by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
In an extraordinary statement, a sitting governor in one state counseled a sitting governor in another state to resign. That’s what Gov. Roy Cooper did on February 2 to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam about his collegiate blackface picture (but not about Northam’s ghoulish and execrable comments about terminating babies after live birth).
From the governor’s web page, here is his very terse statement, which suggests Cooper considered the picture so bad that it didn’t require any extra justification:
“This is a reprehensible picture that is deeply disappointing and I know must come with pain beyond what many of us can even understand,” said Governor Cooper. “Resignation is the only way forward.”
The only way forward. There’s no wiggle room there.
But does Cooper still believe that? Because it seems as if he has backed off about what he finds unquestionably reprehensible, based on other, unrelated events. Someone in our media — or Virginia’s — should ask him.
Understand that taking Cooper’s “only way forward” path could set off a chain of events that would wind up with a Republican taking office. That chain of events was not known to Cooper at the time he made his statement. At the time when Cooper made his statement, it seemed that if Northam resigned, the Democratic lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, would step into the role, and a political controversy of questionable merit embarrassing to Cooper’s party would go away.
Here’s that chain of events:
First, Gov. Ralph Northam admitted wearing blackface in the 1980s. Then, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexual assault, which he adamantly denies, stemming from a 2004 encounter. Finally, Attorney General Mark Herring admitted he, too, donned blackface in the 1980s.
“The last seven days have been tumultuous for our Commonwealth,” [Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk] Cox said in a statement late Wednesday. “The revelations against and admissions by the leaders of the executive branch are disturbing.”
If all should fall, Cox would be next in line.
But if it’s a question of right vs. wrong, that shouldn’t matter, should it? Or do party considerations take precedence for Cooper even over morality?