Ralph Northam’s Remarkable Two-Day Skid: From Abortion Voice of Reason to Racist, Lying Idiot

Ralph Northam’s Remarkable Two-Day Skid: From Abortion Voice of Reason to Racist, Lying Idiot

Whoo boy…where to start. I can’t recall the last time an elected liberal handed such a bipolar week to his constituents. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has been awfully busy as we begin the month of February.

Seems like it was only Wednesday that Northam first stepped into scandal. This one was certainly manufactured by what my idol, Charles S. Pierce of Esquire eloquently labeled “ring-wing bullshit.” Northam, a trained physician, spoke publicly about a failed state bill that would have eased Virginia’s restrictions on late-term abortions. Using science and an organic empathy for anguished parents and an inviable life, the governor promptly set off a chain reaction of half-truth, conservative howling. To continue quoting from Pierce:

”Almost immediately, conservatives barbered Northam’s quote—they removed the part in which Northam talked about the prospective fetus’s not being viable—and all the flying monkeys went aloft in formation.”

I watched this episode play out through the media earlier this week and thought to myself, “Good on you, Governor Northam. Speaking truth to power when it comes to a woman’s agonizing, private decisions. And in Virginia no less. You know what? This guy might be onto something.”

And then Friday rolled around…

Look, it was more than bad enough that Northam had to apologize for the existence of racist medical school yearbook photos. The Trump era is opening up a whole new world of fantastically ignorant possibility. Henceforth I feel compelled to add a new question to the list of those posed to doctors treating me for any serious condition. How long have you been in practice? What’s your success record? And also, have you ever donned a KKK robe?

Then the nation awoke this morning to find Northam attempting a death defying and foolhardy backpedal so ill-advised, reading stories about it in order to inform this column was a physically painful exercise. In short, the governor’s new defense amounts to this: it can’t be me in those racist yearbook photos. I was too busy practicing my Michael Jackson blackface. Rather than absolving Northam, this shaky on the best day alibi only raises more questions about Virginia’s Chief Executive and his judgment. From the governor’s own statement:

“My belief that I did not wear that costume or attend that party stems in part from my clear memory of other mistakes that I made in the same period of my life…That same year, I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume.”

Then – and I swear, you can’t make this stuff up – Northam actually mentioned that he’d spoken to his black friend “Seth” about his mistakes and learned why his actions were so hurtful. Seth, if you’re listening, this is not your emotional labor to bear. The guy has an M.D. attached to his name. He should be able to figure out that Michael Jackson cosplay is not for him. On his fall from the tree of respectability, humanity and common sense, Ralph Northam hit every single white stereotype branch.

Unsurprisingly, in the wake of the increasingly disturbing controversy surrounding the good doctor’s exercises in sick bigotry, calls from both sides of the aisle for his resignation have been swift and unequivocal. Nancy Pelosi spoke for many liberals in a forceful and sensible way, as Madame Speaker is wont to do, tweeting:

“The photo is racist and contrary to fundamental American values…I join my colleagues in Virginia calling on Governor Northam to do the right thing so that the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward.”

Yes, Ralph Northam. Heed the Speaker’s wise words and go away…forever dude.

The governor is a complete letdown and proves the inverse of the old saying. Sometimes a window opens, you climb through and run right into a slammed door. It was nice, however briefly, to have a voice of reason and information in the public debate over abortion. In contrast to all of the irrational and incendiary rhetoric that dehumanizes women and labels those make the difficult choice to abort a fetus as murderers, Northam’s calm and factual clarification of what a late-term abortion actually means was a breath of fresh air…

…right before the inhalation of noxious racism and disingenuous lies. Governor Northam, please see yourself off the national stage.

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate

Becky is an award-winning journalist, Op-Ed columnist and blogger. On March 29, 2018 her first book, Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team, will be published by Eckhartz Press. She is a proud Chicago resident, where Becky lives with her husband Bob. Check out her collected work at BeckySarwate.com, and follow her on Twitter @BeckySarwate.