Ralph Northam should go. And he will, sooner or later. 

If the soon-to-be-former Virginia governor’s admission Friday night that, yeah, he was in that racist medical-school yearbook picture—either the dude in the Klan getup or the dude in blackface, though he didn’t say which—didn’t convince you, his bizarre attempt at a walk-back Saturday should have done the trick. See, he wasn’t actually in that picture; that was a mixup. But he wasn’t sure because he had done blackface at a different party where he went as Michael Jackson and he can do the Moonwalk to prove it to you … 

It didn’t get any better from there.

He’s a dead politician walking. 

His lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, is a Duke grad, class of 2000. Whenever Northam acquiesces to the inevitable, he’ll become the second African-American and, at thirty-nine, second-youngest governor in Virginia history. (Assuming, that is, that this recently surfaced story—of an alleged sexual assault in 2004, which Fairfax vehemently denies—doesn’t gain traction.) Northam’s erstwhile allies have abandoned him, from Democratic presidential candidates to the NAACP to the Democratic National Committee to Virginia’s Democratic senators to his own state party to even Roy Cooper, who issued a statement Saturday telling his colleague to the north to get lost. 

Yes, people can evolve—and by appearances, Northam has. And no, a stupid act from three decades ago shouldn’t define you. But that photo—and his handling of it, an object lesson in how not to do crisis communications—has cost Northam any semblance of moral authority or confidence in his leadership, especially as a leader in a party that relies on African-American votes and has positioned itself as a defender of civil rights. Without that, he simply can’t govern. 

It doesn’t matter that this scandal emerged on the heels of bad-faith caterwauling about a Democratic effort in the Virginia legislature to liberalize its abortion laws, which Republicans seized upon to call Northam, a pediatrician, a baby-killer who literally favored “legal infanticide,” in the words of Senator Marco Rubio. It doesn’t matter either that the Virginia GOP, first out of the gate with a demand for Northam’s resignation, just last year backed Confederate fetishist Corey Stewart for Senate and the year before supported immigrant-bashing Confederate-monument-lover Ed Gillespie for governor, or that during the gubernatorial race, the party essentially called Northam a race traitor for wanting to take down those monuments. 

Nor does it matter that many of the same Republicans dunking on Northam still support Donald Trump, who by word and deed has offered ample evidence of his prejudice. (Is wearing blackface really worse than ripping Latino migrant children from their parents and throwing them in cages? How about calling neo-Nazis “very fine people”?) It doesn’t matter, either, that the GOP has for decades tolerated out-and-proud white supremacist Steve King as a member of Congress. Or that Republicans have purposefully employed racist dog whistles to win elections since Nixon, or that Tucker Carlson’s White Nationalist Power Hour, where Trump loves to go for fawning softball interviews, is Republican viewers’ favorite “news” show.  

Yes, the hypocrisy runs deep. But Northam should resign regardless. 

And we shouldn’t harp on the hypocrisy. Instead, we should embrace the GOP’s professed commitment to rooting out the cancer of bigotry from our body politic. 

In fact, since we’re all on the same page, allow me to make some suggestions—not a comprehensive list by any means, but a start—of North Carolina politicians who should probably be shown the door. The eleven men on my list may not have worn blackface thirty-five years ago, but through their comments or actions, they’ve all targeted minority or marginalized communities in one way or another—and much more recently than anything Northam did. 

Surely the NCGOP will join me in demanding their resignations posthaste. 


1. State Representative Larry Pittman

North Carolina’s own resident Confederate fetishist, our man Larry here thinks Abraham Lincoln was “the same sort [of] tyrant as Hitler”—that is a real thing he posted on Facebook in 2016—and the Civil War and unnecessary and unconstitutional. He also wants to remove the state constitution’s ban on secession from the union, ban gay marriage no matter what the Supreme Court says, and publicly hang abortion doctors. In November, Pittman was reelected to the General Assembly.  

2. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis 

Before he became a U.S. senator in 2015, Tillis spent two terms as Speaker of North Carolina’s House, where he and his caucus—egged along by Phil Berger’s hardline Senate (see number 4)—pushed through a racist voter ID law and racist legislative and congressional gerrymanders that were all overturned by federal courts. For good measure, he and Berger also repealed the Racial Justice Act, slashed taxes for the rich while eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor, and placed the anti-gay-marriage Amendment 1 on the ballot in 2012.  

But you don’t have to go that far back to see how Tillis earned his place on this list: Look only to his advocacy on behalf of the judicial nomination of Thomas Farr, the Raleigh attorney who served as the segregationist senator Jesse Helms’s campaign attorney while Helms’s campaign tried to intimidate black voters into not going to the polls. Farr also (unsuccessfully) defended the legislature’s racist voter ID and gerrymandering efforts in court. Tillis thinks that should earn him a lifetime position on the federal bench. 

3. U.S. Senator Richard Burr

Burr, too, is a Farr apologist. But more than that, he’s the man who made Farr’s appointment to a seat on the Eastern District Court of North Carolina—a seat with the longest vacancy in the federal judiciary—possible, by using a parliamentary tactic (which Republicans have since done away with) to block President Obama’s appointments to that seat, both African-American women (including one Burr personally recommended to the White House), both without anything approaching a reasonable explanation. The district that seat covers has a large black population; instead of its first African-American judge, Barr believes it should get Jesse Helms’s lawyer. 

4. Senate Leader Phil Berger 

Everything Tillis did as House Speaker, Berger did, too, but with more enthusiasm—voter ID, gerrymanders, Amendment 1, slashing benefits for the poor, etc.—and continued doing after Tillis moved to Washington. When a federal court legalized gay marriage, Berger passed a law allowing magistrates to refuse to conduct same-sex ceremonies, then rammed through HB 2. And after South Carolina removed a Confederate flag from its Capitol grounds in response to a mass shooting perpetrated by a white supremacist, Berger pushed through the “objects of remembrance” statute, which blocked state and local governments from removing Confederate monuments. To this day, he thinks it’s entirely proper for North Carolina’s Capitol grounds to have three monuments honoring those who fought to preserve chattel slavery.  

5–6. State Senator Dan Bishop and Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest 

Behold, the great minds that brought about the unmitigated disaster of HB 2.

Bishop was a state representative—and is now a state senator—representing Mecklenburg County when the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance that forbade discrimination against LGB and T folks in public accommodations. Bishop, calling this “radical social engineering,” sponsored the legislation that continues to give North Carolina a black eye two years after its halfhearted repeal. It told trans people which bathrooms they could use, banned local governments from passing antidiscrimination laws (or raising the minimum wage), and generally codified assholery into state statute. (More recently, Bishop was in the news for giving money to Gab, the favorite social media alternative for white supremacists.) 

HB 2, meanwhile, had no bigger champion than Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, a Trump-loving, Bible-thumping intellect who believes “transgenderism is a feeling,” whatever that means, and now thinks he is owed a promotion to the state’s top job. 

7–8. State Senator Brent Jackson and State Representative Jimmy Dixon 

For decades, neighbors of many of the state’s twenty-two hundred hog farms have said their anachronistic waste systems have made their lives miserable, the stink making it impossible to go outside, the liquified waste drifting onto their properties. That these farms usually affect poor, minority communities—black, Latino, Native American—a pattern UNC researchers said is “generally recognized as environmental racism.”

In 2014, more than five hundred residents sued the Chinese-owned conglomerate Smithfield Foods, the largest hog producer in the world. Three years later, with those lawsuits headed to trial, the industry’s friends in the legislature got to work. 

Dixon got the ball rolling in 2017, with a successful effort to limit the amount of money plaintiffs in such lawsuits could receive—and an unsuccessful effort to make that law retroactive so as to mitigate the twenty-six then-pending lawsuits against Smithfield. In July, after a second consecutive jury came down with a multimillion-dollar verdict against Smithfield, Dixon wrote an insane op-ed accusing the plaintiffs’ attorneys of trying to “rape these families”—referring to farmers, who weren’t named in the suits—and of having “raped and prostituted” their clients, who obviously can’t think for themselves. 

Jackson, meanwhile, declared war on the “frivolous nuisance lawsuits [that] threaten the very existence of farming in North Carolina,” which, well, sure. Last year, in the Farm Bill, he cracked down on who exactly could file a nuisance lawsuit—in his mind, almost no one—and virtually eliminated the possibility of future plaintiffs collecting any punitive damages.  

9. U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. 

Perhaps Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. could have headed off the ongoing mess in the Ninth Congressional District, where a Republican political operative appears to have engaged in vote-collecting shenanigans that have called the election results into question, when state officials warned his office that something weird was afoot. But as The Washington Post reported Sunday, he didn’t, because he was too busy doing his boss’s bidding: rounding up immigrants—almost all legal residents here on Green Cards—who had mistakenly voted in the 2016 election, then subpoenaing millions of records of foreign-born voters from state and local agencies.

The directive to go after immigrants came from Trump and his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and a Higdon followed it like a diligent lackey—“His office is extremely interested in noncitizens who vote and made a huge deal out of that,” a retired elections official told the Post—while showing zero interest in what was happening in Bladen County. 

Maybe Higdon wanted to conjure evidence that Trump’s fantasy of widespread voter fraud is a real thing and thus lend support for efforts to make it harder to vote. Or maybe his office just wanted to send a message from the White House. As one of the people he charged, Jose Solano-Rodriguez, told the Post: “I want to tell my people: Don’t vote. They tell you, ‘You can vote.’ But don’t do it.”

Message received. 

10. UNC Board of Governors member Thom Goolsby 

In the year after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, anti-racism demonstrators in the Triangle have pulled down two Confederate monuments: one on East Main Street in downtown Durham and the infamous Silent Sam on the campus on UNC-Chapel Hill. Both events were met by considerable opprobrium from the law-and-order crowd, as they were quite illegal. And there were some folks who insisted the monuments be put right back up, as the objects-of-remembrance law dictated, even though neither Durham nor Chapel Hill particularly wanted the damn things. The conservative UNC Board of Governors seemed inclined to put Sam somewhere, but that talk seems to have died down when UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt resigned and removed the statue’s base on her way out. 

But no one—not by a long shot—has been more enthusiastic about putting Sam right the hell back in McCorkle Place than Thom Goolsby, the former state senator who once called the Moral Mondays protests against the General Assembly’s regressive policies “Moron Mondays.” (A year later, Goolsby and his investment firm were shut down by the N.C. Secretary of State’s office for misleading investors, but the legislature appointed him to the Board of Governors anyway.) No sooner did Sam fall than Goolsby proclaim that “he will be reinstalled s required by state law within ninety days.” (He wasn’t.) Later, he called the UNC-CH Board of Trustees “cowardly” for wanting to build a history center to house the monument to white supremacy, saying Sam should “be placed back on his stand and that appropriate fencing be erected to protect this historical monument!” (Never mind that this would almost certainly cause a riot or, at minimum, give the school and the state another PR debacle to deal with.) And after Folt had the base removed, Goolsby suggested again that Sam return to his original location, this time flanked by two statues—one commemorating victims of the Wilmington massacre, another commemorating victims of forced sterilization—designed to remind students that Democrats are the real racists. 

11. Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller 

Technically speaking, Miller is neither a politician nor a North Carolinian. (He grew up in California.) But he went to Duke—where he befriended white supremacist Richard Spencer—and now he’s a senior adviser to Donald Trump helping craft the country’s increasingly cruel immigration policies. Not content with building a pointless wall or throwing children in cages and trying to throw Dreamers and recipients of Temporary Protected Status out of the country, Miller and his fellow administration hardliners now want to take a swing at making legal immigration and claiming asylum more difficult. According to the new insider memoir Team of Vipers, Miller told ex-Trump aide (and author) Cliff Sims, “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”

Of course he would.

4 replies on “Ralph Northam Should Resign. Maybe These 11 North Carolina Politicians Should, Too.”

  1. States don’t vote; people do. When North Carolina citizens vote, our GOP-controlled General Assembly makes sure that the Republicans keep control of the legislature by gerrymandering. As long as gerrymandering is allowed to determine how North Carolina citizens are represented in the G.A., then the GOP gets what it wants, not the people who vote.

  2. First; I live in Virginia.
    Bottom Line; Northam did a stupid thing…..actually, several stupid things, but we`re not judging him on his poor handling of this photo scandal, but making the photo itself….
    Decades ago.
    Sorry, but unless Northam has lived a life of racist activities (such as a Roy Moore or a Donald Trump), I just cannot see vilifying him and damning him as a racist official who should be cast out of government and ostracized.
    No matter how much our current rush-to-judgement-and-start-throwing-rocks attitude stipulates that we all be judged by any stupid move we ever made, no matter how long ago, disregarding what good we have done with our lives since; I just cannot dismiss Northam that casually.

    If a person`s mistakes determine who they WERE…..
    Then what they do about those mistakes should determine who they ARE.

    If you cannot wrap your mind around that sentiment; then consider this;
    If Northam was or even is a racially insensitive ass; what makes the better penance….
    Dismissal from public service in disgrace…or serving the public to the betterment of all?

    Like a convicted litterbug being sentenced to pick up trash along the highway, nothing serves to correct a mistake like confronting it and visibly making a difference for the better.

  3. Do not feel sorry for the States that have voted Republican. They voted for what they want. If those that don’t like the situation should have got more out to vote against the Republicans.

  4. cant read anymore. wow sounds like a lunatic wrote this. maybe we need to get rid of u and trash like u

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