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Ralph Northam: Hypocrisy reigns supreme

| Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Last week, a yearbook photo of Virginia Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam surfaced, featuring him and a friend in blackface and Ku Klux Klan robes. Democrats and Republicans alike are calling for his resignation, but Northam, despite apologizing, intends to keep his job.

Support has dwindled, but the outcry against Northam has been largely minimal. It seems that liberals have attacked Trump with wild accusations of racism for three years with zero backing, but when one of their own is featured in an old problematic photo, racism is easily swept under the rug. When first covering the story, CNN “mistakenly” labeled Northam as a member of the GOP with a (R) next to his name on the headline. It seems that they just can’t wrap their heads around the prospect of someone on the left being racist, but alas, racism is an issue that the Democratic Party does not like to truthfully address. Noted anti-Semite Louis Farrokhan is an ally and friend of Rep. Maxine Waters, but the party does not like to talk about that.

As one might recall, it was not long ago that another prominent government figure was under fire for his yearbook. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had his high school yearbook excessively scrutinized for secret messages, gang rape alliances and misogynistic phrases that simply didn’t exist. In the case of Northam’s yearbook, however, where anyone can spot the transparent racism, the mainstream media and left-wing elite do not feel that it requires any attention. Furthermore, Kavanaugh’s yearbook was published while he was a kid living at home with his parents. Northam was in medical school, an adult well into his 20s. Should Northam not be held more accountable as an adult?

Regardless of where a person may stand on the political spectrum, it is obvious that racism is not funny and is never excusable. Putting politics aside, Ralph Northam should step down purely to maintain the dignity of his current office. The people should be able to have trust in their politicians, and with that photo casting a shadow over the integrity of Northam’s office, the people of Virginia will never again be able to feel confident in their governor.

While the photos are inexcusable and reprehensible, today’s culture of outrage, social media leaks and identity politics give the matter an air of unfairness to Northam. By no means is this a defense of his actions, but it is an indictment of today’s instant gratification and shock-value culture. The value of digging up old photos, videos, journals or letters from 30 years ago is very little. Often, it is one person who does an outrageous amount of research on an enemy or political opponent and, after an exhaustive investigative process, scrounges up an old photo or document from the enemy’s adolescence or young adulthood, then posts it on Twitter or sends it to news outlets. The outlets then air it on TV and make it a viral hit on social media, using their favorite word, “bombshell,” to describe every new report.

This type of journalism is dangerous because it caters to the visceral side of human nature, the side that is ready to tear people down for any misstep without any context. In the rapid news cycle of today, the Covington Catholic students were brutally treated on Twitter and in the news, receiving death threats before all the facts came to the surface. As it turned out, as the world now knows, the students acted admirably in the face of hours of verbal abuse. Again, Ralph Northam should not be excused for his costume, as it is racist regardless of the context. However, the practice of digging up old tweets and photos sets a dangerous precedent. Forgetting context and ruling out the possibility that people were once young and naive perpetuates a witch hunt mentality that brings out the worst in the new American identity politics obsession.

Ralph Northam did something racist and unpatriotic in medical school. The photos are disturbing and wrong. The morally correct move would be to resign with dignity from his office. Instead, he denied that he was in the photos and stood firm in his desire to serve Virginia. The American people may have been able to forgive him if he had given a better apology and owned up to his actions, but the half-truths and outright lies he has given since the photo leaked is evidence enough that he is not a proper fit for the office of governor.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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