Democrats in Virginia have the chance to flip both the House of Delegates and the State Senate this year. If the Democrats are able to gain control of both houses — which has not happened since the early ‘90s — they will have the chance to create real change by passing common sense gun reform, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and redrawing the heavily gerrymandered districts in the Commonwealth, among other policies. Democrats must remain focused, committed and progressive on the issues they have been championing when the next legislative session comes around, but they cannot allow Gov. Ralph Northam to gracefully return to the limelight as a progressive leader. Democrats need to take a stand and re-energize the condemnation of Northam for the stain and disgrace that he is on the Commonwealth.
This January, photos from an Eastern Virginia Medical school yearbook of Northam in blackface. After initially admitting that he was in the photo, he turned around and said it was not him, but that he did participate in blackface during a Michael Jackson impersonation competition.
Blackface is an explicit form of racism and hate. It is rooted in white people acting out racist stereotypes with the only intention being to dehumanize black people. The fact that the governor, who was elected by the citizens of Virginia, partook in this hateful display of black people while he is supposed to be representing Virginians of all races is horrible, and therefore he has lost his moral authority to continue leading the Commonwealth.
Right after these blackface photos came to light and his lackluster apology, many Democrats immediately called on Northam to resign and there seemed to be a sense of unity in the party. There was an overarching message that we do not tolerate bigoted, racist politicians who are supposed to represent the best interests of all Virginians. Since the scandal broke and the initial condemnation, liberals have been silent on the topic. It is important that Democrats continue to label Northam and his actions as wrong in order to uphold morality within the party.
Ghazala Hashmi, a Democrat running for the State Senate, said during a recent debate, "Gov. Northam is not on the ballot in November 2019. [Her opponent] is on the ballot and I’m on the ballot. And if we’re going to make decisions about who is right for this district … we need to be focusing on issues that concern this district." She is correct — Northam is not on the ballot, and Democrats need to be out explaining why their progressive agenda is what Virginia needs. But once the election is over, Northam will still be governor and Democrats in the General Assembly must then confront this situation again by continuing to pressure Northam to resign.
Additionally, even though he is still occupying the office of governor, Northam has proven not to be a true leader in the Democratic party. Recently, he even seemed to be supporting certain Republicans for office. In reference to two current Republican lawmakers at an event, Northam reportedly said, “I've been in Richmond for almost 10 years, and I’ve had some great friends and great relationships. And you have two very fine delegates and senators. Delegate Danny Marshall.… Thank you for your leadership. He’s there for the right reasons. He does great work for Virginia and his constituents. And Frank Ruff... you don’t find any better.” Northam is vocally supporting Republicans who have A-ratings with the NRA and voted against common sense gun reform and the ERA. This just shows how out of touch Northam is with both Virginia and the progressive movement within the Democratic party.
I believe Northam is a racist. Northam believes that conservative Republicans are doing a great job. Northam is a blight on Virginia. Democrats have a progressive plan to transform Virginia this election cycle and help improve the lives of millions of Americans — but Democrats must remain progressive on all fronts. If the Democratic party in Virginia wants to stay true to its values by fighting for a more inclusive society, then Northam can have no role in its future. Democrats in the General Assembly, hopefully with a majority by the time the next legislative session occurs, must fully condemn Northam with a continued push for his resignation.
Hunter Hess is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.