The Washington Post editorial board spelled out Friday what most conservatives already know to be true: Democrats can get away with anything. Not only that, they can be applauded for getting away with it by their friends in the media. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia continues to claim he’s not in the blackface photo that appears on his yearbook page despite statements from the yearbook staff that photos were submitted in sealed envelopes by students. The Post essentially offers Northam an apology for ever holding him responsible:
Since Feb. 1, when the discovery of a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page dealt what seemed a lethal blow to his political career, Mr. Northam has refocused his governorship on racial equity and reconciliation in what amounted to an extended act of public contrition and atonement. It has been astonishingly effective not just in terms of his own political rehabilitation — his poll numbers climbed from the depths — but also in setting a clear theme for his four-year term in office, delimited by Virginia’s prohibition on governors succeeding themselves.
In the process, Mr. Northam, a Democrat, persuaded many Virginians to allow him a season of penitence. Not least among them are African Americans who were stunned when the governor first admitted, then denied, appearing in the photo in which one figure is in blackface and another is in a Ku Klux Klan costume, while adding that he did don blackface, appearing as Michael Jackson at a dance contest, the same year the yearbook was published.
The Post outlines this “season of penitence” as a political success, but what does penitence mean if the figure at the center of it continues to deny doing anything wrong? Is all of this about the Michael Jackson dance contest, photos of which we’ve never seen? Meanwhile the photo we have seen, the one which started all of this, Northam claims must have been put there by someone else. He’s both innocent and penitent at the same time. He’s serving his time even though he committed no crime. He’s practically a saint.
In February, most of Virginia’s lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, called on him to resign, as did an editorial on this page. Few of those calls were repeated for long, although the question of who is in the photo, if it is not Mr. Northam, remains unanswered. It helped Mr. Northam that his potential Democratic successors were quickly enmeshed in their own scandals, which shifted the spotlight and forced his party to consider whether it would prefer a Republican governor. (It wouldn’t.)
In short: Democrats stopped caring the moment they realized their principles might cost them something. That will be shocking to people who’ve never heard of Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy. Meanwhile, those that remember the ways in which Clinton and Kennedy’s defenders made endless excuses for them won’t be surprised in the least.
It helped that Virginia Republicans, rarely bothered by President Trump’s race-baiting, lack any credibility to criticize Mr. Northam, a former lawmaker whose record on race was strong before he was elected governor in 2017.
And there it is: The blame shifting. It’s the Republicans fault that Democrats lost interest in holding a Democratic governor accountable. The message on accountability from the media is ever thus: Republicans first.
It wouldn’t make one bit of difference if we could prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Northam was one of the two people in that yearbook photo. Anyone who watched the Canadian election play out already knows that progressive voters will excuse an endless and indeed unknown number of blackface incidents so long as their team remains in power. I’m willing to grant that both sides of the aisle do this, accepting a certain amount of discomfort with a candidate in exchange for power. The difference is that one side gets plaudits from the media for making this bargain while the other gets only brickbats.