WATCH: Northam declined reporter's request to perform Michael Jackson's "Moonwalk" at press conference after wife cuts in https://t.co/wy4744g6AV pic.twitter.com/MMwRTjOR4Q— The Hill (@thehill) February 3, 2019
I went to bed Friday night thinking to myself that surely, the very next day, VA Governor Ralph Northam would finally take stock of the situation, realize that his term as governor was effectively nuked by his own failure to self-vet, and try to make a dignified exit from the political stage, clearing the way for his capable Lt. Governor to step in and continue the term he no longer could.
I thought that because it's 2019, and we definitely know by now that blackface is racist, that racism is unacceptable, that it was just as unacceptable in 1984, that Northam needed to own and confront that well before now, and that if he ever wanted to start making amends for a yearbook page that was in deep bad taste and truly insensitive to African-Americans, the only way to begin--was to quit.
Here's where we are right now, in 2019: Megyn Kelly lost her Today show spot over defending blackface (and probably bad ratings, not to give NBC a whole lot of credit they might not deserve) just last year, blackface photos of Covington Catholic youngsters boosted the claims that these kids had a ignorant racist culture at their school, and politically, race affects how we look at and discuss economic and social justice issues from housing and welfare, health care to policing, sentencing, employment rights, school access and on and on. There is simply no way that a person could credibly have this very picture on their med school yearbook page, and think that he could address it with an exceptionally ownership-free level of bullshit and non-apology, and just go on with his political career as if nothing more about it needed to concern us.
Every part of his response Saturday afternoon was bad and deeply concerning.
It is farcical, for example, to allege that there was confusion about this one blackface photo because of a previous and supposedly less-inflammatory depiction of a black pop star. He even joked about how difficult it is to get shoe polish off of one's face--in pretty much the way a person might if the moonwalking event was not his first time at the racist rodeo. It is an affront to our intelligence to pretend that he would hope that facial recognition software would exculpate him from being the particular person in blackface in the offending photo, when he altogether could still be the Klansman. And his assertions that he never paid attention to what was on his yearbook page (as if no one, upon receiving their yearbook, readily goes to make sure their own picture doesn't look stupid and nerdy) and also, that he had no idea why he was nicknamed "Coonman" at VMI or what that even meant, are also unbelievable.
I am pretty sure I was bellybutton high to an adult when I knew full well what the word "coon" was about. In a man his age this pretense is disgraceful.
But as for the way Northam's behavior hurts and reflects on anyone else, it should be noted that his party by and large rejects him, and to the extent that anyone held off on immediately demanding his resignation, it was to give him the possibility of a dignified exit of his own responsible choice. In other words, I think he was gently being shown: Here's the ledge to yourself, jump when you feel ready.
Then he didn't.
He has already shown himself incapable of addressing his fault in an acceptable way, and needs to step aside. I don't know the laws of the Commonwealth of VA well enough to know whether recall is an option if he persists in his muleheadedness, but I do know that democratic government is not possible without trust, and his trust and faith is broken. If he won't jump, perhaps the universal disapprobation of both constituents and fellow party-members is enough of a push.
We can discuss how and when call out culture goes toofar any time at all--and we can discuss whether these same rules apply to Republicans who are proven and current racists like Steve King, also, any time at all. But in the near-term, for my Democratic and anti-racist interest, Northam resigning would be very much on point.