Richmond, Virginia, shared the “heartbreaking” message, which Tyson wrote as a private post.”

    1. djrippert Avatar

      What is your point? The only thing this proves to me is that the RPV is even more incompetent than I imagined. They didn’t take a look at Northam’s yearbook page? Gillespie’e campaign never found the yearbook, the picture, the Michael Jackson impersonation contest or (let’s be honest) any of the two or three dozen more stupid racist tricks Northam has undoubtedly pulled off over the years.

  5. djrippert Avatar

    1. Ralph is expendable. A 59 year old, straight, white, Christian man. What’s next? Take one of the US Senate seats? Lol. Run against Elaine Luria? Lol. He’s not a lawyer so he can’t be a judge. Ralphie was a lame duck before this incident made him a dead duck.

    1. The Gov. WAS expendable. Now he’s attracted the ire of the President Himself, been called out before the entire Congress, and become an invitation to Virginians to support their man, the victim. What a mess!

  6. djrippert Avatar

    2. Virginia’s national Democratic Party leadership isn’t composed of elitist Virginia Good Ole Boys like Ralphie Northam. Kaine, Warner, McAuliffe – they’re swamp dwelling Northern transplants who see Virginia’s self-proclaimed elite as useful idiots to help them push Virginia in the direction they want it to go. Like a horse, when a useful idiot goes lame you shoot it. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

  7. djrippert Avatar

    3. Justin Fairfax. Bumbling, possibly racist Northam’s replacement is Justin Fairfax – a man with a great political resume. Duke, Columbia Law, Democratic staffer, former Federal prosecutor, the list goes one. But best of all in the eyes of the Virginia’s national Democratic leadership – he’s as liberal as they are, he’s 39 years old and he’s an African American. Get him in office today and he most likely spends the next seven years as Va governor. Not only does he completely liberalize Virginia, he’s 47 when he finishes being governor in 2025.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      One more woman says “j’ accuse”, and off he goes into the mist…..

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        One more woman says “j’ accuse”, and off he goes into the mist…..

        Very true.

        And might not the entire white Democratic Virginia political establishment be deathly afraid of the charismatic political Black Man rising. He, the sudden outsider they created,would render them either extinct, or neutered for generations. Mark Herring, chief among them. What is going one is a cleverly disguised behind the curtain knife act.

        He would be crowned:
        How that might change his nature, there’s the
        It is the bright day that brings forth the adder,
        And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg
        Which, hatched, would, as his kind, grow
        And kill him in the shell. (2.1.12-15; 33-36)

        Stoop, Romans, stoop,
        And let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood
        Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords.
        Then walk we forth, even to the marketplace,
        And, waving our red weapons o’er our heads,
        Let’s all cry “Peace, freedom, and liberty!” (3.1.117-122)

        If there be any in this assembly, any dear
        friend of Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love
        to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend
        demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my
        answer: not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
        Rome more. (3.2.19-24)

        Good gentlemen, look fresh and merrily.
        Let not our looks put on our purposes,
        But bear it, as our Roman actors do,
        With untired spirits and formal constancy: (2.1.243-246)

        O conspiracy,
        Sham’st thou to show thy dang’rous brow by night,
        When evils are most free? O, then, by day
        Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough
        To mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none,
        Hide it in smiles and affability;
        For if thou path, thy native semblance on,
        Not Erebus itself were dim enough
        To hide thee from prevention. (2.1.84-93) ….

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Translated: A race baiter will do anything to keep power.

  8. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    I see a big difference at this time between the Northam claims and the Fairfax claims. There is tangible evidence, plus Northam’s admission, that he posed in blackface. Moreover, he threw the racist stone regularly. He made his bed; now he must sleep in it.

    With respect to the Lt. Governor, we have no tangible evidence (how could there be any unless he was filming the incident). All there is before us is an allegation, which Justin Fairfax denies. Supposedly, the alleged victim is assembling evidence. But that evidence is almost 15 years old. And no claim was made until the 2017 election. Why? We are in a classic she said-he said situation.

    Unless one subscribes to the Hillary Clinton law of guilt in sexual abuse cases, when a woman makes an allegation that she was sexually abused by a man (so long as that man is not Bill Clinton), the woman must be believed, I don’t see much of a case against Justin Fairfax. His accuser should have a chance to assemble and prove her case but she better do so soon. Fairfax does not deserve this charge just hanging over his head. Put up or shut up.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      The comparison shouldn’t be between Fairfax and Northam, it should be between Fairfax and Kavenaugh. Where is the moral outrage from the left? Where is the ridicule of a private schooled man accused of sexual assault? Did Fairfax drink in high school? College? At the convention where he was accused of sexual assault?

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        From a purely political perspective, Fairfax should receive the same attacks as Kavanaugh did. Of course, that won’t happen any more than Bezos will hold his paper to a standard of honesty. Indeed, if Bezos shut down the Post today, the quality of American journalism would increase by at least 25%.

        My point is that, assuming we want to operate in a fair, equal and just manner, unlike what the left likes to do, there is a big difference in the evidence with respect to the charges against Northam and those against Fairfax.

      2. Yes, the Kavanaugh situation is the more apt. And the Democrats’ moral outrage then demands purification now, a rite of sacrifice, to cleanse the Party of its own sexual predator, after cleansing Flake for less, after all. How inconvenient that it must follow on the heels of another Virginia cleansing. How unfortunate that it must remove from the Virginia Democratic bench one of its most promising contenders. How irrelevant that both the Kavanaugh and Fairfax offenses, even if true, were from years ago, from another time, from before their election to public office, from men who probably could have admitted to immature behavior and been forgiven, but chose the higher-stakes defense of categorical denial.

        How hypocritical to forgive them, they who denied the allegations, yet condemn the man who has admitted his own immature behavior (from even longer ago).

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      I agree with TMT 100%.

      The three great plagues of modern America today are:

      1. chronic round the clock 24/4 RACE BAITING for political, financial, and social advantage.

      2. Guilt by Allegation that is often grabbed by politicians to use as blatant smear or as hate tactics.

      3. Identity Warfare that properly should be called for what it is: Fascism.

      Today’s sordid Virginia politics reek with these plagues.

  9. djrippert Avatar

    Timing is everything. If Fairfax becomes governor or gets the boot out of office I think the President Pro Tempore of the Senate (Stephen “Steve” Dwayne Newman, R-23) becomes Lt Governor. If the governor then gets the boot (either Fairfax or Northam) then we have Gov Newman.

    Somebody do me a favor and get copies of all of Newman’s yearbooks.

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