Should leaders prioritize morals over political gain? | The Tylt
Democrats were quick to call for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's resignation over his admission of wearing blackface when they thought he would be succeeded by a Democrat. Yet as the scandal has expanded, it now appears there could be a chance the governorship would be taken by the Republican majority leader. Since the seat would be filled by the opposing party, Democrats have softened their calls for Northam's resignation. Should they prioritize their morals or maintaining political power?
Should leaders prioritize morals over political gain?
After Northam's disastrous press conference, Democratic leaders were nearly unanimous in their calls for his resignation. Yet after Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who would succeed Northam as governor, was accused by two women of sexual assault many became less confident in their decisions. Shortly after the news about Fairfax broke, Attorney General Mark Herring admitted he had once worn black face in college, apologizing profusely for his previous actions. The Washington Post reports state Democrats are torn on how to proceed now that the state's top three Democrats are marred by scandal.
[P]rivately, Democrats are divided, particularly about whether ousting Northam is best for their party.
...Some Democrats declared all three officeholders politically doomed but predicted that Northam and Herring, at least, would remain in office as lame ducks until the elections in 2021. Others who had publicly called for Northam’s ouster said privately that he should stay, especially with Fairfax in political jeopardy.
Some state Democrats have suggested they are beginning impeachment proceedings against Fairfax. According to the New York Times, some Democrats worry about the optics of investigating and prosecuting a black lawmaker while allowing white lawmakers a pass on past racist actions.
“I think the Democratic Party would lack credibility if they followed a double standard,” said Representative Karen Bass of California, who is the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. Ms. Bass said that both Mr. Northam and Mr. Fairfax should step down.
Many Democrats say that must hold all lawmakers to the same standards, even when they are members of their own party. They can not speak out against Donald Trump's racist and sexist actions while ignoring transgressions in their own party. Per the Washington Post:
“If we’re going to carry the message and carry the call forward, we have to make sure we’re holding ourselves to account,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA. “I reject any idea that we’re not holding our own people to a higher standard. You cannot call on a Florida secretary of state to resign for black face because he’s a Republican and let our party get away with it.”
Many Democrats in the state have cautioned against pushing the lawmakers out of office without conducting thorough investigations. Per USA Today:
The measured approach could slow the sobering prospects for Democrats that the top three executive positions might be vacated, opening the way for the House speaker, a Republican, to take over the top job.
...The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus weighed in on Thursday night with a statement reiterating its call that Northam step down, but stopping short of demanding the ouster of the next two officials. The group said the sexual assault allegation against Fairfax, who is African American, should be "thoroughly investigated," but did not demand he step down.
Most Democrats in the state say they still support the current leaders, giving little incentive for them to relinquish power. Per the Washington Post:
Within the Democratic Party, Northam has greater support from African Americans than whites. A 57 percent majority of black residents who identify or lean Democratic say he should continue to lead the state, compared with 49 percent of whites who identify or lean Democratic. About 47 percent of African Americans overall say Northam has accomplished a great deal or good amount as governor, compared with 30 percent of whites.
Virginia-based political historian and pundit Larry Sabato tweeted there was little to no chance the Democrats would risk losing their power in the state without due cause.