Monday, February 4, 2019

Political Correctness to the Extreme

The question is, should Governor Northam of Virginia resign because he possibly either put on blackface or a KKK robe for a picture that found its way into his medical school yearbook (which he first admitted and then denied), or because he now admits that he blacked his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume in a dance contest when he was in the Army?  Both of which he has appropriately apologized for.

All leadership elements of the Democratic party nationally and in Virginia are calling on him to resign.  This is part of the Party’s zero tolerance towards aberrant behavior, whether it involves sexual harassment or other offensive behavior.

But as applied in this case, is their action the correct one?  We are talking about actions that Mr. Northam took as a young man 35 years ago.  To do what he did in the early 80s showed at a minimum an extreme lack of good judgment and sensitivity.  But given the state and the peer group he grew up in, the victimless nature of the offense, and his impeccable actions on social and racial matters as an adult in the years since, should he be hounded out of office for this offensive and juvenile behavior?  I would say, no.  People do grow up; they do adopt a larger worldview.

That the Democratic party has reacted as they have is in large part I think because they have aggressively accused the Republicans for not disciplining its members for inappropriate behavior.  And so they feel they have to have this zero tolerance policy or else the Republicans will lambast them for hypocrisy.  

Given the way the voting public reacts to sound bites these days, rather than reasoned argument, there is reason to fear the impact of such a charge.  But that does not relieve Democrats of the responsibility to act conscionably.  Is this just?

Or are they worried about a charge of hypocrisy relating to their stand against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for actions he was accused of as a college student?  Certainly such a charge would be made by the Republicans if Democrats accepted the governor’s apology for his young adult behavior, but I don’t think that the actions that are in question here are in any way comparable to the seriousness of those that Kavanaugh stood accused of.

Date rape, whether a single instance or repeated behavior as some of his accusers claimed, is criminal behavior.  It is forcibly violating a woman’s person.  This cannot be compared to the “innocent” albeit offensive and inappropriate behavior of Mr. Northam.  The comparable behavior would be if Mr. Northam had abused a person of color in some way, or if he gave a racism-tinged speech, but those are not the facts.

The Democratic Party should stand firmly for what they believe.  They should not treat their own differently than Republicans.  But they should not treat their own more strictly because they fear being called hypocrites by the Republicans.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Unfortunately, at this point there is no way out.  For the Democratic leadership to back down now without some new evidence would indeed appear to be hypocritical.  And for Governor Northam to continue to refuse to resign hurts his own reputation. For the good of all concerned, he must resign.

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