L. Douglas Wilder, 66th Governor of Virginia

In 2019 Democrat Governor Ralph Northam was exposed as having appeared in Blackface in his medical school’s yearbook. Attorney General Mark Herring, despite having called for Northam’s resignation, was shortly thereafter exposed as having participated in a Blackface skit himself.

The law of succession in Virginia is that the Lieutenant Governor becomes Governor in the permanent absence of the Governor, then the Attorney General.

There were the expected calls for Northam to resign, and he engaged in many questionable antics; he announced that he was going to embark on an “apology tour” around the Commonwealth, explaining his real and upright bona fides to the people. He launched  a costly “in-house” investigation to verify his claims of not being the person in Blackface.

Northam’s “apology tour” never took place as he withdrew his apology. The inconclusiveness of his supposed “investigation” persisted. The events called for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax to assume the governorship if Northam resigned.

But then, something happened – sexual misconduct allegations against Fairfax from years ago were suddenly made public. In less than five minutes of the public airing of these claims, he was called upon to resign by Northam’s predecessor, Terry McAuliffe. This call was joined by the leaders and elected officials of the Democratic party, including the Legislative Black Caucus, with no further mentioning of Northam’s resignation.

Northam refused to resign, thus leaving a disgraceful legacy which the annals of history will analyze.

Fairfax was resoundingly defeated in the primary contest for the nomination to be Governor, and Herring lost in his bid for reelection. What ensued was the lack of advocacy by Democrats in Virginia. There were those who felt that they had earned the right to run for the Governorship. They were met with resistance from political forces considered kindred and told this was not “the appropriate time” for them to run.

I have previously written in this space about my opposition to the “leapfrog” antics of McAuliffe. The Constitution of Virginia prohibits succession in office by the Governor. I felt that though there was no ban on leapfrogging, the introduction of a new kind of “machine politics” would be instituted.

During this period, many people across the state expressed similar views to me. Yet, the die was cast; the Democratic ticket was formed and the campaign began. Though I had spoken individually with the Democratic candidates, with the exception of McAuliffe, I chose not to endorse anyone for the nomination.

There were few issues raised for discussion by the Dems which resonated with the people’s needs. Chief among them was the “expansion of Medicaid.”  McAuliffe claimed credit for this, though Fairfax, in his official capacity, cast the tie-breaking vote, during the transition. The Republican ticket was relatively unknown, though the candidate for Lt. Governor, Winsome Sears had previously run for Congress, losing to Bobby Scott.

In the process of “leapfrogging”, I felt that McAuliffe thwarted the opportunities of minority candidates who were running and had more experience than he when he was elected. His expressed disdain for parents who felt they were being ignored or rejected — relative to the quality of the children’s education — demonstrated his lack of practical experience and political tone deafness.

I was contacted by people from all over the state who agreed with this analysis. Against this backdrop, the table was set for the Republican ticket. The nominating process forked no lightning. The candidates were selected by a convention, not a primary for the general public. There were many voters who felt the Democrats had taken their votes for granted.

Education has always been a top priority for the people. Support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is an increasing concern for the people, all of the people. Democrats, including Black leaders and elected officials, have never measured up to that task of demanding fair and equitable funding from the state. They follow misguided advice that it was constitutionally prohibited. To his credit, Attorney General Jason Miyares has issued an opinion clarifying the issue leaving the Dems no one to fault but themselves.

The Democrats never properly addressed McAuliffe’s disdain for parental involvement in education nor his purported entitlement to support from Black voters. There was nothing distinguishing the Dem’s ticket to the extent of showing any commitment to the real issues, like crime, the economy and affordable healthcare, which continue in our communities today. Not a day goes by without a shooting, mass eviction, or employment and food scarcity.

I have been a student and professor of government and public affairs for some time and shared my concerns with persons of interest.

The ticket sweep was pure lack of attention to the issues by Democrats rather than any accomplishments of the Republicans. I know there are many people who shared the same feelings about how the Democrats lost the last statewide election. Governor Youngkin would be among the first to acknowledge that his ticket and his party were able to capitalize on the Dems’ miscues.

I have long described Virginia as a “purple” state, neither “red” nor “blue”. A better description would be that it is a “people’s” state. There was no elixir or prescription for victory poured into the water by the Republicans. They were the beneficiaries of the largesse of the Democrats, who blew it.

These are some of the reasons that prompted me not to endorse or support anyone in the Democratic primary. I followed that same course and made no public endorsement of anyone in the general election.

Paradoxically, one could say that the Republicans were gifted by “Blackface” and the subsequent failure of the Dems to do no more than to take certain votes for granted. So, in the end, Blackface won and the people may continue to suffer from ineffective leadership.

Stay tuned.

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