August 18, 2019 | 74° F

SURIANO: There must be consequences to revelations, politics in VA

Opinion Column: A RINO's View


If you have not noticed, the state of Virginia’s entire executive leadership apparatus is in turmoil after a series of revelations shocked the state. First was the release of a photo showing Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) either wearing blackface or dressed in a white robe as a Klansman — both extremely offensive and inexcusable for any American, let alone the governor of a large state. If that was not bad enough for Virginians, shortly after that, news broke that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-Va.) was accused of sexual assault by multiple women. This is an extremely serious charge, and if true, Fairfax should be at least removed from office. Finally, the third in line of Virginia succession, Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Va.), also admitted to wearing blackface. So, the question stands for Virginia: What to do next? 

First and foremost, Northam should resign from his seat, since what he did was offensive and racist. He also admitted to wearing blackface on a completely separate occasion, which seems to me to be a pattern. Now the question remains: Should one moment define you as a person, and should we as a society be able to forgive? I think we should, if a person genuinely asks for forgiveness, takes responsibility for their mistake and attempts to make amends. We as a society should have the ability to forgive. That being said, Northam has not shown me that he is actually sorry.

For one, Northam is already lying about what happened. At first, he admitted to being in the photo that appeared in his yearbook. Then, he went on the news and said that picture on his yearbook page was not him, but strangely admitted to wearing blackface as a part of a Michael Jackson costume. Why he thought this made it better, I do not know. So, I am just going to say that he was in that photo either in blackface or dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Northam is clearly trying to save his position, but if he is not going to take responsibility for his actions, why should anyone forgive him?

I should also note that I am not really in a position to forgive him. I am neither Black nor a Virginian, I am just commenting on a story of the day. The last point on Northam is that he spent a great deal of his last campaign accusing his opponent Ed Gillespie of being a racist. A group connected to his campaign ran a disgusting advertisement showing a Gillespie supporter chasing down minority children in a pickup truck. So, that is why I have little sympathy for Northam. If he had made a terrible mistake out of ignorance and honestly apologized for it, then maybe he would not need to resign. But as it stands, he needs to go.

Now, to complicate the matter, the person who would take over for Northam has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. We must take a slower look at this because a criminal charge has been leveled. Therefore, the presumption of innocence applies. I have written about this problem before, and it does not matter if the accused is a Republican or Democrat — the basic steps of due process do apply. Of course, if the accusation proves true or reasonably likely, Fairfax should resign or be impeached. We cannot have predators remain in the halls of power, but we must follow where the evidence leads with no notice to party or politics. 

That leaves us in a sticky situation. If the evidence supports the accusations against Fairfax, then it seems there is a reasonable case that all three elected Democrats in the line of succession for governor should resign. In that case, the Republican Senate president would take over. This naturally is not what Democrats want. But frankly, I do not care what the Virginia Democratic Party wants. They ran two men who, if they were Republicans, would have no hesitation calling racists who are unfit for office and a third who is an alleged sexual predator. 

There must be consequences for running unfit men for office, and if that means the other party takes over, then so be it. But, humans will not easily give up power, so I offer a compromise. Assuming (for argument) Fairfax were to be found guilty, and all three men resign, before leaving Northam should appoint a Democratic moderate approved by the Republican State Senate. This will allow all parties to move on. Will this happen? No, because I do not think Democrats really care, but I hope that they prove me wrong. 

Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.


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Robert Suriano

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