When the incredibly racist picture from Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced, a lot of folks were surprised and wanted to take some time to make sure it was verified before publicly commenting. The photo of someone wearing blackface and another person wearing a KKK robe simply didn’t gel with the Ralph Northam that political insiders had gotten to know over the years. As soon as the photo was publicly verified, however, Democrats from all across the Commonwealth (and some national figures in the Democratic Party too) quickly called upon Northam to resign.
Among those have called for his resignation were Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer who released a joint statement earlier today suggesting they were surprised the governor hadn’t resigned this morning.
“We expected Governor Northam to resign this morning,” the statement read. “Nothing we have heard since changes our view that his resignation is the only way forward for the Commonwealth.”
“Virginia has a painful past where racism was too often not called out for its evil,” they declared. “The only way to overcome that history is to speak and act with absolute moral clarity. It is for that reason the Governor must step aside and allow the process of healing to begin under the leadership of Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.”
Between Virginia being the capital of the Confederacy and home to the white supremacist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Connolly and Beyer weren’t the only people who highlighted Virginia’s past troubles regarding race while calling on the governor to resign. Many folks also pointed out that the disappointment was perhaps even greater considering how so many folks new Northam as a pediatrician who got along well with people of all political backgrounds.
Interestingly, the only prominent Virginia Democrat who has been defending Northam is Sen. Dick Saslaw — the minority leader in the state senate. Saslaw has a reputation of being willing to look past political norms to say directly what’s on his mind, which has proven to be a double edged sword over the years and meant a lot of people weren’t too surprised when he was the lone Democratic legislator to defend the governor.
While a lot of the criticism Saslaw receives comes from his ties to Dominion and his refusal to back campaign finance reform and other meaningful legislation, there appear to be some more troubling aspects of his record that relate to his defense of Northam. The Intercept is reporting that Saslaw told a group of people gathered at a senatorial debate last year that his primary opponent (Yasmine Taeb — an Iranian immigrant and well know Democratic activist) couldn’t possibly win the 35th Senate District because “60 percent white, it was some percentage of older Virginians, it was some percentage of Christians.”
Saslaw’s comments are inappropriate no matter what, but it also makes it very telling why he was so eager to dismiss criticism of Northam and claim the controversy was nothing to be worked up about.
As of now, sentiment among political insiders falls in line with the remarks Connolly and Beyer made — not those of Dick Saslaw. It seems most people believe it’s a matter of not if Northam will resign, but when.