Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has been exposed as having participated in the posting of a photogragh in his medical school yearbook in 1984, in which he is posing with another student, one wearing black face, and the other in a Ku Klux Klan robe and mask, leading to demands for his resignation.
This whole situation is sad, as Northam was elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia in November 2017, after serving as Lieutenant Governor, being in the state legislature, having had a medical career, and given eight years to the Army Medical Corp.
Northam was seen as a moderate left Governor, and seemed to be a decent man who would serve the one term allowed Virginia Governors, with no ability to be reelected, due to constitutional bars for a second consecutive term.
But the situation requires immediate resignation, as Northam has lost the confidence of the Virginia voters, and cannot use the excuse of “a youthful indiscretion”, since he was 25 years old at the time of the yearbook photo in 1984.
Certainly, Northam has worked to promote racial reconciliation after the despicable Charlottesville riot in 2017, while he was running for the Governorship, and himself, attended a desegregated high school where the majority of students were African Americans.
No one is saying he is an open racist now, and yet we have an open racist in President Donald Trump, who said both sides in Charlottesville contained decent people, an outrage in trying to call Ku Klux Klan white supremacists as having equality with those protesting racial inequities.
Truthfully, while Ralph Northam needs to resign, Donald Trump, for his long and consistent racism, nativism, misogyny, and praise of white supremacists should also resign, but we cannot be that lucky, unfortunately.
When Republicans are accused of inappropriate behavior, they always manage to move past it and stay in office, while Democrats are always in a position to be forced out, as with Al Franken on the accusations, never fully investigated, of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct with women.
The only good result of Northam’s eventual resignation is that Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, an African American, who graduated Duke University and Columbia University Law School, and is seen as the future of the Democratic Party, as he will turn age 40 on February 17, would succeed Northam as Governor. He would be the second African American governor of the state, after Douglas Wilder, and the fourth African American governor in modern times.
He worked in several Democratic Presidential campaigns, and was a “body man” for Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards in the Presidential campaign of 2004. He also worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and as a law clerk for a federal judge, and also as a prosecutor.
While Virginia only allows one term for Governor, a succession by Fairfax would not eliminate the possibility of an elected term in 2021, so Fairfax could be Governor of Virginia for nearly seven years. That would make him an historic figure, and give him the opportunity to become a national fiture, and potentially a future Democratic contender for the Presidency in 2024 or 2028.
Only one former Governor, Mills Godwin, was able to serve two nonconsecutive terms as Governor of Virginia, as a Democrat from 1966-1970 and as a Republican from 1974-1978.