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ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: Final verdict on Northam's tenure

Editorial: Final verdict on Northam’s tenure

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As the days until his one-and-done term as governor counted down, The Washington Post engaged in one of its most servile, obsequious bouts of hagiography ever in attempting to raise Ralph Northam to the status of a “transformational” political leader.

Not since Rose Mary Woods invited the press into her White House office to prove how she contorted her body to, mmmm, “inadvertently” erase 18-and-a-half minutes of an incriminating Watergate tape have we seen such a stretch.

Northam was no transformational leader. He was a politician who rose through the ranks as a moderate but already was tacking left when, caught up in a scandal of his own making, he decided the best way to survive was to go full-bore “woke” in an effort to buy off the left wing of his party, which at the time was calling for his scalp.

(For the record, we were not following suit; even had the governor been one of the participants in the now-infamous blackface incident, as odds certainly suggest he was, this editorial page said that while unfortunate, it wasn’t something that required himself to commit political self-immolation.)


Northam lucked out: Democrats realized they’d better back off the resignation calls since their other two statewide officeholders had troubles of their own; the press showed a decided lack of interest in getting to the bottom of the blackface matter; and the public, as the public always does, got bored and moved on.

The remainder of the governor’s four-year term, far from being transformational, was given over to managing as best possible the COVID crisis. And this is where, before we shovel the last spades of dirt on his political coffin (Northam has nowhere to go, politics-wise), we stop to offer a brief, positive eulogy.

We have said from the start, now nearly two years ago, that the governor has done as good a job as one could expect in trying to straddle the fine line between public health and economic health. He restrained fascist impulses that afflicted other governors of his party from imposing lockdowns that had little public-health basis to back them up. His response wasn’t perfect, but we’d put it in the B-plus category.

The press tends to characterize anyone who moves from the center (or better, from the right) over to the left as above reproach. But Northam’s foray left, coupled with that of Attorney General Mark Herring and the legislature once it was in Democratic hands, only served to hand control of power in Richmond back to the Republicans.

Perhaps in that case, and that alone, Virginia Democrats indeed were transformational.

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