What if this Virginia political nonsense was by design?
Which they am I referring to, by the way?
Spoiler: not all of them.
Give me some leeway with game theory to flesh out what seems to me to be what we could have been dealing with here in Virginia the past seven days.
I think it’s entirely possible that it was all self-inflicted. All of it; even the first revelation, a week ago, the yearbook photo.
Here’s where I’m going with that: remember what we were talking about in reference to Ralph Northam before the yearbook photo.
Yes, his clumsy comments on infanticide.
Republicans were having a field day with late-term abortions, and Northam inserted foot in mouth in a radio interview with WTOP, and made it all about him.
And then, late in the day, on a Friday, perfect time for a bad news dump, the yearbook photo emerges.
There was a bit of miscalculation at the outset. It doesn’t seem the leakers expected the quick calls for Northam to resign.
I think the figuring going into this was, we’ll make the discussion about race, Republicans will pile on, they’ll look like hypocrites, and then, we got ‘em.
Oops. It was Democrats who piled on, and Republicans, the electeds, anyway, by and large, followed the advice of Napoleon, and let the other side twist in the winds.
The heat on, it was time to catch Justin Fairfax in the web. The story was apparently out there for at least a year, in terms of the Washington Post being engaged to investigate the allegations that he had sexually assaulted a woman in 2004, and assuredly everybody in Democratic circles in Richmond would have known that the Post had been calling around on that topic, even though it didn’t end up making it into print.
That one was a story that was destined to be told, if not between now and then, almost certainly in the walkup to the 2021 Democratic gubernatorial race, in which it was looking even before last Friday that Fairfax was going to be a solid contender.
The stakes got raised with the calls from all over for Northam to resign: if Fairfax would be elevated to the top spot, he’d run in 2021 for what would effectively be re-election, a rarity in Virginia, in which the governor is limited to one term.
So, the story that was going to be used anyway, eventually, down the line, the ace in the hole, had to be called earlier than had been expected.
First, we get a Facebook post, early Sunday afternoon, then an emergency staff meeting for Northam’s top advisors during the Super Bowl, then, funny how this works, the same conservative website that no one had heard of until last week has that story.
Now, the story isn’t about Northam resigning; it’s about the lieutenant governor and sexual assault.
Mark Herring being part of this story makes no sense, at first glance, so when he announced on Wednesday, unprompted, that he had once dressed up in brown makeup to perform a song by an early 1980s rapper, he was taking one for the team there.
The talk is no longer about Northam and Fairfax both stepping down; it has become, what happens if all three have to go upstate to live on a farm to live out their years?
Well, then, we get as governor the Republican Speaker of the House, who has his job because the Republican’s name was pulled out of hat to decide a tied House race.
Literally, that’s what happened.
OK, not entirely literally. The name was drawn out of a bowl. It would have been better, more dramatic, out of a hat.
Hint: next time, folks, do it right.
Which leaves us: well, the Democrats who were calling on Northam to resign have largely shut themselves the hell up on that nonsense, because, the way that plays out, yeah, Gov. Name Drawn out of a Hat.
Justin Fairfax might as well resign, because his political career is over.
Ralph Northam was already winding down. A Democratic governor in a Democratic state, term-limited, in line behind two Democratic U.S. senators, this was it for him.
Mark Herring: he was going to have a fight on his hands in 2021 anyway. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is expected to be a challenger, though his name has gotten caught up in this mess, with suggestions from Fairfax that Stoney’s team might have been behind the allegations leak, so, who knows?
It all seems so clean now, right?
Well, Chris, you’re thinking, except for the fact that, c’mon, the Dems have damaged their brand significantly, with all this blackface and KKK photos stuff out there in the public domain.
A few thoughts there.
One, it’s February, nine months out from the election. Oppo researchers are fanning out across the Commonwealth as we speak looking at yearbooks and rifling through social media for offensive photos, tweets, allegations, you name it.
Mother Theresa could expect an October Surprise if she was up for a House or Senate seat, is what I’m suggesting here.
Two, Democratic voters are less energized now. See #1: it’s February. Plenty of time for them to energize themselves between now and November.
Three: do Republicans really want November to be about race issues? If you want to beat a fast-break team, do you beat them by fast-breaking? Race is the Democrats’ wheelhouse; if the 2019 state elections are about race, it’s a Democratic dog walk.
OK, so, now, having fleshed that out, I’m aware that I’m assigning way, way, way too much in terms of design.
You can argue that side of it, but the conclusions stand.
I’m an idiot now for saying this, but … well-played.
Column by Chris Graham