Should the governor of Virginia resign over racist yearbook photos?

As many venues report (NYT article here), Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia, is now the object of gazillions of calls for him to step down, all based on a photo of a person in blackface, accompanied by a person dressed in KKK robes, that appeared on Northam’s page in his medical school yearbook of 1984.

Nobody doubts, including Northam, that the photograph is racist, but although Northam previously admitted he was one of the two people in the picture, he now denies it. But he now adds that he did wear blackface once, when he played Michael Jackson in a skit that same year.

The question is not whether the photo is racist, but whether it depicts Northam. That will eventually come out. But even if it does, should he resign? Both Democrats and Republicans are calling for him to step down, and nobody has said he shouldn’t—except for Northam himself and some readers on a recent thread here.

The more I think about this, the more I think that it isn’t a cut and dried issue—at least with respect to that one photograph. The question centers on whether we should forgive someone who transgressed in this way 35 years ago (assuming it was him in the photograph), or demand their heads and a permanent ban from politics. In other words, the question is whether Northam has reformed, and is not only not a racist, but someone who favors equal rights and opportunities for all.

I don’t know the answer to that question. Northam’s actions in recent years seem to be those of an antiracist liberal. What bothers me is that he’s wobbling on this issue, first saying it was he in the picture and then denying it, while admitting that yes, he wore blackface on other occasion in that same year. Perhaps he forgot, though I’d remember if I posed for a photo like that.

I guess I’m reserving judgment until I learn more about the facts and more about the photos. What worries me are not only the instant calls for banning, which carry the assumption that nobody is capable of reformation, but the fact that they are instant, and leave no time for us to thoughtfully reflect on the issue. Was Northam in the photo? Did he express racist views at the time, or in recent years? We don’t yet know.

The offense culture often comes with an assumption that ideological impurities should carry stiff sentences—often firing, lifetime bans from jobs, and lifetime shaming. Perhaps Northam won’t be an effective governor even if he stays on, since he might be distracted by constant calls to step down or by being ignored or impeded by other lawmakers. But what seems lacking in today’s political climate is any notion of reformation and forgiveness. People can change (that is not a contradiction of determinism!), and we should take that into account in dealing with them. Should we punish a man for what he did 35 years ago if he hasn’t evinced any racism since then?

Let’s take a vote, and I’d appreciate it if you would vote, as well as weigh in if you wish. If you think, for instance, that Northam should resign not just because of the photos, but because of his changing stories about them, which might bespeak a general untrustworthiness, or because he’s lost his ability to function as a governor, put it in the comments.


  1. Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    How did this not come out before?

    • DrBrydon
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Apparently, his Republican opponent from the 2018 election as joked that he should get his money back from his opposition research firm.

      • Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Yes. You’d think that after the Kavanaugh affair, yearbooks would be the first place to check.

    • dd
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

      I have read, through this right-wing website:

      But that still does not really get to the question: Who found it and how? And why not before?

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    The picture, out of context, is too little to go on to decide if he should resign. It could be that it was a tasteless joke that was a big hit then and an utter failure today. Remember when Ted Dansen wore black face? The intent was to make a joke not be racist but it was taken as racist. And if the person recognizes it was hurtful, they shouldn’t be punished forever.

    • Randy Bessinger
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:54 am | Permalink


    • A C Harper
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      Indeed. Apparently Joni Mitchell has appeared in blackface and Eddie Murphy has appeared in whiteface. How do we feel about that?

      • rickflick
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        I think it would depend on the context and intent.

    • rustybrown
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry, I can understand some isolated instances of blackface being excusable, but in this instance I think the blackface standing next to full KKK garb provides the context.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        What if the context was – “offensive costumes” or “opposite costumes”? You don’t know the context.

        • rustybrown
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          Well, then he could explain that. He hasn’t. So I’ll take the factual context of what’s in front of my own two eyes over imagined excuses.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

            But that’s not what was asked. What was asked was should he step down because of the photo. Period.

            • rustybrown
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

              Got it. And I’m saying yes, based on a photo showing him wearing full KKK regalia he should. Unlike you, I’m not going a step further to make up excuses for him (excuses he’s had ample time to offer but hasn’t).

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

                Interesting assumptions you’re making about my mindset now. You’re assuming I’m making excuses for him. I’m not. I’m suggesting that we don’t know the context so we can’t judge based on that picture alone and that it requires further context. I like to make decisions based on context and reason not assumptions.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

                OK, I’ll modify that: you’re making up hypothetical excuses for him.

                And the current context I’ll point out is that’s it’s been a couple of days and Northram has not confirmed your hypotheticals after numerous public statements about the affair so I think it’s safe to dismiss your hypotheticals, right?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

                No because you don’t have the context. Imagine the court worked this way. A picture is presented, you try to explain and the judge silences you because “the picture is all the context I need” GUILTY. Sentenced passed.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

                For Pete’s sake, this isn’t a court and nobody’s being silenced. He hasn’t tried to explain it, he’s denied it (after admitting it and apologizing). I just pointed out that the context we have now is that Northram is not confirming your hypothetical excuse. So it only exists in your head. If you want to cling to it that’s your business, but I don’t agree with your thinking. Every minute that passes gives us more context and so far doesn’t jibe at all with your original post.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

                I’m not saying it’s a court. I’m saying your logic is flawed and if applied to the way we judge people in court, would be unjust. And AGAIN, I’m only answering the original questions – should this person step down based on this photo and ONLY on this photo. Banging on about how he denied the photo is irrelevant to the original question. Get it? I’m saying if we were to ask him to step down after ONLY – listen carefully – ONLY seeing this photo that would be unjust. Your replies so far have involved answering another question, assuming my mind state, assuming I’m “making excuses for him” and ton of post hoc justification for doing all that.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                BTW, I agree with your original post in theory. I just see no evidence for it in this case.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

                Ah, I see. You’re posing a hypothetical question as well as providing hypothetical excuses. I’m not sure what “original question” you’re referring to, I was responding in the spirit of Jerry’s original question, “Should he resign?” in which I see no prohibition against taking real world, contemporary context into consideration.

                As to your hypothetical question which I suppose is “Should he resign over the picture alone with no additional context allowed”, I guess I think it’s rather silly. It’s hard to imagine your question existing in a vacuum where no additional context is allowed save only for ones we can only imagine.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

                Ok so you’re not arguing in good faith. You’re strawmanning and twisting words. I no longer wish to engage in this discussion as I’ve reached the same conclusion others have when engaging with you.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

                No, I honestly didn’t know your hypothetical prohibited one from taking real context into account. I don’t think you made that clear at all. And as I said, I was indeed responding in the spirit of Jerry’s original question where he specifically asked for reasons and context.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Or perhaps it was a sophomoric attempt at irony? Perhaps borne out of a context long forgotten? In any event, the happiest people at this point are the Republicans, as it reinforces the increasingly-all-too-accurate cliche of liberalism being in the thrall of proto-Leninists.

        • GBJames
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          A 25 year old sophomore?

          • BJ
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

            Nobody is too old for sophomoric humor. Just look at me!

            • GBJames
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

              I avert mine eyes.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

                Don’t! Embrace it. Feel the glowing mirth of a good dick joke. Bathe in the sunshine of an unfortunately timed fart.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

                I think that should be, “breathe in deeply the aroma of an unfortunately timed fart.”

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

                You’ve one-upped me, Diana. I fart in your general direction!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

                🙂 Anytime you need me to make a fart joke more vivid, you know where I am.

      • max blancke
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        At my University, we always held a “pagan ritual party” around Halloween. It was always held at an off-campus mansion, and was the event of the year. People planned all year for it.
        Costumes were mandatory, and prizes were awarded. “Most offensive costume” was a category. Of course, the costumes in the yearbook image are neither clever or elaborate enough to have won that award.
        Of course part of the deal was that if you went to that party, you were not going to be upset by anything you saw there, nor would anyone think that costume choice reflected in any way a person’s ideology or attitudes.
        And I am positive that nobody was worried about how their costume choice might be used against them decades later.

        But I don’t know what circumstances are represented by the yearbook photo.

    • rom
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      This show was cancelled in 1978 in the UK. It ran for 20 y.

      It was supposedly entertainment.

      • bristow
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        It WAS entertainment. When I was a child, this show used to be on New Zealand television every Sunday night (and there was only one TV channel back then). By the standards of that time, it wasn’t considered racist; it was considered to be following in the tradition of Al Jolson et al. Times change, tastes change, obsessions change.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          It was indeed very good entertainment. Well produced, well choreographed, with excellent singers. My mother (who was very ‘modern’ for her generation and absolutely not racist) loved it. And though it wasn’t ‘my’ music, it was, as I say, well enough produced that I liked to listen too.

          It wasn’t politically incorrect at the time for people to dress up as other races or nationalities, it was ‘acting’.


        • rom
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          Entertainment? I was never entertained by it.

          I cringed whenever it was on or left the room. Not because of any ethno-political sensibilities.

          According to Wiki, Lenny Henry was the first black person on the show in 1975. Also after the show’s demise it was on the stage for ten years followed by tours in Australia and Kiwiland.

          Go figure.

          • Posted February 4, 2019 at 4:27 am | Permalink

            I wasn’t a fan of it either but not because of the blackface. I never liked shows consisting mainly of song and dance. In fact, I cringe whenever Strictly is on.

            But I accept that this is my taste and other people’s tastes may differ.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I said no but don’t think it matters. The herd mentality, the mop has spoken and that is all that matters. He is a fish flopping around on deck waiting to die.

    My concern is all the masses who say he must go do not even know the guy in the least. Have no idea who he is or what he is about. But hang him and who cares.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      jesss – mob not mop

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Another unfortunate correction of a great typo…😉

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          you bet. That mop will get you every time.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Agreed. “The mop has spoken” is priceless.

  4. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    The same woke vigilantes who called for Kavanaugh’s head and cqll for Northam’s head, who deny that a man could grow up in 30 years time, are the same woke liberals who favor votes for ex-cons because convicted criminals can reform and should not be punished for life.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Yes, like Ilhan Omar who urged that people trying to join ISIS should be given a break because they might have reformed. If you’re going to ask for empathy and pardon, you have to be consistent.

    • Randy Bessinger
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      It seems to me that getting appointed to be a Supreme Court Judge or elected to Governor of a state is on a different level than giving an excon the right to vote. Indeed, perhaps giving a person the right to vote but barring them from public office would make more sense for an excon. Just a thought….seems a false equivalency that is being argued.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        yes, that “all” x-cons get to vote is a bit odd anyway. Murdered 6 people, sure, go ahead and vote. Smoked pot, I don’t know? And should they get to buy guns – sure, what harm could that be.

    • Neil
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Can’t vote one way or the other without more information as to the resignation. I do know that even if ‘reformed’ I would be wary to vote for him in an election.

      A little unfair, an ex-con has ‘served their time’. Has Kavanaugh? (*)

      Assuming his guilt.

      • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        It is this assumption that is key in Kavanaugh’s case.

        • Mark R.
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

          And the Republicans wouldn’t allow for a ‘real’ investigation, so I guess we’ll never know.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see them as the same Northam was 25 and graduating from medical school when this photo was taken and it was 1984. He doesn’t have the excuse of youth or that it was okay at the time.

      The photo is clearly racist, and would have been considered as such then. So, what I want to know is how Northam has conducted himself since it was taken. People can grow and change, and maybe he has. So, is there evidence that he’s no longer the sort of person who thinks this is okay? If so, he shouldn’t resign.

      However, I note that there doesn’t appear to be anyone coming forward to state that this does not represent the Northam they know and giving examples of how he’s reformed. Afaik, he hasn’t even trotted out the mandatory black pastor to speak for him. Thus my decision to click the box that Yes, he should resign. If evidence appeared that he has changed since 1984, I would withdraw that vote.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        There should be a full stop (.) after “same” in the first line.

  5. Karen Fierman
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I voted,yes, he should resign, but it’s not because of the photo. It’s because we’re now living in a time of reckoning: perps of yore are now becoming ROLE MODELS/POSTER CHILDREN for what we mustn’t do ANYMORE … we’re in the age of scapegoats, as it were. It’s not always fair—and I definitely don’t think it’s fair in Northam’s case—but he has the bad luck of living in such a moment. The better part of valor is for him to step down. It’s sad, because he’s actually a pretty good politician, and has voted for most things true and beautiful. Alas.
    There’s something else: the ex-Breitbart guy who exposed this photo … he was interviewed on NPR on Feb. 2; OMG, this guy is a MEGA-creep. He couldn’t care less about racism; au contraire, probably.

    • BJ
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think it’s healthy to promote a culture where historical and all other context is not to be considered, and where transgressions from several decades ago are judged by today’s morality I think that’s the exact opposite of what we should be doing. The current cultural environment is only serving to divide us further, rather than unite all of us in spite of differences like skin color, sex, gender, religion, sexual preferences, etc.

      I think the role models we need in situations like this are people who admit when they were wrong long ago and apologize, and the culture we need is one where we forgive them and then move on because we have empathy and understanding for one another, and wish to be one people rather than a disjointed collective of cliques based around superficial notions of “identity.”

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    “ … but someone who favors equal rights and opportunities for all.”

    There’s the difficult part – carefully evaluating the important stuff, and reaching a conclusion based on a preponderance of evidence.

    Sadly, in the ruthless political machine, he is a goner like … the SNL guy.

    The idea of judging others the way you would want to be judged is worth considering here – but it’s politics. It’s over.

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    [ after commenting, looks at the question on which to vote ]

    “Should”? That’s difficult! This will linger a while…

  8. Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Whether it’s him or not, merely allowing the picture such a prominent place in is yearbook page is racist.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Yes, we all agree on that but that’s not the question at issue. Please reread the post.

      • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        I was going to comment the same: to me, it does not matter whether he is in the photo or not, what matters is that he supplied this photo for the yearbook. Imagine some student inserting in the yearbook the photo of a prominent Klan figure – to me, this would be even worse than putting a white hood himself.

        • BJ
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          “Imagine some student inserting in the yearbook the photo of a prominent Klan figure – to me, this would be even worse than putting a white hood himself.”

          Yes, it would be far worse! Thankfully, that’s not the case here..

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      “allowing the picture such a prominent place”

      Wouldn’t that be the job of the editor? I don’t think Northam was the yearbook’s editor.

  9. Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    In other words, the question is whether Northam has reformed, …

    It’s not at all obvious that he was racist at the time and so needs to “reform”. It’s possible, for example, to have fancy dress parties with a theme of “most offensive costume”. Young people do things like that.

  10. Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I don’t see the point of driving a Democrat who has a good record of race relations out of office because of some stupid thing he did over 30 years ago. Democrats have to stop eating their own.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:03 pm | Permalink



  11. Mike Deschane
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    No. What he is and does today is what is important. Yes, his effectiveness will be somewhat blunted for a while, but the electorate has a short memory.

  12. Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    The incident was 35 years ago, when he was a student. Much more to the point to judge him by his record in office.

    As for the subsequent wriggling, I fear that such dihonesty, if it rises to that level, and bungling, is well within the normal range for US politicians

    Meanwhile global warming, Brexit, abrogation of IRBM treaty …

  13. Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I voted no. He should be honest and admit it if he is in the photo, and then society should acknowledge that everyone does stupid and often inappropriate stuff in college. Thirty-five years is a long time. The question is, who is he today? How does he live his life? In the eighties, dressing up as Michael Jackson would have involved makeup, just as dressing up as David Bowie would have involved makeup. People can’t be held to a future standard, it is unreasonable.

    • BJ
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Perfectly put. This is essentially what I said yesterday, but I think you did a better job.

      Our culture needs to learn how to forgive, empathize, and unite around our common goals, desires, and shared humanity. Unfortunately, we seem to be going in the opposite direction at a speed that is ever increasing. At some point, the wheels might just fall off if we don’t slow down and start to think, understand, and come together.

    • BJ
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      Hey, just took a look at your blog (I tend to click on people’s names here when they have a link attached, as I often find good content that I never would have discovered otherwise, like Ms. Ironfist). I like it! Well done.

  14. GregZ
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    He should resign, not for the photos, but for his wishy-washy responses, and the fact that he will be come politically ineffective.

    • Robb McAllister
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and for lying that it’s not him.

  15. davidintoronto
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I voted yes: should resign. I’m actually equivocal about the photo (what it may or may not mean). But to the extent that this controversy could damage the Democrat brand nationally – and thereby strengthen Trump! – methinks he’s gotta go.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      I wonder, how do you make a races stronger with another racist picture. The people who support Trump will remain the same with or without this.

      • davidintoronto
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        Since Trump has been an unmitigated embarrassment, one might suppose that a potted plant could defeat him in 2020. But apparently, reelection is a distinct possibility; and in a tight race, a small detail can tip the balance. So if the Dems are seen as excusing or forgiving racism among their own, the same charge against racist Trump loses rhetorical force.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          Yeah, to view this for the moment solely through the prism of pragmatic politics, Virginian is a key swing state. The odds that it remains blue are heavily dependent on the African-American vote. Two more years of a Governor Ralph Northam would no doubt dishearten black Virginians and suppress black voter-turnout in 2020.

          • BJ
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

            I very much doubt this. Two years is a very long time in politics and, more importantly, the black vote will always be solidly for the Democrats. So long as Northam doesn’t do or say anything racist in the next two years, I don’t think any of the vote will be suppressed.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

              The Rooskie troll farms would be all over it. Hell, they micro-targeted potential black voters to suppress their turnout for Hillary in MI, PA, and WI last time. Imagine what they’d do with this in Virginia.

              No Democrat, least of all the 2020 presidential nominee would be able to appear on the hustings with Northam. And there’s very little margin for error in a purple state like VA. Hillary won it by five points, but only with a large turnout in Democratic precincts in 2016.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

                “…they micro-targeted potential black voters to suppress their turnout for Hillary in MI, PA, and WI last time.”

                I haven’t heard about this particular part of the scandal. Can you link to me some sources?

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

                Also, sources that demonstrate it was successful, if you can. Not questioning the veracity, just genuinely interested to read about it.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

                Here’s a WaPo piece describing how the Russian troll farms used internet ads and Facebook to micro-target voters.

                And here’s the Pew research data on how black voter turnout in 2016 fell for the first time in 20 years.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

                OK, so I read the WaPo article, and while it talked about “microtareting,” it didn’t mention any state. Second, tying the downturn in black voter turnout to this is a leap of faith, and you need to demonstrate a causal relationship before stating it as fact. I think this is especially true considering that a lot of black people consider the Clintons to not exactly be friends to the black community, what with various pieces of legislation passed by Bill. Further, you have the problem of Hillary as a candidate.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

                I hate to say this, Ken, because you know how much I respect you, and I suspect you’re probably smarter than I am, but…

                I feel like, over the last year or so, I’ve seen you increasingly blame things on Russian trolls and make claims that various things Trump does are somehow being done explicitly at the behest of Putin, almost always with little or no evidence. While there’s substantial smoke around the idea of direct collusion between Trump and either the Russian government or some Russian organization, there is still no straight evidence, and there’s definitely no evidence that Trump is an explicit pawn of Putin and takes orders from him. But I have seen you make such claims with increasing frequency, and it’s the only time I’ve seen you engage in conspiracy theories. These particular conspiracy theories may have more smoke around them to provide justification for believing than most, but they’re still just theories.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:59 am | Permalink

                My point in this particular subthread, BJ, has been limited to the political practicalities of Ralph Northam’s remaining in office. We know that the Russians have the tools for micro-targeting particular populations. We also know (from US intelligence) that the Russians intend to interfere with our 2020 elections.

                Are you willing to pin the prospects of four more years of Donald Trump to the chance that the Russian troll farms would overlook a ripe target like suppressing the vote of the disaffected population of black Virginians that we would have were Northam to remain in office for the next two years? How much better would it be for Democrats if their next presidential nominee could campaign in Virginia alongside a popular black incumbent governor like Justin Fairfax? That was my only point in my preceding two comments.

                As for Donald Trump, I am convinced that he has been compromised in some way by the Russians. I know of no other plausible explanation that would account for the know facts regarding the people Trump surrounded himself with during his campaign, the numerous contacts between the Trump campaign (and transition team) and the Russians, Trump’s numerous pro-Russia statements during the campaign (and pro-Russia acts and statements since taking office), and Trump’s incessant lying about all of the above.

                It is quite obvious that Putin and Russia have had leverage over Trump in at least one respect: Trump was trying to build a tower in Moscow (financed by a sanctioned Russian bank, and for which Trump stood to make a $300 million profit) throughout the entirety of his 2016 campaign. The Russians knew this. And they knew Trump was lying about having no business dealings in Russia. And Trump, of course, knew that the Russians knew this. That alone gave Putin leverage over Trump.

                Similarly, the Russians knew about the June 2016 Trump meeting DJT Jr. (and Maafort and Kushner) had with the Russians, and knew that Trump was lying to keep that meeting secret. The Russians also knew about the representations Mike Flynn made to Russian ambassador Kislyak in December 2016 about lifting sanctions and knew Trump was lying about this. Every time Trump has lied to the American people about any contact or relationship with Russia, it gives the Russians leverage over Trump.

                As for Trump doing things expressly at Putin’s behest, I don’t know the content of their communications. But Trump has had an unprecedented five private one-on-one meetings with Putin since taking office. Not only have all other US government officials been excluded from these meetings, Trump has failed to give any of his cabinet members (let alone the American people) a read-out of what took place in those meetings.

                At two of the meetings, Trump did not even have his own translator present. At another, Trump confiscated his translator’s notes and forbade him from ever telling anyone inside Trump’s own government what was discussed with Putin. One of these five meetings (in Helsinki, before Trump’s disastrous joint press conference with Putin) lasted two hours. The Russians know what was discussed here, and there is a good chance that they have transcripts of what was said. Again, this alone gives Putin great leverage over Trump.

                This is not my view alone; it is widely shared by former US intelligence heads, former cabinet members, and by conservative commentators of the never-Trump camp. Hell, the FBI itself opened a counter-intelligence investigation into whether the president of the United States is a Russian intelligence asset. Do you have any idea of how bizarre and unprecedented that is? Do you have any plausible alternative explanation that accounts for the known facts?

                I do not know the full extent of how compromised Donald Trump is by the Russians. (I suspect it relates to financial entanglements going back to before his candidacy.) But I’m confident Robert Mueller has investigated this and has accumulated the relevant evidence. We will find out when he issues his report.

  16. Christopher
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I admit to not following this story as closely as many might be, but right now, with my limited understanding I struggle with a strong decision, finding reasons for and against resignation, so I voted No Opinion. As I said in yesterday’s post, it would be easier for me to accept him staying on if he had come out and admitted his role and apologized unreservedly but this doesn’t seem to have happened. I can accept that people can change, can regret stupid mistakes, can go on to do great things, and he may well have done so, but he appears to be trying to weasel out of this instead (apologies to all right honorable mustelids for the term) the way politicians are wont to do. What I do know for certain is that the republicans haven’t a leg to stand on, being as they continue to support and openly racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic president and their calls for his resignation are fully and completely political in nature. If he were a republican they would be circling their wagons in support. So, for now, I say No Opinion, but leaning towards resignation.

  17. Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Everyone has something that today could be taken out of context and used to pillory them, but what I find most disturbing is the ‘it *might* have been me’ or, ‘maybe it was the *other* blackface photo that I did.’

    Kavanaugh could credibly claim he might have been drunk, what’s this guy’s excuse?

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      35 years is a fair excuse for not being sure! We should not think that human memory is reliable over such periods, whatever introspection might tell us.

      • rustybrown
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        For whether or not you published a picture of yourself in your yearbook wearing a Klan hood?! Please!

        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:37 am | Permalink


        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

          Whether it was you or a friend in the hood is the sort of thing that memory is not reliable on over 35 years.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink


            I had that proved to me – with a photograph – when I would have been prepared to swear under oath (not that the necessity for that would ever have arisen) that a friend of mine was walking down the street wearing a New Zealand flag after a party 15 years before. And the photo, of course, was of me wearing the flag.

            (I know what my brain did – it remembered Terry – party – NZ flag and just put the three together. It was his flag).


        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          + 2

      • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        I’m 70 now, but I’m pretty sure I remember *every* stupid, unkind, questionable decision made, from age six on. Distinctly, as they were all teaching moments, and I was lucky enough to be called on them by those who were offended. Immediately.

        Anytime I think ‘I wonder if I should do/say this…’ voice in my head tells me ‘You might want to think this through. Remember when…’

        And I don’t think I’m unusual in that. Especially in matter that are *always* matters of contention. Like race.

        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          You may *think* that you remember, but the likelihood is that your memories are highly distorted. The evidence is that human memory is simply not that good. What you remember are not actual events, but stories, heuristics based on (but not accurate to) actual events.

          • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

            In general, I think you are right about the inconsistency of event memory. However, this image in his yearbook ties into racism. A politician in the US can’t possibly ignore the racism issue. He would have been thinking about his own racism, regardless of whether he’s a racist or not, and the significance of things he had done in the past to his political career. In short, I find it hard to believe that Northam has never thought about this picture since it was published. Even if he’s not in the picture at all, he would worry about its discovery from time to time and its likely effect on his career.

            • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

              It would certainly be unthinkable now, but maybe not so much 35 years ago.

              As for thinking about it, it very much depends on the circumstances by which it came to be on that page. It’s quite possible that he forgot about it soon afterwards and hasn’t given it a thought in 34 years.

              • tomh
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

                Seriously? Someone could dress up in a KKK hood and then just forget about it? Unless he was doing it on a regular basis, that seems doubtful. And just the fact that he knows it might have been him (evidenced by the fact that he said it was him at first) would be enough to put me off him for good.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                @tomh Yes, seriously, 59 year old people forget things they did 34 years ago all the time, especially if it was, say, a “dress offensively as possible costume party” or something. There are plenty of ways he could forget it, including just being old and never having thought about it again because it wasn’t a big deal to him at the time.

                The fact that it’s a big deal to you now does not mean it was a big deal to him them, or that he would remember it 34 years later at the age of 59. Hell, it doesn’t even mean you’d remember it in his shoes. My parents certainly don’t remember many things they did 34 years ago, and I’m sure some of those things were offensive even then.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

                Old! 😉

              • tomh
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

                Well, that’s one problem. A Klan outfit was no big deal to him, and apparently no big deal to a lot of people here, either.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink


                A Nazi outfit would be no big deal to me if it was fancy dress.

                Now maybe that’s my over-reaction to attempts to police Halloween costumes (can’t do Barbie, can’t do Fu Manchu, can’t do Geronimo etc etc).

                Actors in movies wear such gear all the time. Is it forbidden to wear it in a satirical / joking context?

                (Exhibit #1: )


              • tomh
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

                As far as I know even Northam hasn’t claimed he was in a movie or at a fancy dress ball.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink


                I’m with infiniteimprobabilit here. I’ve been to a “wear the most offensive Halloween costume you can muster” party and I’ve never thought about it again until all this came up. You don’t know the context. This is one of the problems with current culture: assuming that absolute worst, most uncharitable interpretation possible is the correct one.

              • tomh
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

                Northam’s had plenty of time to explain the context. How’s he doing?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

                You’d better never run for office or be anyone with any prominence or at least not have had any pictures taken at said events.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

                You folks are all overlooking that Northam said yesterday that wearing blackface in 1984 would have been a big deal for him, as was his Michael Jackson outfit that year, and that THAT’s why he’s sure it’s NOT him in the med-school yearbook picture.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:21 pm | Permalink


                That could be true, or he could be saying it in an attempt to show that, even back then, he thought that doing something like what was in the picture was a very bad thing. But he also admitted to using a bit of blackface in his Michael Jackson costume, which makes the statement to which you refer rather contradictory.

                But I was really just responding to the tomh’s idea that it’s simply not possible for someone who’s 59 to forget something they happened 34 years ago, even if it was offensive, and I will add that yes, even if they would have considered it offensive at the time.

                I’m quite sure that, even at my young age, I have no memory of some offensive things I did when drunk or high when I was younger. There are many factors that contribute to memory. My point, again and again, is that the 100% certainty with which tomh and others make these kinds of claims is unwarranted.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 4, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink


                You realize you’re trying to defend Northam on grounds he hasn’t tried to defend himself, right?

                Northam first said he was in the yearbook photo. The next day he said he knows he wasn’t. He hasn’t said (yet anyway) that he’s in the photo, but that he forgot all about wearing the costume. Maybe this will be his third version, should it turn out that there are others from his med school class who remember the party and the costume and the photo.

              • BJ
                Posted February 4, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

                Ken, I feel like you’re not really listening to my arguments again, and I don’t want to further litigate (heh) this. I’ve made my positions clear, and what I’m arguing is not what you said.

                And I’ve never actually argued For Northam. This is, again, something that people don’t seem to understand. I continue to argue, as I do for all people (even Trump sometimes!) that a statement they made or something they did could be in good faith, or mean something different, etc. In other words, I argue against people stating as fact the most uncharitable possible interpretation of events because I’m rather sick of seeing our politics devolve to that, even when it comes to intelligent people debating.

              • BJ
                Posted February 4, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

                Ken, furthermore, you’ll note that, on multiple occasions, I have said that he should only remain in office if he had owned up to what he did in that picture (if it is actually him) and made amends, and there was no further evidence of racism throughout his political career. I have also said repeatedly that if he is now lying about not being in the picture, he should resign.

                What I have done and continue to do is argue against certain assumptions and interpretations (stated as facts) that fall under the umbrella of this whole situation. This should be an understandable thing to do, especially since the Covington fiasco, though I’ve done it for years before.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted February 4, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

                BJ —

                I’m not giving the man an uncharitable interpretation; I’m taking the man according to his word.

                His current position is that he’s SURE it isn’t him, because if it were, he would certainly remember it. The principle of charitable interpretation does not requires that we construe his words as other than what he clearly meant.

                I don’t believe him, since his shifting stories and demeanor bespeak deceit.

                He had one opportunity to get this right after the picture surfaced, and he blew it. I’ll be surprised if he’s still Virginia governor by the end of business today.

              • tomh
                Posted February 4, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

                My favorite of his many explanations is that the photo may have been placed on his yearbook page by mistake. A person who worked on that yearbook explains how it was done. (WaPo)

                William Elwood, who helped lay out the school’s 1984 yearbook, said each student was responsible for submitting photos for his or her page in a sealed envelope.

                “Every student would provide them — some big envelopes, some small — with their names written on the outside, and we would keep them sealed until it was time to design that student’s page,” recalled Elwood, 68, a retired family practice and emergency room doctor in Mississippi. “I don’t remember exactly after, but I think they were sealed up and given back” to the students, he said.

              • GBJames
                Posted February 4, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

                I was surprised he wasn’t gone by the end of business last Friday. We may continue to be surprised.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

            That’s absolutely correct re memory, Coel.

            In fact the brain houses so many memories it can’t possibly hold them all. What it remembers is a few key facts and then reconstructs the incident – often inaccurately.

            See for example the book ‘The Invisible Gorilla’ for many examples. (There’s a website with examples of this).


            • tomh
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

              Sure, we see it all the time when people like Kavanaugh or Jeff Sessions or dozens of others testify under oath. When Sessions testified in front of the Senate committee, about the only thing he remembered was that he didn’t do anything wrong.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

                All anyone can testify is what they remember. Being under oath does not magically make people’s memory any more accurate or comprehensive.

                (I’d be a dreadful witness under oath because I know how fallible memory is. Mine and everyone else’s. Just that most people don’t realise how fallible their memory is).


              • tomh
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                Well, that makes it convenient.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

                And believing that anyone you don’t like can’t remember something that may or may not be compromising is equally convenient.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

                Correction: believing that anyone you don’t like is lying about not being able to remember something that may or may not be compromising is equally convenient.

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    According to his undergrad yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute, one of Northam’s nicknames in those days was “Coonman.”

    Northam was asked about it at his presser yesterday and denied knowing how he came by that handle. Northam also cited his abiding faith in the Lord and the VMI’s “honor code” as reasons he wouldn’t lie. So there’s that.

    Northam remained out there on the stage for 45 minutes. It was cringe-inducing. For a hot second, when he was asked about the dance contest he won as Michael Jackson, he appeared to be considering demonstrating his version of the moonwalk. I kept wishing his poor wife, standing there next to him, had a hook, so she could drag him off the stage like Sandman Sims at the Apollo.

    After that performance, Northam has no chance of remaining in office — not without being an open, suppurating source of embarrassment to himself, his family, his Party, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    • Christopher
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I just saw that a minute ago on Stephanopoulos…I mean, how friggin’ clueless can you be? After seeing his little performance, I can imagine him donning blackface and being absolutely unaware of why that could be offensive. And as much as I hate to agree with a holier than thou reporter from The NY Times, he doesn’t seem to show much remorse so it’s very hard to offer forgiveness. Rehabilitation requires remorse and apology, and he has failed to offer that thus far.

      • Historian
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        I watched at least three times the part of the news conference when he was asked if he could still do the moonwalk. I did not draw the conclusion that he was considering doing it at that time and only his wife stopped him from doing so. His wife jut prompted to give a longer answer than just saying yes or no.

        • Christopher
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

          He clearly looked to me like he was scanning to the right of the podium for room to perform his dance move but I am not a mind reader so only he could answer the question, although based on his recent attempts to deal with questionable circumstances, I dare say his answer would be of dubious merit.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 4, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

            Looked that way to me, too. It must have looked that way to his wife as well — otherwise why the Nancy Reagan-esque whisper “inappropriate circumstances”?

            Inappropriate for what?

  19. Debbie Coplan
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The confusing story is troublesome to me.
    He has lost credibility. He should have set the record straight from the beginning and possibly could have saved himself.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink


    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      His claim he never saw his classbook page is laughable. He provides the photographs including one of him showing off his car and he doesn’t bother to check? Come on.

      Someone has told him that no one can prove it is him in the picture, so now he is going to try and claim it is all a mixup that the picture appeared on on his page. Bullshit.

  20. DrBrydon
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I don’t think he should resign. I think he should stick it out, and let it blow over. We need people not to cave to mob sentiment.

  21. Historian
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    In response to a post yesterday, I commented extensively on this issue, so I will try to limit repeating myself. Since the governor’s press conference yesterday, it is clear that if he was a person in the picture then he should resign because he lied. But, if he did not lie then a strong case can be made that morally, if not politically, he should not resign IF, as seems the case, in his political career he has acted as a progressive, supporting measures favorable to African-Americans.

    From a political perspective, it is crystal clear why virtually all Democratic politicians have called for his resignation. It would be political suicide to do otherwise and Northam staying in office represents a threat to Democratic electoral prospects. Still, I find it nauseating that my so-called fellow liberals have reacted in a textbook case of the herd mentality. Suddenly, it’s perfectly acceptable to call him a CURRENT racist when these accusers know or don’t care about what he has done as a politician. In the past day, I have read several article on the incident as well as viewing guests on MSNBC. I became quite depressed by what I witnessed. The mob has condemned a man for what he MAY have believed 35 years ago with virtually no discussion of what he has done since, in office and personally. Yesterday, I mentioned the case of Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) who actually was a member of the KKK, which is a lot worse than dressing up in a costume, but repudiated his racist views and became a revered member of the Senator by his fellow Democrats. At that time, his sorry past was forgiven. That wouldn’t happen today.

    Yesterday on CNN I heard David Gergen, an advisor to both Democratic and Republican presidents, note that in American politics what commonly happens is that there is a hanging before a trial. That is what has happened here and the mob mentality has been demonstrated in full bloom. I would not call for him to resign if it turns out that he is now the person he claims to be.

    • Historian
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      I have actually found an article that condemns the herd mentality. The author even mentions the Robert Byrd history. The story is on the Quillette site, whose articles I often disagree with. But here the author is right on.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Had Northam come out on Friday and fully explained the circumstances of the med school yearbook photo, explained how and why his attitudes about race had changed in the intervening years, and given a sincere apology for his actions — well, then, he’d’ve had a fighting chance to stay in office.

      He didn’t. Instead, he first admitted it was his picture and gave an apology that (it seemed to me anyway) was calculated to save his political bacon. Then, only after that tactic failed to succeed, he came out and claimed he wasn’t either person in the photo he had admitted to the day before, while admitting that, the same year, he had put a “little bit” of black shoe polish on his face for a dance contest — in the process violating every tenet of Crisis Management 101.

      The people of the Commonwealth of Virginia (including the 87% of the black electorate who voted for Northam) deserve to have an effective governor lead their state, and at this point, Ralph Northam ain’t it. He needs to resign.

      • rustybrown
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Good points.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Cryin’ out loud, rustybrown, don’t agree with me; it gives me the willies. 🙂

          • rustybrown
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

            OK. I disagree that it should give you the willies. Happy?!

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          “Had Northam come out on Friday and fully explained the circumstances of the med school yearbook photo, explained how and why his attitudes about race had changed in the intervening years, and given a sincere apology for his actions — well, then, he’d’ve had a fighting chance to stay in office.”

          He probably doesn’t even remember it. I wouldn’t. Would you? (Think hard before you answer that one). How could he then ‘explain the circumstances’.

          I suspect he initially assumed – because it was on ‘his’ page – that he must be one of the characters in the photo. As one would.


          • Ken Kukec
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

            Northam said yesterday he WOULD remember wearing blackface (as he did regarding the Michael Jackson dance contest the same year) and that’s why he can confidently say he wasn’t in the yearbook photo.

            Northam’s deep into trying to bullshit his way out of this because his original lukewarm apology didn’t work.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

              What I said. He was probably blindsided by the accusation and made some concessions he probably (with hindsight) shouldn’t have made.

              Re the Michael Jackson he’s probably being honest. How many white kids at the time were trying to copy Michael’s moves?


              • GBJames
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

                When I was 25 I would not have wanted to be called a “kid”.

      • Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        He seems to have a history of putting on blackface. Not surprising that, reportedly, he was known as coonman.

    • jim Batterson
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Sorry to be so late to the discussion today – particularly one so dear to my heart as a reasonably progressive Virginian. I think that here under “Historian”‘s Comment is the most appropriate place for this. I wrote yesterday that the Governor has demonstrated nothing but the highest level of service to humanity over the past 30 years as an army medical officer, pediatric neurologist at the Childrens Hospital of the Kings Daughters, and a politician serving in the Virginia state senate, as Lt Governor, and now governor. I was very disheartened (but not surprised) by the piling on by so many people before any facts are really known. It was particularly disappointing to see our two Democratic Senators Kaine and Warner, followed today by Democratic Attorney General Herring pile on….I thought that I knew these gentlemen and have sup[ported them for office over the past decade. But before we really know much for sure, they have called for the governor’s resignation. Questions such as who was responsible for the pictures that appeared on his page of the yearbook – i believe he said that he had sent in the personal photos with him in a cowboy hat and sitting by his car….but who sent in the racist picture? and who placed it on the page? and did students have any right to review their pages before publication? and is this a real yearbook or these days a photoshopped piece? Was he even at the school at this time or had he begun his military service? I was struck by the Governor’s statement to the effect that he had darkened his face many years ago to attend an event as Michael Jackson BUT after speaking with a friend(s) realized how hurtful and wrong that was and never did it again…that is called growth. In the excellent book “In the Shadow of the Statues”, Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans, speaks about walking around the city’s parks and monuments to slave times with his childhood friend Wynton Marsalis – yes that Wynton Marsalis – to help the Mayor understand the impact of these civic structures on the black community. That conversation helped form his decision to remove as many of the statues as he could during his administration and repopulate the city’s parks with a story that comports more closely with the truth. It seems to me that our Governor is cut from much the same cloth as he takes information in and reassesses his behaviors and positions throughout his life. his early days were spent in a school system that had only grudgingly and recently desegregated, a southern school system (Virginia infamously closed several of it school systems after Brown vs Board of Ed rather than integrate (or even desegregate) and VMI, a college tightly tied to Confederate general Robert E Lee. All of my experience has shown Governor Northam to be an honorable, socially progressive man who has overcome a very dated Virginia society. It would be tragic to lose his leadership and I am ashamed of and extremely disappointed in the current Democratic leadership for not backing down the “ladder of inference” and verifying the facts of the situation before taking public positions that are simply magnified by the Republicans and almost all talking heads and newspapers. Please let’s understand the facts before taking rash actions that impact both individuals and the potential welfare of the Commonwealth of VA.

      • Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        “I was very disheartened (but not surprised) by the piling on by so many people before any facts are really known.”

        Shouldn’t Northam be the first to give us all the facts? This is not a “crime” committed by some unknown terrorist. Even if Northam’s memory is faulty, surely he could have contacted friends and classmates before denying it. Surely they could have pieced the incident together, identifying the two in the photo.

        • jim Batterson
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          Sen Kaine has a local Office in VA Beach, just about 5 miles down interstate 264 from EVMS; Sen Warner has a local office in Norfolk, just a few blocks from EVMS. Surely a staffer for one of them could have initiated a deep dive in person at EVMS, to try to locate a hard copy of the yearbook to verify the integrity of the pic and to start to run down how the specific page in question was created, reviewed, and distributed. If we cannot handle this any better now, i greatly fear how the Dems will deal with the calculated and organized incoming from all sides in the 2020 elections. Besides if the Dem leadership were to keep their powder dry and encourage other to also for a bit, it may have tempered the avalanche of continuing piling on. of course if the governor had been better spoken in his two announcements, it would have helped, but having a couple of folks publicly in his corner may have helped him with that.

      • Historian
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Your comment makes me realize how those who call for his resignation try to obfuscate the issue of redemption. They say that they believe in redemption but that Northam should achieve this out of office. They assume that Northam has not yet achieved redemption, but the question should be whether he has already redeemed himself by his actions over the past few decades. The answer seems to be yes. If so, a picture from 35 years ago should be a minor element at best in evaluating his life and the question of whether he should stay in office.

        Those who call for his resignation for political reasons even if he is already “redeemed” are at least being honest. Northam must be the scapegoat to appease the mob. Yes, his performance at the press conference was awkward at best. Maybe he is in the picture and he made a mistake putting on blackface at the dance contest. We can expect Republicans to call for his resignation when they have no problems supporting Trump despite his record with women or not demanding that Steve King immediately resign. But, once again Democrats in their quest for purity in all things get bent out of shape about incidents that took place 35 years ago. Northam may have proved himself to be an inept politician, but it’s immoral to howl that he should resign for this reason. If this is the criteria for kicking people out of political office, there are thousands of other politicians deserving this opprobrium.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

          The first sign of redemption is to stop bullshitting about what actually happened. Northam hasn’t got there yet.

          He’s desperately shifting his story in a vain effort to cling to office. That won’t fly.

          I suspect we’re going to hear more on “Coonman” and the circumstances of his yearbook picture the longer he tries to hang on.

  22. Ty Gardner
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    No, he shouldn’t resign, but that comes with an if and an explanation. If he is willing to discuss why he now knows that his actions, even if limited to Jackson impersonation, were wrong he shouldn’t have to go. He should also discuss why the yearbook itself represents the worst of humanity and why society is better leaving such thoughts and acts in the past.
    A no vote also requires that he has not engage in such activities while representing the people of Virginia (in any capacity in government, not just as governor).
    We must allow people to change. If they have, and are willing to own their mistakes, we should forgive. If not, we should impose the death penalty for most offenses and speed up our justice system.

  23. Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    People make mistakes then they grow up and regret those mistakes. It’s not big deal. I voted No.

  24. JohnE
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    We applaud drug addicts and criminals who repent and mend their ways. Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction to the discovery of these ancient racial or gender sins by politicians and celebrities seems to me to be a poor substitute for actually thinking. Shouldn’t some consideration be given to what else Northam had done to redeem himself since the time of the incident in question? I don’t know if there actually is anything, but shouldn’t thinking people at least ask?

  25. CAS
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Allowing for the fact that people can change is important for civility. Taking the worst thing a person did in the past as defining their whole life is irrational. This reminds me of the Al Franken case where we lost a smart, very good senator over stupid but fairly trivial actions. I guess the argument for resignation is that he can no longer be effective, but resignation reinforces a bad precedent. I have the feeling that social media mob driven resignations, if not resisted, will only get more ridiculous in the future

  26. metamofor
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Matters regarding racism deserve treading with caution.

    • katherine mechling
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Thank you.
      Northam managed his defining moment without caution. He did not articulate an understanding of racism worthy of the office he holds.
      Time to step down.

  27. Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    He has denied that he is in the photo and denied that he approved of the photo being placed in the yearbook. He said he did not buy a yearbook and only recently became aware of the photo.

    There is no proof that he is in the photo and no proof that he knew gge photo would be in the yearbook.

    He was elected governor based on his record in politics.

    Charges are easy to make and hard to defend. Just as in the recent case of the smiling boy from Kentucky and the old man beating the drum in his face.

    Prove that he is in the photo and/or approved it appearing in the yearbook before asking that he resign.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      What alternative explanations are there for the photo being at that page in the yearbook?

      • rom
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        It is for the prosecution to provide the evidence.

        If the defence can provide evidence of innocence that is a bonus.

        • GBJames
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

          Are we in a court of law?

          • rom
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

            We should be held to some lower standard?

            • GBJames
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

              Are you serious?

              Standards are obviously different between court trials and other parts of life. Otherwise we wouldn’t need courts.

              If we are unable to hold opinions, and argue for them, until a court has issued an opinion, nothing would work.

              • rom
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

                Sure we can hold opinions without reasonable evidence.

                Theists do it all the time

                By all means express your opinion I will hold mine.

        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

          In this case, I don’t think any prosecution needs to provide any evidence. The governor’s whole new twist “I am not in the photo and have no idea how it got on my page” sounds too much like the statement of a 2-yr-old that he has nothing to do with the smelly object in his pants.

      • Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        That question should be directed to the people on the yearbook staff who put the pictures in the yearbook. They can say why they put the picture there. Individual students not on the staff are not consulted on the contents or composition of the books.

        That appears to me to be a necessary part of any invistigation. Nowadays people want to make final judgements without really making an attempt to find out what happened.

        Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up. That is an old saying from my college days.

  28. Carl Morano
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Whether we like this guy or not is irrelevant. We must push back against the mob. Let elections decide the fate of politicians not mob emotions. The witch hunters on the left and right have to be crushed.

    • GBJames
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      This neither about a mob nor witch hunters. He has entirely lost his base of support. A political leader without supporters has no value to the citizens.

  29. walkingmap
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I can’t answer the poll because I would like to see 2 polls for more nuance.
    I do not think he should resign over an incident that took place 35 years ago, to which he gave a mea culpa. His record as a politician should over ride that lapse of judgement. …
    But his now current reversal and claim it’s not him and he doesn’t remember and well, the usual stupid backtracking is what disgusts me and if shown that he is in the photo, then the current lie should be his undoing.

  30. GBJames
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    He can be “forgiven” and resign. The two are not coupled.

    He must resign because of how he handled the situation. He’s lost the confidence of his (former) supporters and has no political base anymore.

    • Historian
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      In Virginia, a governor cannot succeed himself/herself. This means for Northam that it is irrelevant how much support he has from his base. After his term is over, he is out and will probably never be elected to another offic. The only thing that matters is whether this incident has impeded his ability to induce the legislature to pass bills he deems worthy and whether staying in office hurts the electoral chances of other Democrats. Both possibilities are speculative.

  31. Andy Lowry
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I vote no. Surely there’s a statute of limitations regarding youthful silliness. I sure hope there is, anyway, as I was interested in astrology when I was 15 or so.

    • demfromsc
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      One would think that a highly educated physician like Northam would know better, even as far back as 1984. However, I don’t think that he should resign unless our “President” resigns first. Read the following list of racist actions by Donald Trump and compare it Northam’s:

      Were was/is the massive outcry for Trump’s resignation? Surely he has a more consistent and more destructive pattern of racism than Northam. A sense of perspective is required in this situation.

  32. Jenny Haniver
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Before a decision is made, the New York Times via Titania McGrath needs to be consulted;

    If after reviewing this material, the consensus is that he should resign, we must call Julie Andrews to account, too and blackball her for her blackface.

    • BJ
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      That. Is. Fucking. Amazing.

      Chimney soot is now blackface. Holy shit.

      At this point, every time something like this happens, we might as well not repeat ourselves and just mutter, “parody…reality…becomes..blah blah blah…”

  33. Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Fer Crissakes, even George Wallace was rehabilitated after a long career as an avowed and practicing segregationist! He renounced racism in the late ’70s, and in his last public office as governor of Alabama, he appointed a record number of blacks to government office. I haven’t seen (yet, at least) any claims that Northam has actually done anything racist in his military, medical, and government career. Wallace had a ton to apologize for, did apologize, and was rehabilitated. Northam’s done nothing other than dressing up as Michael Jackson for a dance contest, and he’s profusely apologized even for that. This is a wholly unnecessary Democratic own goal, no matter how it turns out, and I fear what it presages for the upcoming primaries and presidential election.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      1970s Alabama is not the same as 2019 Virginia. And the spirit of social shaming and virtue signaling is very different now. Plus, how many in Wallace’s last electorate truly cared about his history (or even viewed it negatively)?

      I agree with the “Democrats eating their own” sentiment. Reminiscent of the Al Franken situation.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      ” This is a wholly unnecessary Democratic own goal, no matter how it turns out…”


  34. Simon Hayward
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I think he should go, not so much because of the offense, which I think should be expungable, but because of the problems of pursuing a moderate political agenda in the face of a gerrymandered but still narrowly republican majority house in VA.

    And you know this won’t go away for the reelection, it will get dragged up early and often.

  35. rustybrown
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I voted a reluctant yes. Several reasons tipped the scales:

    1. Even though it was decades ago, he was a full grown man, almost 25.
    2. Not only posed in racist costumes, but chose to proudly and publicly display the pictures. That’s a big difference from a private picture being discovered.
    3. It was 1984.
    4. His equivocating is pathetic and exactly opposite of what you’d want to see from someone who has truly reformed. It stinks. How could you not immediately know if it was you in that picture?
    5. He accused his opponent of racism. Like so many Democrats, he’s cynically played the race card in his campaign.

    Having said all that, I’m open to new information and clarification, although politically I think he’s dead meat. I’m a reluctant yes because I do believe in redemption and I loath this “gotcha” culture but in this case too many things stack up against him, quite notably his current behavior. I would probably feel differently if Northram had gotten ahead of this thing in a candid way.

  36. chris
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I voted yes. His attempts to ride this out are only making things worse for him.

  37. Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I know someone who wore face makeup to dress as Michael Jackson; ghostly white makeup. But I guess that’s different? Should there be a statute of limitations on costume offenses?

    To understand the context of social awareness and sensitivity about blackface at that time, it’s worth noting that the movie “Soul Man,” about a white kid who poses as black to get into Harvard, was released nationwide in 1986. The movie “Short Circuit” was released in the same year with Fisher Stephens in brown face portraying an Indian. Most people would have understood blackface to be the minstrel-show style. The concept has since evolved and expanded, but at that time face darkening for impersonation (eg Michael Jackson) was a common gag that didn’t attract much protest. If the current standard is to be applied retroactively, there’s going to be a backlog of people to punish.

  38. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Ralph Northam’s governorship is dead. Muerto. Fini. Dead as disco. Dead as the dinosaurs. Dead as Nino Scalia after Hillary put the pillow over his face.

    Politics at the statewide level is hardball. It’s time for Northam to face up to the reality of his circumstances and do what has to be done: put on his big-boy trousers and go clean out his desk at the VA governor’s mansion so Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax can take the helm.

    After his fumbling, tergiversating, embarrassing performance yesterday, this is no longer a difficult call.

  39. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I always have to tell myself to think about the psychological thing going on : there are other qualified citizens who can step up to be governor.

  40. Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I voted yes because

    1 His changing stories suggest he is not trustworthy.

    2 He can no longer be an effective governor.

    3 He is damaging the Democratic party by giving the Republicans a club to beat them with.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      “2 He can no longer be an effective governor”

      Precisely this fact – and this fact alone should be the one sign to everyone that it’s time for someone else.

      It is unfair and sad and not how I’d want to be treated were I in his position, but if people are going nuts over someone in office…. then… that individual…. why does this sound familiar?….

  41. Frank Bath
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Looking back I don’t know the person I was 35 years ago. I have changed, and for the better, and so may anyone.
    A politician caught telling a lie, if lie it be, is another matter altogether.

  42. Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Northam’s reaction to the discovery of the photo shows very poor judgement. Everyone knows that the best path to being forgiven is to immediately reveal all. It is hard to believe he doesn’t remember participating in the photo or, if it isn’t him, why the photo is in his yearbook. He’s really botched things up and can’t fix it now. He may not deserve to go based on the original act but he has no choice now. He should resign.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Man, I’m sure I’ve done silly things I can’t really remember. That being said, he should have owned up, even if he can’t remember. I admit it is mean to ridicule the Clan, but still…

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

        He said yesterday that he knows he’s not in the med school yearbook photo because he’d absolutely remember that, just as he remembers the Michael Jackson dance contest. He also claimed (somewhat inconsistently, you ask me) that he didn’t recognize how wrong blackface was until his faithful companion, “Seth,” blacksplained it to him during his campaign.

        Northam had one chance to fix this, and he squandered it. Crisis Management 101 would’ve been to go radio silent for the weekend, have a spokesperson issue a terse statement that the governor would address this fully and completely at a press conference on Monday. Use the weekend to shore up support on his African-American flank (by being absolutely candid with his black supporters about what was out there).

        Then, hold a presser on Monday, making a clean breast of everything, along with a reflection on how he’s a changed man, how his record reflects this, how sorry he is, and how he plans to name a commission with some black preachers on it to confer with him on matters of race. Assign his black lieutenant governor some expanded duties as it relates to anything that touches on race.

        This isn’t rocket science. Any political consultant worth his or her salt could’ve given him this advice. Hell, he could’ve run over a dozen of ’em on a drive from the governor’s mansion to District of Columbia.

  43. Carl S
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Reluctantly, Yes, otherwise will remain a cudgel for the other party to use against the Dems locally and nationally, despite the GOP’s overlooking their own current racist office holders, including the Racist in Chief.

  44. ladyatheist
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Do white kids get any kind of education in the history of racism? Do they know what “blackface” was in the 1800s? or early 1900s? Do they know why it’s considered offensive?

    Did anyone in the 1970s & 1980s get publicly shamed for portraying themselves as black at a Halloween party? How was he supposed to know that this was offensive?

    I don’t remember when I first learned about minstrelsy. It wasn’t in high school, and I doubt it was covered in my college courses. I probably saw some documentary on PBS that included it in the context of the arts or black history.

    So… do white people in 2019 get a pass on doing that today? No. Should white people in 2019 get a pass on doing it in 1984? I’m not sure.

    People do evolve and change and grow. They should get credit for that. I don’t think we should condemn people for life for the stupidest thing they did in their 20s. Even murderers get paroled in that length of time.

    • tomh
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Do you suppose he knew what a KKK outfit stood for?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        He also has no clue how he earned the sobriquet “Coonman.”

        Too late now to claim he wore a Davey Crockett cap to his VMI classes (better to be thought a doofus than a racist.)

        I expect we’re gonna hear more on this, from people who remember how he got the nickname, and from people who remember who was in, and maybe who took, the med school yearbook photo.

        Things are like to get worse for Northam from here on out.

        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          What is actually “Coonman”? I google it, and all I get is Northam!

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

            “Coon” is a racial slur against black people. Google only “coon”. Ken made the joke about a coon skin hat because it’s also short for “racoon”.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

              Exactly. Unless Northam was famous for hunting raccoons in the Virginia hinterlands, the implications of the nickname “Coonman” are not good.

        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

          There is nothing doofus about my treasured Davey Crockett hat. Though I wouldn’t wear it outside home. I don’t think ol’ Walt Disney’s Davey Crockett shows would play well today. A fur wearing imperialist.

  45. dd
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    A smart column in Quillette about Gov Northam:

    “Perhaps just a few years ago, Northam’s apology and Saslaw’s defence would have been enough for the governor to be able to move on. We have all done things we’re not proud of in the past, and our most offensive and obnoxious moments do not encapsulate our lives. But given an American elite culture that is regressing to a secular version of old puritanical norms, whereby sinners are branded for life and there are political points to be scored for casting them into hellfire, it is not surprising that Northam was immediately deluged with calls to resign.”

    • a-non
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      Good article, and lays out the comparison to views about ex-cons:

      > The Intercept, published a lengthy sympathetic piece about a convicted murderer’s run for city council. The man in question knifed another man to death, and spent close to two decades behind bars. The author of that article wrote that “his experiences certainly make him an important candidate, able to connect with the thousands who have been isolated and defined by previous misdeeds of theirs or others-

      “Misdeeds” meaning murder.

      Screwing up the dress code didn’t quite make it onto Moses’s top-10 list.

  46. rustybrown
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Northram campaign also coordinated with group presenting a disgusting, race-baiting ad against his opponent Gillespie. This type of activity makes America and race relations so much worse:

  47. Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I voted Yes, though, as a non-American, I hardly have any word in who should be Governor of Virginia. But I wouldn’t want Dr. Northam to have any position of power over me, and I don’t see why others have to put up with this. It would be another matter if Virginians had known this before and had elected him nonetheless. But it was not known before the elections, and if it was, I don’t think he would have been elected.

    Ken and Randall mentioned the attitude of black voters, of whom 100% want him to resign. If he keeps his position, this will drive one more wedge between whites and blacks.

    Republicans are of course salivating. Can anyone blame them for this? In their writings, they regularly remind that the Democratic Party used to support slavery.

  48. Robb McAllister
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Yes, he should–NOT because of the blackface, but because he’s a liar, and not a very good one. The blackface pic is on HIS yearbook page, he admitted it was him, and now denies it. It’s his yearbook page, and his nickname was ‘Coonman.’

    The same goes for Kavanagh, and for the same reason. The sexual assault accusations are now beside the point. He said he didn’t know the meaning of slang terms on his own yearbook page, terms that any kid from that (my) era would know, terms my friends all knew when I asked them. The one that easily comes to mind: He said that a reference to the “six F’s,” which meant “Find ’em, French ’em, Feel ’em, Finger ’em, F**k ’em, Forget ’em”–Kav said it was a reference to someone whom he knew that stuttered.

    What blows me away is that these things were printed–not just scribbled by a yearbook signer–but actually printed in 1980s yearbooks. Not in my Catholic yearbook, I assure you.

    Yet another thing that saddens me (that I directly attribute to this era of President [sic] 45) is that you don’t even have to be a convincing liar anymore.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      I have just read something bizarre about that yearbook:

      “This is not the only photo featuring someone in blackface in the 1984 yearbook. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, there are several others… On the page opposite Northam’s there’s a photo of three men, two of whom appear to be in blackface. There is one other photo with a man in blackface on a different page of the same yearbook, the article said.”

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink


    • Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Agreed – if he had issued a heartfelt apology and had showed (through previous actions) that he was no longer into crazy nonsense or that “most offensive costume” contest was what was going on, I would have been ok. But flopping around for excuses etc. doesn’t look right.

  49. pablo
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    He shouldn’t resign over his youthful stupidity, but he should resign for his inept and bizarre handling of the situation.

  50. Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that, so far, a majority of voters here think that Northam should not resign. Had he been a Republican, I wonder what the outcome would have been?

    • Robb McAllister
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      I must admit that as must as I like to call myself ‘independent,’ I have voted Democrat, but as I say above, he should be out, for the same reason as Kavanagh.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      I voted before I knew about his political affiliation. I only heard he’s against racism now. Let us be clear, that photo, whether or not including Mr Northam, is as much a ridiculing of the Clan as anything else, I’d think.

  51. Steve Gerrard
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that it is the people of Virginia who should be deciding this one.

    He is their governor; they elected him; they should decide if he goes. He should listen to them.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Is there any mechanism for them to decide, other than widespread rioting? It already seems to me that nothing less than this will make him resign.

  52. rustybrown
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Northram also repeated the lie that President Trump didn’t condemn white supremacists after Charlottesville after Trump had done so repeatedly.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      So, that’s a least one point in Northam’s favor.

      • rustybrown
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Repeating race-baiting lies is a gold star for you? Does that work for everyone, or just against candidates you dislike? Nevermind, I know the answer to that.

    • Robb McAllister
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Didn’t he go back on his apology for saying there were fine people on both sides by saying it was the f’nist thing he did?

      • rustybrown
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        Not sure what you’re referring to. I don’t think he ever apologized because he never said anything wrong.

        • tomh
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

          Nothing wrong, as long as you agree with his statement on Charlottesville, “you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”

          • rustybrown
            Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

            He was referring to good people on both sides of the removing the monument issue, not Neo-Naziz and Antifa. That’s clear if you read the original transcript.

            And yes, I do agree with that. Because it’s true.

            • rustybrown
              Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

              “Nazis” See, I don’t even know how to spell it!

              • Robb McAllister
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

                No, both sides of the groups protesting the removal, one side of which was white supremacists.

              • Robb McAllister
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

                From transcript of press conference at Trump Tower, Tuesday, August 15, 2017:
                Q: Neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest the removal of the statue.
                A: Excuse me. You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

              • BJ
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

                As far as I’m aware, the march in Charlottesville was not organized or advertised as a “Neo-Nazi” march, but a “Unite the Right” march. I don’t have a problem believing that some people showed up there thinking it was just a march for conservative values and ended up finding themselves in a very bad situation.

                But this is, again, a difference between me and a lot of people: when I see some people from a group of several hundred do bad things, I don’t assume everyone in the group is a bad person. I try to give people benefit of the doubt on an individual basis until they prove me wrong.

              • rustybrown
                Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

                Robb, I’m glad you’re referring to the transcript. But you need to consider more of it for proper context. Here’s more from the source I’m looking at, The LA Times, hardly a pro-Trump outfit.

                QUESTION: (inaudible) started this (inaudible) Charlottesville. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest…
                TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. (inaudible) themselves (inaudible) and you have some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me — I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

                And just moments before he condemned the Neo-nazis while separating from them the people who were there to peacefully protest the taking down of the statue.

                “I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee. So — excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see — and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.”

                Before that, he was forcefully and unequivocally condemning the Neo-Nazi who killed H. Heyer:

                “Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and his country. And that is — you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That’s what I’d call it. Because there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer. And what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”

                And shortly AFTER the clip you quoted he said this:

                “And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

                And moments after that he bends over backwards to emphasize his point that he’s not talking about Neo-Nazis being good folk:

                “There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people — neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest“

                Now how in blazes do you get all the variations of “He called Neo-Nazis very fine people” that I’m reading from many of you on this website? Is anybody feeling intellectually honest enough to admit that narrative is nothing but a dishonest media con job?


  53. Posted February 3, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    There seem to be two levels to this question.

    The first is whether or not the year-book pictures label him as a person who is unfit to be a Governor of a State. To my mind the salient point here is that the picture was taken and published 35 years ago. It may or may not have been truly racist in intent but even if it was that does not mean that Northam is racist now or has been throughout his political career. People change their views on things – often diametrically – as they get older and wiser and *in a purely ethical sense* surely what matters is what a political representative stands for now. If Northam’s political record shows him to be not racially biased then he should not be expected to resign.

    The second level, however, concerns the practicalities of politics. The revelation of this photograph may have fatally wounded Northam’s future electoral chances and might significantly harm those of his party as a whole. Irrespective of whether or not he is actually a racist, the savage rules of electoral warfare mean that resignation may well be his wisest course of action.

    (These comments do not take account of Northam’s vacillating explanations for the photograph and what is does or does not show. The changing of his story does suggest a degree of deceit which, whilst a quite separate sin from racism, is also a rather undesirable trait in politicians and would rightly be taken into account by voters considering his fitness to serve).

    • Historian
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      “The second level, however, concerns the practicalities of politics. The revelation of this photograph may have fatally wounded Northam’s future electoral chances and might significantly harm those of his party as a whole.”

      As I pointed out above, in Virginia a governor cannot run for an immediate second term. If he waits out the next election, he can then run again, which I doubt has happened very much. The only other electoral office he would likely be interested in is senator. The state already has two relatively young Democratic senators so it is highly unlikely that he could move up to this position even if he were not involved in this mess. So, it is highly likely that his political career will be over at the end of his term if he should live it out.

      Whether or not he hurts the Democratic Party in Virginia or nationwide by not resigning is speculative. I am not at all sure that the voters would refuse to vote Democratic because of one person, particularly when virtually every Democratic officeholder in the state and country wish that he would go.

  54. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I gather that his policies are not racist now, and that he’s fighting racism (correct me if I’m wrong) . So no, he should not resign. Owning up to silly play with blackface and white hoods would help though.,

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      His way of fighting racism is to win elections by accusing his Republican rival Ed Gillespie in racism – as far as I know, without any evidence. There was in the campaign a video ad showing a truck with Gillespie sticker chasing minority children, google it.

      • tomh
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        A video ad that he had nothing to do with and was withdrawn.

  55. Josh Lincoln
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t prince harry dress up as hitler? I guess it is just disappointing that these are the best public figures that emerged to represent the populace (well the royalty, that is another story,not elected, still somehow represent the populace).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and I was thinking about the incident a lot when thinking about this one. I think it was Harry’s luck that that happened before this culture of outrage became so entrenched and it was pre twitter – but just! He took his licks, apologized, and carried on. Don’t know if he’d be able to do that now but maybe British royalty is more enduring and can weather such storms.

      And it was a party with a “colonial” theme – imagine such a party now!? You’d be in trouble for throwing it or attending it and that was only 10 years ago.

      • tomh
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        “You’d be in trouble for throwing it or attending it”

        You say that like it’s a bad thing.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        “I think it was Harry’s luck that that happened before this culture of outrage became so entrenched …”

        I think it was Harry’s luck that nobody gets to vote on a ridiculous throwback to feudalism like “prince.”

  56. a-non
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Can an American fill me in on how yearbooks are created? Do you submit photos of yourself, or do your friends / “friends” submit things they think amusing? Do adults have a veto somehow? How fixed are such practices, e.g. since the 80s?

    While I have no stake in who governs Virginia, I voted no. Sounds like he and his buddy tried to find yin-yang costumes for some fancy dress party. I’m sure they knew it was edgy. I’m also sure he drove the car pictured faster than the speed limit sometimes.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      That might’ve been a good explanation — had Northam given it in the first place. He didn’t, and the one he’s riding with now doesn’t pass the smell test.

      • a-non
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        I confess I have not followed every twist an turn of how things unfolded. But what are you suggesting, he was secretly a Klan member or something? Or he just fluffed the PR?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

          I’m suggesting that, as Northam initially acknowledged, that’s very likely a photo of him on his personal page in his med-school yearbook — and that, when his original, half-assed, lukewarm apology didn’t work, he tried in vain to spin a bullshit story to try to cling to office.

          It didn’t work, and it won’t work. I’d be surprised to find him still in office a week from today, and wouldn’t be surprised if he resigns as early as tomorrow.

          He’s done, cooked; it’s just a matter of how long before he comes to grips with it.

          • a-non
            Posted February 4, 2019 at 2:09 am | Permalink

            Yea as a matter of reading the tea leaves, I agree he’s done.

            I just don’t think this is a desirable state of the world. It’s not going to result in the sudden discovery of a cache of experienced politicians who meet 2020’s purity standards, or 2025’s, whatever those will be. I know that believers in these standards think them obvious and eternal but this is not true. It was not obvious in 1985 that a fancy dress party would get you into deeper shit than (say) illegal drugs.

            If decent ordinary people (as this guy appears to be) can’t or won’t stand up to this kind of mud-slinging, then the only people left standing will be those willing to live out a full-time asshole persona, like Trump.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      This American phenomenon is beyond me too. I’m guessing that the “Yearbook phenomenon” is related to the idea-set which Zuckerberg turned into a “name the sexually desirable girls in your dorm” website, and then into Facebook.
      What rather surprises me is this :

      a photo of a person in blackface, accompanied by a person dressed in KKK robes, that appeared on Northam’s page in his medical school yearbook of 1984.

      Again, someone in KKK robes on this side of the pond would probably need to have worn a sign saying “these are KKK robes, and American cousin of the Nazi party, otherwise people would have wondered what the hell their “fancy dress” was meant to be. The blackface we’d have recognised though, since it was only barely a decade since the TV had stopped showing the “Black and White Minstrel Show” as “entertainment” – and it had been put off the TV because even then it was recognised as the racist shit that it was.
      Given the rather more charged attitude in the States (wasn’t/ isn’t Virginia a slave- Confederate state?), I can’t believe that a university student (let alone one with pretensions to a political career) in 1984 didn’t recognise these symbols ass profoundly racist at the time. Which argues at best for profound idiocy in the proponent, if not out-and-out racism.
      Neither of which are, of course, barriers to public careers in America. Or Britain, it must be said.

      • a-non
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        Right, I’m sure he knew they were offensive, that would have been the point. But radioactively offensive, get-fired-from-high-office-in-35-years-time offensive, I’m not really sure that concept existed.

        I mean what exactly could you have been photographed doing in 1950 which would get you fired in 1985, without breaking the law? I do not think that dressing up as a Nazi (or as Joe Stalin) would have been enough.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          I know Britons who would still describe themselves as Stalinists. My mother-in-law in Russia is also one, according to the wife. Just because the America thinks the term is toxic doesn’t necessarily translate outside their borders.
          In other threads of Britain, being a Nazi isn’t a particular problem.
          Whether it would be enough to get you de-selected as an MP (and potentially unemployed at the next general election) is … something we’re likely to see a lot of over the next few months. Painting ceilings to cover up the bloodstains is going to be a booming business for months.
          As a civil servant, you’re not allowed to get involved in public politics, so it’s a non-issue. You’d be fired for being involved in public politics, regardless of what your were saying.

          • a-non
            Posted February 4, 2019 at 1:58 am | Permalink

            Right, but the analogy isn’t even to *being* a Nazi, it’s to dressing up as one, presumably for shock value. And not now, but more than half your lifetime ago. This would not have got you fired in 1985.

            (I am, separately, permanently astonished at the acceptability of admiring Stalin & co.)

  57. gormenghastly
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Reluctantly I voted yes. I don’t think the yearbook is a big deal personally but the controversy isn’t going to go away, and his ability to serve in the role is going to be severely handicapped as a result. His apparent prevarication over it is not a good sign either. But it’s also a painful choice because I don’t want the grievance industry to claim another scalp.

    • tomh
      Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      There’s a grievance industry? Maybe there are just idiots who do stupid things and don’w own up to them.

  58. Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    If everyone who was guilty of doing something stupid or offensive in High School were to resign from politics, we’d quickly run out of politicians.

    Which is why I voted “Yes”.

    If only we were all wise and considerate people from the day we were born and never had to grow, learn, or disabuse ourselves from the attitudes of youth.

    • Posted February 4, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      It took me a moment, but I think that I got your point 🙂 Some of us here are old enough to remember the annual high school minstrels put on by the students, singing spirituals, telling Amos ‘n’ Andy jokes, and so on. The local drug store offered n*****r babies for a penny each. I call it innate racism because at that time, I did have a clue about race issues since there was not a non-white person anywhere to be found in our town and surrounding area. Later on, many of us figured out how bad all of this was and completely changed our perspectives on race. Sadly, many did not. It would appear as though Northam has changed – hence my no vote.

  59. eric
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I would be calling for his resignation if he were a Republican, so….yes, he should resign. I’m okay with letting the chips fall where they may.

    Frankly I think ends-means liberals shouldn’t support him either. What would happen if he resigned? Democrat Justin Fairfax would serve until an election could be called and then this purple state turning bluer every year would hold an election. So if someone’s concern is loss of political control of the state…I doubt that would happen.

  60. Wayne Y Hoskisson
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    No opinion. Gov. Northam’s response to the photograph disappoints me. For now I am willing to Wait for a good explanation of the photo and a good response if the photo is him.

    I ran for political office knowing that some parts of my life would be embarassing or worse if known. I was never a racist, never assauLted anyone, never participated in fraternity hazing, but I was not an exemplary citizen for a number of years. I thought about the possibility of some bad behavior being revealed and decided I would apologize and let the election run its course. My opponents did some research and ran an attack ad. I saved it. It would make a decent resume for some jobs.

    Every decade and perhaps every year I have become more knowledgeable, less quick to judge, and more humane. I think this is generally true of people. Unfortunately I can think of a lot of exceptions. I hope Gov. Northram does not turn out to be one.

  61. Posted February 4, 2019 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    I realize that context and intent are not exactly fashionable things to talk about, but nonetheless I would like to offer a (bit) of context (for younger readers)
    In the UK there was a show called the Black and White Minstrel Show, that featured male singers in blackface and female ones not blacked up. It was the most popular show on TV at the time, playing to 21 million plus (in a country of 50 million). It even had (genuinely) black performers on it such as Lenny Henry (who said he was depressed after appearing there).
    It ran until 1978.
    The musical version ran in the West End until 1988.
    At around this time we took some long hard looks at ourselves and our ways of representing black people, decided (rightly) that such depictions were beyond the pale and such shows could not exist today.
    I assume that America is going through similar. To extract ONE person from that time, show their picture (and theirs alone) and pretend that they are somehow unique seems not just unfair–it is close to being literal scape-goating–the putting of sins onto one sacrifrical animal to expiate everyone else’s sin.
    This is an issue with religiosity. It doens’t go away just when religions do–the mechanisms of guilt, sin, and purity are deep, and mostly, they are not the best thing about us.

  62. Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I voted yes because he is going to be politically ineffective and unpopular from here on out; he’s dead in the water. But I don’t agree with the way the Democrats are doing this to people; I think it’s wrong, and I think it will damage them in 2020. People do dumb things when they’re in college; people change; forgiveness is a virtue; and most of all, there is a long list of politicians who are currently, actively racist in both their speech and the policies they endorse, starting with our current President, who suffer no consequences and remain in office, so focusing on 35-year-old minor transgressions like a Halloween costume that is in poor taste is crazy. But yes, he should resign; the Woke Left have killed him off. As with Franken, we will probably regret it later, but it is already done.

  63. Posted February 4, 2019 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Ah – the folly of youth… does he hold racist views now? It was a different age…

  64. peepuk
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I don’t know anything about Ralph Northam, but as a general rule of thumb, if someone hasn’t committed a serious crime, there is no reason he should be quitting his job.

    People do sometimes stupid things, but that isn’t in itself a crime.

  65. rickflick
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    This incident reminded be of Kirsten Gillibrand’s ousting of Al Franken from the Senate. While others were talking about an investigation to get to the bottom of the Franken situation, Gillibrand leaped into the fray and denounced him in advance. She’s now leveraging her notoriety to run for president. She does not impress me favorably.

    • Posted February 4, 2019 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Besides what she did to Franken, I find her whole demeanour irksome though I haven’t studied it long enough to get more specific.

      • tomh
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        Franken did it to himself.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 4, 2019 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I think if he had toughed it out, it would have blown over. The person who brought it up in the first place said she didn’t want him to resign & that she was happy with his reaction to the whole thing.

          • Posted February 5, 2019 at 2:37 am | Permalink

            I agree. I would have liked to have seen the results of the Senate investigation. So often what we know at first is just part of a larger pattern of bad behavior. But if the only thing Franken did were the things we saw on the news, an apology would have sufficed.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

        I saw Gillibrand interviewed on the Late Show by Stephen Colbert where she announced her candidacy for president. She didn’t look ready for prime time.

  66. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted February 7, 2019 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if he *should* resign but it is the Democratic party (influenced by voters, no doubt) that want him to do so regarding upcoming elections; it is their internal business.

    Also, Northam is in more trouble, he seems to have been a pediatrician and described the taboo practices of euthanasia after birth. I don’t think even Swedish doctors want to discuss that in public!

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