Has Ralph Northam weathered the brunt of the storm on his blackface scandal? Two new polls give the beleaguered Virginia governor some hope of political survival — at least in the short run. Northam ironically might have African-American voters to thank most if he crosses the finish line at the end of his term in 2021.
As Politico notes, neither poll shows much enthusiasm for Northam, but the torch-and-pitchfork brigades seem to have dissipated, at least:
In a Quinnipiac University poll, 42 percent of voters say Northam should resign — but more, 48 percent, say he shouldn’t. White voters are split evenly — 46 percent say he should resign, and the same percentage say he shouldn’t — but a majority of black voters, 56 percent, say Northam should not quit.
Even fewer Virginians say Northam should resign in a second poll out Wednesday, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for the University of Virginia Center for Politics. In that poll, which surveyed adults in the commonwealth, only 31 percent say Northam should resign, compared to 43 percent who say he shouldn’t.
Both polls show scant support for impeaching Northam. In the Quinnipiac poll, only 26 percent say Northam should be impeached, while nearly two-in-three voters, 65 percent, say he shouldn’t. In the Ipsos/U-Va. poll, just 21 percent say the General Assembly should remove Northam, while 56 percent say state legislators shouldn’t impeach the governor.
Both new surveys suggest Northam’s political standing has stabilized since a Washington Post/George Mason University Schar School poll a week into the scandal showed Virginians equally split on whether the governor should resign.
We should define survival at some point. Northam’s political career is over; Virginia governors only get one term in office anyway. Previous governors have won Senate seats, such as the state’s two current US Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. Northam’s immediate predecessor Terry McAuliffe is presently mulling over a run at the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
None of those career paths will be open to Northam after this scandal. Survival in this instance is finishing the one term he has left and then escaping public scrutiny in the private sector for the rest of his life. That was why Northam refused to resign; he knew that it would be a de facto admission of racism and he would never have the opportunity for atonement and for accomplishment that would at least balance out the impact of the scandal.
And, let’s face it — luck has played a big role in this escape, too. Northam got an unexpected assist from Mark Herring’s own admitted blackface escapades, and then became indispensable when sexual-assault allegations emerged against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who might still get impeached at some point.
However, there’s still room here for a little unexpected grace, too. For all of Northam’s fumbling in the first few days and the bumpy start to his racial-healing project, black voters appear to be responding to what they see as some genuine remorse and shame from Northam. There’s certainly a practical side to having a governor whose atonement necessarily advances a group’s interest too, but that doesn’t entirely explain enthusiasm being higher for Northam than among Democrats as a whole.
Northam better thank his lucky stars — and be grateful for his shot at redemption. Perhaps he should offer thanks to the Almighty along with it, but as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) wrote today, maybe he needs to do a little atonement for advocating infanticide first:
Back in the late 1990s, then-Sen. Barbara Boxer tiptoed over the line from defending abortion to endorsing infanticide, saying on the Senate floor that a child has rights “when you bring your baby home” from the hospital.
Back in those days, she was way outside of the mainstream. Sadly, two decades later, it seems some extremists inside the Democratic Party have caught up and are willing to defend infanticide.
Late last month, in the course of endorsing a bill to remove some of his state’s key abortion restrictions, disgraced Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam coolly described a scenario in which “the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
When reporters asked the governor — a pediatrician by trade — to clarify his comments, he doubled down on his position. Just a few days earlier, members of the New York State Assembly, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, cheered the passage of a bill that removes all protections from babies born alive after botched abortions.
The biggest scandal with Northam belongs to the media for not making this the biggest Northam scandal.