At this point, I am more embarrassed than I am proud to be from Virginia. Governor Ralph Northam’s horrific college blackface photos resurfaced, scandalizing the state and alienating much of the greater American population. Following Northam in scandal, almost dutifully, was next-in-line Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who just last week was accused of sexual assault. Attorney General Mark Herring decided to expose himself, too, for having worn blackface at a party in 1980. Herring paired the announcement with a long-winded statement of apology that only slightly shined in comparison to Northam’s press conference attempt at a moonwalk.
This abrupt end to what was supposed to be the new era of grace and goodwill in Virginia’s government leaves Virginia Democrats waiting for answers. Should we call for them to resign and risk partisan turnover? Most Virginia Democrats are in favor of this option, choosing what could be irreconcilable damage for partisan purity and what, on the surface level, seems to be better judgment. But is pushing out these disappointing representatives the safest option for people of color and women?
The collapse of the Virginia state government’s dignity is eerily similar to that of our nation’s in November 2016. There were two options, for some both seemingly terrible — for the marginally intelligent one obviously less so — and yet we still managed to elect the worst case scenario.
Disregarding such variables as the electoral college, Russian intervention and widespread voter suppression, the election of Donald Trump as president was largely caused by the refusal of constituents to pick between the lesser of two evils. Staunch Bernie bros and establishment Republicans who should have known better did not vote for Hillary Clinton, the clearly “lesser” choice of two evils, and in doing so secured the election for what has become one of modern America’s greatest embarrassments.
So, why didn’t we elect Clinton? Surely not for her policies, which would have sheltered minority rights and mitigated countless international conflicts. When faced with the possible election of the outspoken alt-right’s favorite figurehead, who would not choose the sometimes problematic woman in favor of prison reform and raising the minimum wage?
I cannot speak for conservatives, who clearly had no reason to vote for Trump other than one final, desperate attempt at strengthening partisanship — or, perhaps more subtly, a last-ditch effort at resurrecting white supremacy’s place in the presidency. The right has its own problems, and the most recent schism of establishment versus the common man did little to revolutionize the party’s unscrupulous moral standards.
My issue lies within the left, an atheist Moral Majority that champions total chaos over compromise. As a result of “cancel culture” progressives are forced to relinquish support of any person deemed at one point problematic. From what are solely embarrassing celebrity blunders to genuinely perverse pasts of recently elected politicians, cancel culture’s singular severity can have varied effects.
Much of the left renounced Hillary Clinton because of her past homophobic and racist remarks, and her acceptance of funding from questionable sources. While well-intentioned, it was this very choice to renounce her that lead to the absolute crisis that is currently our country under President Donald Trump.
In light of the past two years under President Trump, is it really best for us to force the Virginia state legislators to resign? Can we still criticize and expose them –– as we rightfully should –– while protecting the state office from Trumpian Republicanism?
We can have a meta discussion about the failings of a two-party system. In fact, we should. But we can’t let our philosophical musings get in the way of real change, which, unfortunately, must happen in steps, not strides.
The fall of Virginia’s state government from grace is certainly disappointing, albeit not much of a surprise to the seasoned voter. We must hold our politicians to higher standards — come the 2021 gubernatorial election, Virginia state constituents should absolutely not vote for these despicable three. However, it is these despicables that have sworn to protect abortion rights in Virginia — these despicables that have fought against racial gerrymandering and voter suppression in our most marginalized communities.
There won’t be much of an impact on white liberals obsessed with proving their own righteousness if Northam and the others resign as they have been asked to do. It is the people of color, women and other minorities who will suffer from discriminatory and dangerous legislation following subsequent replacement of the three. The Republican politicians who would have defended Northam, had he been conservative, are next in line and at the ready — all we need to do is let them in.
While I might have removed that regrettably proud Mark Herring poster from my door, I haven’t renounced my allegiance to the progressive cause.
These men may be an embarrassment to myself and to the state I hold so dear. However, it is a vital sacrifice that we must either allow them to finish their terms, or alternatively appoint their own replacements. It is an unfortunate truth that we cannot afford moral purity in the age of Trump.
Let us do better next election. For the love of all things good, let us elect women. In the meantime, we will have to make do.