Readers’ votes: Northam should stay on

It’s pretty much academic whether Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will stay on: he won’t, as the pressure on him to resign will build and build, with nobody defending him. I say this regardless of what I feel, which right now is conflicted and still in stasis waiting for the facts to come out.  But I will give the results of a poll from two days ago when I asked readers whether they thought that Northam should resign. The results are pretty clear:

More than twice as many respondents thought Northam should stay on rather than resigning, with a tad more than 16% having no opinion. Now I’m not pretending that this is a scientific poll: I’m just the messenger here. I will predict that within a week Northam will be out as Governor, and that his political career is over. Such is the Zeitgeist. 


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised to see the no’s do so well but that is good. On the other hand, there is now a report/rumor going that the deputy who would take over when he resigns is in some trouble. Have no idea if it is true and he is denying it. I will not even repeat it here.

    • Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      I have also read such a rumor, hope that it is not true.

    • rom
      Posted February 4, 2019 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      Casting stones comes to mind here.

  2. David Jorling
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    There were a number of reasons I voted yes. The only one I want to point out is that he had to know that page existed, yet he never attempted to address it directly in all the years that went by before now. Why?

    • Harrison
      Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      Lots of well-meaning folk have directly addressed their own problematic pasts…and very, very few of them were rewarded for doing so. It’s far better to just say nothing and keep your head down and your fingers crossed.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink


        “he had to know that page existed,”
        Why? If he ever saw it, it’s probably long forgotten. If I think back, I can imagine records that ‘must exist’ about me, but I wouldn’t even know where to start looking.

        “he never attempted to address it directly”
        Again, why? On what occasion? “I hereby declare this library open, and by the way there’s a pic somewhere of me in blackface standing next to a KKK or maybe the other way round, I can’t remember” ?

        He did ‘address directly’ his imitation of Michael Jackson, and look where that got him.


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

          There have been quite a few stories recently about images and context. The Covington kid, particularly.

          I was thinking about my college experiences in regards to costume parties, and whether any images exist or were published.
          I cannot tell you what images are associated with me in my yearbooks, but I do not know. I have never seen them, as I am not a yearbook person.

          I once dressed in a costume that would look pretty bad today, out of context. I dressed as the “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” kid from Cabaret. At a party attended mostly by military historians and military archaeologists. The point then was that it was not actually a Hitler Youth uniform. There are key differences that nobody but us would notice or care about. We were interested in anachronistic ww2 uniform presentations in postwar media. Star Trek, for instance.
          Different times.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    “You know what’s going to happen now, Carson,” said Chigurh. “You should admit your situation. There would be more dignity in it.”

    — Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

  4. rustybrown
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I just wish that reporter was successful at goading him to do the moondance. He would have done it if his wife wasn’t there. Ahh, what could have been…

    • Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      I was taken aback first by seeing his wife next to him at a political press conference (cultural differences? still good that it wasn’t his mom) and then seeing that she was really needed and maybe they’d better had elected her as Governor in the first place… Ceiling Cat! Maybe we have been too quick to discard honor cultures wholesale. Any code of honor would instruct one to resign before the readership of the Daily Mail has nicknamed him “Dead Man Moonwalking”.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 4, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      No need to wallow in the man’s humiliation. I hope he leaves office as soon as possible, to spare himself and all involved more embarrassment, and to restore effective leadership for the people of Virginia. But I bear the man no personal animus. Hell, I rooted for him in his 2017 gubernatorial campaign against his halfwit Trump-fluffing opponent, Ed Gillespie.

      Northam engaged in racially troublesome behavior in his past, but I see no evidence he’s been a bigot in his public life. The primary sin he’s doing penance for now is aggravated political malfeasance.

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

        He’s been a flagrant raise-baiter in his public life, and that’s directly comparable to being a bigot in my book. He’s loathsome.

        • rustybrown
          Posted February 4, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          Jesus, “race-baiter”

      • Posted February 5, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        I agree that if Gov. Northam resigns, it would be pure malice to humiliate him further. The problem is, he is nowhere near resigning and, to keep his job, is trying to sell stories that become increasingly more bizarre. If his tactics succeeds, Virginians will have a shortage of efficient governing, but plenty of free entertainment.

  5. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    At best there’s a moral, ‘in theory…’ argument that he should be allowed to carry on. (Although given his tergiversation on the issue of the photos I wouldn’t agree with that either.)

    But politically speaking he has to go, and the longer he drags this out the more harm he does to a Democratic party that is, rightly in my opinion, united in calling for him to resign.

    • Hunt
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      Pfft, come on, that’s a self-imposed condition. Democrats are called to fall on the sword at the first sign of trouble; Republicans get elected president three weeks after it’s revealed they love to grab women by the you-know-what. If Dems didn’t keep self-impaling, perhaps we’d still have the most progressive senator ever, Al Franken.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        It’s a political question more than a moral one, because Republicans have the truly repulsive Steve King on their team and they’ve barely lifted a finger to get rid of him. They’re of course massive moral hypocrites.

        But even so…Northam can’t give us a straight answer and that makes his position untenable afaics.

      • Hunt
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        Right now the left will sacrifice potentially good people for the mere possibility of moral corruption. As Yoda said “this is where we fail”. The left needs to get a grip. 2020 isn’t far off, and we’re going to get walked on.

      • Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Here, the problem is not whether self-impaling is the right thing to do, but how many voters would swallow this scandal.

  6. Posted February 4, 2019 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I think he’s waiting for the next Trump scandal or Mueller bombshell.

  7. alexander
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    It’s ironic that he has been caught out by something that appeared in a ‘facebook’ in its original (paper) sense, and not in the internet one.

  8. Posted February 4, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Lt. Governor has been accused of a sexual assault that happened fifteen years ago.
    Don’t know if mentioned that to the voters when he was running. Applying the same standards he should have.
    Politics has always been a nasty game. Our most viscous presidential campaign was between Jefferson and Adams in 1800.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 4, 2019 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, the same far-right website that outed Northam is looking to do a number on Fairfax. We’ll see if the woman (who, as I understand it, hasn’t identified Fairfax by name) comes forward and subjects herself to questioning, or if other women come forward with similar claims (as tends to happen in such cases if the man is a sex offender).

      I like Justin Fairfax from what I’ve seen of him, but let the chips fall where they may, and justice be done though the heavens may fall.

      • Harrison
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        And the usual suspects are barking about Kavanaugh, failing to note both that the governorship is not a lifetime job and that voters will get to have their say if Fairfax is elevated to the position and runs for re-election. Bad faith abounds.

  9. Robb McAllister
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I still think he damaged his rep more by admitting and then denying something clearly on his own webpage. He started by taking the high road, and then insulted our intelligence by claiming the pic somehow magically appear on his yearbook page.

    • Posted February 4, 2019 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      Yearbook staff put pictures in yearbooks often without informing students. That would not be unusual in this case. I suppose I am also insulting your intelligence.

      • Robb McAllister
        Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        It was his page. All the pics were his. My beef is he owned up to it, and then later denied it. Also, his nickname, in the same yearbook, is ‘Coonman.’

        I had no problem when he admitted it was a mistake, that he has grown as a person, etc., and was sorry.

        It’s his bizarre reversal.

        And yes, in this day and age when our President tells lies that can be determined in a few keystrokes, it does insult my intelligence that I’m supposed to believe this kind of stuff.

        • a-non
          Posted February 5, 2019 at 3:47 am | Permalink

          “My beef is he owned up to it, and then later denied it.”

          I find this a strange argument. I agree that this looks bad on TV, and may in fact have dammed him. But why *should* it?

          He’s not auditioning for a role as a crisis-PR-man (for which this is the central skill). Nor is he running in a primary (which is similar in that fluffing a crisis is evidence that you may do the same in the big race). He’s an already-serving governor. Shouldn’t he be judged on his job performance?

          • Robb McAllister
            Posted February 5, 2019 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            It’s simple to me: he lied. A big lie. A (seemingly) unneeded lie. A lie that is easily detected and exposed. I’m not naïve enough to think that all politicians (all people) don’t lie, but in cases like this, it’s unacceptable. I’m a democrat, and Northam stupidly took the low road. Kavanagh also should have removed himself for telling stupid lies about his yearbook, too. (See my comment in the original voting post re Kav’s not remembering what the term ‘six Fs’ printed on his own page meant, when my high school friends from the ’80s know EXACTLY what it means, and whose meaning can be discovered with a few taps on a computer.

            In this age of 45, even the silliest, most easily provable, craziest lies and conspiracy theories are accepted by many, and are believed even after the truth has been repeatedly revealed.

            My point has been, in a case such as the two examples of the yearbooks (or, for instance, Al Franken’s faux pas) whether you are Kavanagh or Northam, Republican or Democrat: admit you did something wrong and/or stupid, apologize, and move on.

            Don’t lie about it. Northam admitted it, and made it infinitely worse a day or two later by lying, joking, stuttering, and generally looking like a deer in the headlights. It destroys his credibility for anything going forward.

            It’s something we teach our children from the time they can accept responsibility.

            • Robb McAllister
              Posted February 5, 2019 at 11:37 am | Permalink

              PS: Please understand that in the case of Kavanagh I’m in NO WAY discussing anything concerning the sexual assault accusations, but rather his silly lies concerning what was indicated about his high school conduct contained in his yearbook, and his reprehensible conduct before the committee.

    • Charlie Jones
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      His bumbling handling of this revelation is the best reason as to why he should go.

      Abject embarrassment at his 1984 self would have been appropriate, and then he could have pointed to the specific things that show that the 1984 self is dead and gone. But an honest expression of humiliation and embarrassment seems like the bare minimum here.

  10. Mark R.
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    He could have resigned with his dignity somewhat intact. His walk back…and saying stupid shit like (paraphrasing): I did wear blackface to imitate Michael Jackson, but I wasn’t the one wearing it in the photo. How insensitive can this guy be?

    Everyone wanted to imitate MJ in the 80’s. Hell, I tried pretty hard (and failed) to learn the Moonwalk myself. But neither I nor any of my friends would even have thought about wearing blackface; and I was in my teens, not my 20’s.

    • Filippo
      Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if he’s tried the old “Blame It On My Youth” excuse. At what terminal age is that excuse no longer justifiable? In my view, nowadays too many adults are too quick to say, “They’re just kids.”

      • Posted February 5, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        I think that is a valid excuse, if they have learned from it and have demonstrated that through actions.

        We all start out as young fools. Young fools do foolish things! And things were much less PC in those days (not saying that was right; but it was a fact).

        Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.

  11. W.Benson
    Posted February 4, 2019 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    My online argument against Northam’s resignation is the photo documentation of the Alabamian Mitch McConnell being honored at a Sons of the Confederacy event about 10 years after the photo was taken of (allegedly) Northam at a college costume party. My take is that the spotlight should be placed on Mitch (who, not surprisingly, is also a son of a Mitch).

    “After Trump covers the State of the Union, Mitch McConnell will give his State of The Confederacy Address”.;_ylt=AwrC1TEfPFhcF3cAL1nQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTEyNG12NDFlBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjY5NDZfMQRzZWMDc3I-

    • Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that many of McConnell’s voters give a damn about the Confederacy flag photo. In this respect, McConnell is free to do whatever he wants, and I can only congratulate him for no longer hanging in front of that flag.

      However, many Democratic voters (in Virginia and elsewhere) may have an issue with Northam’s photo.

  12. Posted February 4, 2019 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    Many people voted no, I think, because they believe Northam should be forgiven this youthful indiscretion. In a normal world, I’d agree. After all, we’ve all done some pretty dumb things. But I don’t think we can afford this forgiveness. A maniac who is a threat to this country needs to be removed from office, and we can’t afford to give his party this type of weapon to use in the next election. Northam has to go.

    • Hunt
      Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      People like Trump and Kavenaugh are elected and appointed specifically because they’re unfettered by such things. I’m not exactly sure what the perception of virtue is supposed to gain us when it doesn’t seem to matter.

      • rustybrown
        Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:54 am | Permalink

        Yeah, it’s not like President Trump or Justice Kavenaugh were ever scrutinized for their virtue. That never happened, right?

        • a-non
          Posted February 5, 2019 at 3:52 am | Permalink

          No, Hunt makes a good point. Trump and Kavenaugh are outliers in that they refuse to play this game.

          If we hound out anyone 5% impure and ashamed about it, we leave the field to those so thick-skinned not to care. This does not move the average in the direction that the puritans hope.

          • rustybrown
            Posted February 5, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            Point taken. You’re absolutely right that Trump and Kavenaugh’s defiant resilience in the face of the outrage mobs was a successful strategy for them (and a source of inspiration for those of us more concerned about the outrage mobs than about indiscretions of style). Might have worked for Northam as well but he wrong-footed himself.

        • Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          It is not about virtue. It is about the fact that Northam’s past indiscretion has alienated a large segment of the Democratic base.

  13. Hunt
    Posted February 5, 2019 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    It’s not exactly uncommon for notable people to make the mistake of performing blackface. In fact it seems to appear with some regularity. So the idea that it’s well-known faux pas is a little doubtful:

    Somehow it seems to elude the good sense of a fair number of people. It even cropped up in a local theater near me a few years back. The clueless performer did his thing to a packed audience.

    And who can forget the many white actors who have played American Indians East Indians, Middle Easterners, Pacific Islanders…etc.

    “Many many years ago” you might say. Er, like Alec Guinness in “Passage to India” (1984), Guinness again in “Lawrence of Arabia”.

    Then of course there was John Wayne as Genghis Khan:

  14. Posted February 5, 2019 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I voted no, but I want to change it now. I was expecting him to say, ‘Yep, I was a dumbass, but I’ve never been a racist.’ Instead he’s suddenly realised it wasn’t even him? If that’s true and he really didn’t realise it earlier, then he is too big a dumbass to be in office.

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