He’s not resigning yet, anyway. Governor Ralph Northam issued a video statement on Twitter after calls from both sides of the aisle and from Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris to resign. Northam declared himself “deeply sorry” for having embarrassed the state by posing in a medical-school yearbook either in blackface or in a Klan outfit. (Northam still hasn’t specified which costume he was wearing.) Despite all of the calls to resign in disgrace, Northam insists that he will “heal the damage” and do the “important work” of atoning for his ugly transgressions.
But he’s not quitting:
My fellow Virginians, earlier today I released a statement apologizing for behavior in my past that falls far short of the standard you set for me when you elected me to be your governor. I believe you deserve to hear directly from me. pic.twitter.com/1rSw1oxfrX
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) February 2, 2019
Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive. I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.
This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians? faith in that commitment.
I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.
Er … suuuuuurrrrre. Just how likely is Northam to survive this? Even his allies recognize that they have to draw a line somewhere so that they can have any credibility on calling out racism among Republicans. If they give Northam a pass or can’t convince him to resign, then it’s going to be mighty tough to complain about micro-aggressions from the GOP while Governor Blackface Klansman is still running Virginia.
Northam’s inclination to fight may well be why some other Democrats with national standing didn’t follow Harris’ lead in demanding Northam’s scalp. Virginia senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, whose opinions might matter most in this case, issued careful statements lambasting Northam for his past behavior but notably omitted any mention of resignation:
Virginia Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner both issue statements but stop short of calling on Governor Ralph Northam to resign pic.twitter.com/GMPeZJ6RcF
— Johnny Verhovek (@JTHVerhovek) February 2, 2019
That wasn’t exactly Profiles in Courage there. They may have already figured that Northam would want to gut it out and didn’t want to have to walk back a resignation demand later. Kirsten Gillibrand also played it safe in her statement about Northam. A lot of other Democrats demanded Northam’s resignation, however, like Julián Castro, who’s also considering a White House run. Even Hollywood weighed in, with Mia Farrow retweeting the picture and a demand to exit the premises.
How long do they keep it up? A month? A week? Monday? Or just until the next time Northam tacitly endorses infanticide and then complains about Republicans pouncing? That might be, uh … [checks watch] … tomorrow morning?
This really might be too much, though, even after Democrats rallied around Northam with the silly “pounce” narrative on abortion. They can deal with gaffes sourced from overzealous abortion advocacy. Blackface and Klan costumes go straight to the heart of the Democrats’ increasing focus on identity politics. It’s far worse than the “macaca” comment from Northam predecessor George Allen more than a decade ago, and just like “macaca” did back then with Republicans, it will hang over every Democratic race as long as Northam holds office. We’ll know if Northam has to go when Kaine and Warner tell him it’s time, so watch the pressure that other Democrats put on those two former VA governors to muscle up their positions.
Update: New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, who’s also the incoming chair of the Democratic Governors Association, tells MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that Northam has to go:
Murphy said it’s unacceptable now and it was unacceptable then, continuing, “We’re the party of Barack Obama. We’re the party of inclusion. We’ve got a president who wants to divide us. I’m a former member of the national board of the NAACP. The Ku Klux Klan was a terrorist––is a terrorist organization.”
“I don’t see the governor’s got any other choice other than to step aside,” he concluded.
Murphy told Hayes he says this with a heavy heart, but that it’s clearly “disqualifying.”
Clearly, Northam’s apology hasn’t stopped the bleeding.
Update: Ben Tribbett reports that Northam will call a press conference tomorrow. And that means what you think it means:
Have now heard from three sources that Governor Northam will be resigning tomorrow. None have heard that from directly from the Governor but all three told me different sources close to Gov.
— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) February 2, 2019
Three statements about to come out in next hour calling on Northam to resign from House Dem Caucus, Senate Dem Caucus and Legislative Black Caucus
— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) February 2, 2019
Dan Merica has a report about the latter:
Big moment: The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus calls on Northam to resign after meeting with him.
"Given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as Governor. It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process of healing."
— Dan Merica (@merica) February 2, 2019
Look up “untenable” in the dictionary, and you’ll see Northam’s picture.