Virginia’s executive branch is on defense following a series of scandalous accusations and revelations.
Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to using blackface during a college party in 1980. Governor Ralph Northam (D) is similarly under fire after his medical school yearbook page was shown to feature a photo of a man in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood. His Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is facing sexual assault allegations stemming from an encounter in 2004.
The public response has been swift and harsh, however, the Democrats in question have failed to do more than host news conferences.
If the Democratic Party hopes to retain any integrity on the issues of sexual violence or racism, it must take the appropriate steps to condemn the harmful actions and words of these men.
Northam and Herring should be the first ones to resign.
Both have admitted to using “shoe polish” and “brown makeup” on at least one occasion. While Northam is now disputing that he was the man in his yearbook photo, it is concerning that his initial reaction was to release an apology.
Herring is openly admitting to using blackface.
It is unclear if he is doing so out of guilt or concern over the existence of evidence. The fact that neither of these men have resigned puts the credibility of the Democratic Party at risk. It becomes infinitely harder for Democrats to criticize racism when major figures in power have actively admitted to partaking in racist activities.
The case of the sexual assault allegations against Lt. Governor Fairfax is somewhat distinct and for that, he deserves due process. He deserves an opportunity to defend himself in the appropriate setting.
However, respectfully disputing allegations also means being respectful to your accuser. Two sources confirmed to NBC News on Wednesday morning that Fairfax had been disparaging of his accuser, saying “F*** that b****” in a private meeting on Monday.
The Democratic Party was quick to condemn Northam and Herring, but its lukewarm response to the accusations against Fairfax and its inability to pressure Northam out of office have put the party in a hypocritical position.
If Democrats hope to retain any sense of moral high ground on issues relating to sexual assault, they must condemn Fairfax’s language.
If they hope to retain that same sense of morality on issues relating to race and racism, they must get Northam and Herring out of office or risk the consequences: lost elections and lost credibility.
Aida Vazquez-Soto is a senior majoring in political science and economics.