Saturday, February 02, 2019

Race for the White House 2020 # 5

The end of this week in politics sure took an unexpected turn.

There is a lot I could write about this Saturday but there is no way I am going to ever be able to cover it all with a weekly post. I could have written about the evolving Democrat field. Kamala Harris had a pretty impressive roll-out. Marianne Williamson and Cory Booker both jumped in the race. A lot of people have thoughts about the candidates' logos and visual branding. On the Republican side, former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake made it clear he will not challenge Donald Trump but will instead work as a CBS News pundit. It looks pretty unlikely that former Ohio Governor John Kasich will run in the primaries (hopefully he is still considering an Independent bid), so the spot for anti-Trump Republicans may go to recently reelected Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. There is also now the expectation that William Weld, the 75 year old former Governor of Massachusetts, who was the Libertarian Vice Presidential nominee the last time around is about to jump into the Republican race. I do not know what kind of constituency he might have left, but hey, anybody but Trump!

Along those lines, billionaire ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz ,a lifelong Democrat, has decided he is not going to seek the nomination of the party, but is looking actively as running as a "centrist Independent." This led to Democrats basically freaking out and saying that he will simply serve to re-elect Trump. The backlash against Schultz was immense and may cause him to reconsider this whole politics thing. I do not know a ton about him, but I may be one of the only people in America who liked much of what he said this past week. It is very telling both that somebody like him, (a non quasi-socialist) no longer has a chance of winning that party's nomination or that the eventual Democrat nominee may be so vulnerable to losing votes in the center. Needless to say, it was a very bad "rollout" for Schultz but there is a long way to go. If my choices come down to Trump and a far-left Democrat, I will of course be looking for another option. I would prefer the center-right over the center-left, but as the saying goes, beggars cannot be choosers. It is far too early to assess for sure what would happen in a true three-way race or a true-four way race. I hope Mr. Schultz continues to keep all his options open.

The loser of the week was easily Virginia Governor Ralph Northam however. While not a Presidential contender, his activities certainly have those that are running for President talking about him and calling for him to step down. I have watched this story unfold over the past couple of days and am unaware of any politician's "damage control" press conference that ended as badly, with the exception of R. Budd Dwyer. (Don't bother to look it up. It's nasty.)

Early in the week, the Democrat Governor went on a radio show and talked about a proposed bill in Virginia that allow abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy, all the way up until birth. The physician turned politician was asked what would happen if a baby was about to be born. He said the child would be delivered, resuscitated if that is what the mother wanted, and then "made comfortable" while a "discussion was held." Whatever one thinks about the morality of abortion, how is what he described not infanticide or simply first-degree murder? It is the kind of absolutely unconscionable brutality that is now  being debated or passed in several states where Democrats hold power. Apparently, a life does not begin until a baby is sent home from the hospital. This is the kind of callous attitude that would make people once again, put aside all the legitimate concerns they have about Donald Trump and vote again for him, just to keep today's Democrats out of power. Those in that party need to think long and hard about these kind of issues. For his part, Northam said that what he meant did not get across in his statement, which would become a theme for him. As far as I am concerned, his words were quite clear and he deserved whatever he had coming politically.

Late yesterday afternoon, at the beginning of Black History Month, the medical school yearbook entry of Northam surfaced from 1984, when he was 25 years old. Considering all the incredible parsing of every possible word on the High School yearbook of now Justice Brent Kavanaugh from a similar time ,the yearbook of the 25 year old Northam had to be worth looking at. Amazingly enough, neither the media nor any of Northam's past political opponents had ever seen it. That is a shocking failure of oppo-research. Northam won elected as Governor in 2017 primarily over race-related issues, and nobody ever knew about his medical school yearbook in which among other photos, stood an image of a man in grotesquely stereotypical blackface next to someone in a KKK hood and outfit. Both appear to be holding beers.

Had this been a Republican political figure, (except Donald Trump whom his supporters will excuse literally anything for), it would have been immediate game over. Instead, many wondered how Democrats would respond. As the hours passed, Northam released a written statement and eventually a video in which he apologized and definitely said that he appeared in the photo, without saying which of the two men he was. The damage had been done though as just about every prominent candidate, including the leading Presidential contenders called on Northam to resign. If he were to do so, the Governorship would pass to Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, a young African-American politician, considered a rising star in the party. Northam, has not been seen as a national figure and he is ineligible to run for reelection anyway, so throwing him overboard just made sense for the Democrats and allowed them to claim the moral high ground.

As night turned into morning however, Northam had not resigned and was on the telephone telling allies he did not believe he was in the photograph. What? Why admit it was you yesterday then? Was it possible then that it could have been and now you are certain it is not? It just boggles the mind. Stories came forward about how facial recognition software might be introduced, but how do you do that for someone under a hood? The calls for resignation intensified and a crazy press availability was held in which an oddly calm and soft-spoken Northam stood next to his wife and denied he was in the photo. He said he had never seen this yearbook before and while he submitted the other pictures on it, had no idea how this racist one got on there. He said he "vividly remembered" not doing it, in part because he remembers, that very same year, that he dressed in blackface to honor Michael Jackson at a dance contest. (Hours before this I posted on a blog that as a six year old that year, I dressed as Michael Jackson with one glove and sunglasses but not blackface. Tons of white kids did. Everybody knew blackface would have been inappropriate, especially back when the King of Pop was indeed still black.) At the press conference, Northam seemed to make a point of saying he won the dance contest, could do the Moonwalk, and even looked to contemplate demonstrating it until his wife told him it would be inappropriate. While the tone of voice was different, the whole thing was Trumpian. Northam just does not seem to get it. He admitted it was he in the photo because he felt under pressure to do so, and now denies it was him, but claims he did basically do the same thing that year anyway. It's similar to how Trump after apologizing for the infamous Access Hollywood tape, now reportedly tells people that it is not him on the video. Northam also did not seem to have a remotely sensible answer for why his college yearbook had him with a nickname of "Coonman."

By this afternoon, it was clear this issue was far beyond what a 25 year old medical student may or may not have done in the mid 80's but about how an under siege politician responded to and continues to respond to a situation involving their own political survival. Nobody really doubt that Northam is going to have to resign eventually (at this point he will be impeached if he does not) so it's nothing less than sad that he is trying to hang on in the pathetic way he is. He needs to go and Democrats have handled this far better than Republicans did with Trump after the Access Hollywood story came out. The former minstrel Michael Jackson needs to look at the Man in the Mirror and "make that change."

Questions remain such as who exactly leaked this photo and how long they have had it. Was it someone on the right angry at Northam's "make it comfortable" comments or someone in his own party who saw the damage done and decided to "abort" his political career. In any event, quite a "discussion" was held about the political life of Ralph Northam, with a unifying conclusion that he needs to "Beat It."


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