Do voters value contrition, forgiveness, and growth? Or are voters committed to purging civil society of racists?
Governor George Wallace stood at the doors of the University of Alabama,
blocking African American students from entering. This was back in 1963. Wallace was a thorn in the side of civil
rights cause. He promised “segregation now, segregation tomorrow,
segregation forever.” He even ran for president as a segregationist,
winning states in the general election.
an assortment of presidential campaigns and multiple terms as governor of
Alabama, Wallace’s career was all but over.
A few years after his last presidential quest, Wallace became a
born-again Christian, repented of his racist views, and ran for governor of Alabama
one last time.
won and he won with 90% of the African American vote.
we look at what is happening in Virginia and surely what could happen in other
states, we have to ask ourselves what the nation wants in terms of racism and repentance
as well as what the nation wants in terms of curbing abhorrent behavior and
may have been a time where we could have had a sincere conversation about those
questions, but it appears that any discussion of them is bound up in the hope
of salvaging political utility.
many people actually care that Ralph Northam dressed in blackface?
democrats only care because his successor is a democrat as well, making it an
easy and safe political decision?
they look past it when his successor is no longer viable due to sexual assault
liberal policies trump any charge of racism? (See Bill Clinton and the dynamic
between protecting abortion and sexually assaulting/harassing women).
republicans care because he has monstrous views on abortion and racism is the
easy way of getting rid of him?
they willing to look past potential GOP racism to install a republican successor
who isn’t infanticidal?
what should have been done with individuals like J. W. Fulbright, Al Gore Sr.
Robert Byrd, and Strom Thurmond? Are apologies enough to absolve them of racist
we look at the current slew of racist conduct, we aren’t even talking about de
jure racism in local, state, or federal policy like we were when Wallace stood
at the doors of the University of Alabama.
Yet it seems that civil society rightly wants to avoid the appearance of
history is tarnished by racism. Black
Americans have a very specific history that required war, constitutional
amendments, decades of enforcement, law, and case law to correct the record and
make good on the promises of the Declaration of Independence.
we forget the severity of that history and instead choose to reduce racism and
our responses to it to an idiotic discussion of what is polite or politically advantageous.
we go back to 1982, I cannot possibly explain how George Wallace gained 90% of
the Black vote.
Today’s situation with Northam (though he’s term limited) or his fellow democrats gives us a chance to examine the political consequences of racist conduct. Will democrats in the state of Virginia look at Northam and Herring and say, as Mr. Wonderful says, “you’re dead to me”?
do they persist?
have several options, they can either embrace forgiveness or they can cast out
those who have trampled upon the memory of what Blacks have gone through in
prefer the latter as I am inclined to doubt the sincerity of politicians.
they can ignore racism for political points or they can forgive while still
insisting that the racists must resign.
again prefer the latter as it robs them of political advantage while still
holding to an upright cause.
Republicans are salivating at the idea of turning Virginia red as a result of these events. It seems unlikely. Voters are not simple gut reaction machines. They weigh values and policies while ranking them by importance. It can explain why George Wallace won the Black vote. I don’t know how or why, but it’s in there somewhere. Similarly, Virginia politics is not going to be reduced to blackface = bad. And that’s probably unfortunate.