Should Ralph Northam resign? | The Tylt
Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, has refused to step down after The Virginian-Pilot obtained a copy of his medical school yearbook page picturing one man in blackface and the other in KKK garb. The governor initially admitted to being in the photo and apologized, only to recant the next day. He then said there had been another time he had donned blackface, but for a dance competition in which he dressed as Michael Jackson. Should he resign?
Should Ralph Northam resign?
After initially admitting to being in the photo and apologizing, Northam recanted the next day, saying he had no memory of being in the picture and therefore it could not have been him. He claimed it must have been an error by the yearbook editors.
After this denial, however, Northam volunteered he had, at another point in time, worn blackface—when he entered a dance contest dressed as Michael Jackson. Many, including the Washington Post's Matt Viser, noted Northam seemed to be arguing that he had done nothing wrong by admitting to doing the wrong thing... but at a different time.
Reporters also asked Northam about the fact that his nickname was listed as "Coonman" on another page in the yearbook. Northam said the nickname had been given to him by other classmates and he was unaware of its racist connotations.
There are questions about whether Northam is really treating the situation with the appropriate amount of professionalism. During his long, strange press conference, Northam was asked by a reporter whether he still knew how to moonwalk. Rather than pivoting from the question to something more pertinent, Slate reports he looked around, possibly to see if there was enough space for him to showcase the dance.
[H]e appeared to look around, as if he were weighing whether there was enough space to show off these supposed skills. His wife, Pamela Northam, seemed to have quick reflexes and appeared to realize what was going on and spoke up. “In appropriate circumstances,” she said. Or maybe it was “inappropriate circumstances”? Regardless, Northam listened to his wife and parroted her words back to the journalist.
Some have voiced concern over whether our society is too quick to condemn people for past mistakes. Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, said during a panel on "Meet the Press" that while he thought what Northam had done was wrong, he didn't want the governor's career to end over a past mistake.
I do think, outside of Northam, and the specifics of this case, because now, there are all sorts of other things in play, maladroit he's been handling it. I'm hesitant about creating a political culture where lapses, 30 or 40 years ago, are used to entirely define someone's life and career, especially if there's no evidence that they're part of a pattern.
Some are reluctant to have Northam leave office. The Washington Post reported earlier in January that he had been an effective and efficient leader in his first year in office.
Northam, 59, oversaw the expansion of Medicaid after four years of failed attempts by Democrats. He reached bipartisan deals on lowering the felony threshold, overhauling state regulations and establishing dedicated funding for Metro. Amazon chose Virginia as one of its new headquarters, the unemployment rate is at a historic low and more than a billion dollars in new revenue is streaming into state coffers this year.
Members of Northam's own party were almost unanimous in their calls for his resignation. The Washington Post reports Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring has called for Northam's resignation, not just because of the moral lapse shown by his actions, but because he will no longer be able to effectively lead the state.
“It is no longer possible for Governor Northam to lead our Commonwealth and it is time for him to step down,” Herring said. “I have spoken with Lieutenant Governor Fairfax and assured him that, should he ascend to the governorship, he will have my complete support and commitment to ensuring his success and the success of our Commonwealth.”