Under normal circumstances, a story about a statewide politician getting caught posing — allegedly — in a hideously racist picture would matter only to the voters of that state.
Except these aren’t “normal” times. Social media have this way of elevating every ostensibly local issue into something far larger.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has made a dramatic U-turn in light of a growing controversy in his home state.
A picture surfaced in Northam’s medical school yearbook — on a page with his name on it! — that shows two men, one in black face and the other in a Ku Klux Klan get-up. Northam at first admitted he was one of the young men in the picture. Then he denied it. Calls for his resignation have bombarded his office. He had a press conference today and said he wouldn’t quit.
Why is this a national story? Because (a) it happened in Virginia, which is a “swing state” in presidential elections, (b) we watched a race riot erupt in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and (c) Americans always are interested in race-related issues.
Northam needs to quit. He won’t, for now.
That this happened while he was in medical school makes this issue a disqualifier for Gov. Northam. He wasn’t some dumba** eighth-grader doing something typically stupid, as eighth-grade boys are prone to do. The 1984 yearbook pegs Northam at 25 years of age; moreover, he was a medical school student, a grown man.
He said today he didn’t see the picture until Friday, which to my ears stretches credulity. Northam said he never bought a copy of the yearbook. Yet he wants us to believe that for 35 years no one — not a classmate, friend or family member — ever brought it to his attention?
This story isn’t going to evaporate any time soon, it appears to me. Many of us still have Charlottesville so fresh in our minds. The KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists clashed with counter protesters; one young woman was killed in the melee.
Now comes this latest matter involving the state’s governor, for criminy sakes!
It isn’t just a Virginia story. The nation has a stake in it, too.