South Carolina gets picked on a lot, and sometime we deserve it.
Our statistics are high in the domestic violence arena. All other states know of our public education plights. We are home to one of the most horrific racially driven mass shootings when nine people were gunned down in a historic Charleston church. We once proudly flew the Confederate battle flag atop the Statehouse, as though we were yet members of the Confederate States of America, but then placed the flag on the Statehouse grounds. Removal of the flag at the behest of then-Gov. Nikki Haley caused great rancor and division.
But hey, at least we are not Virginia, right?
We have heard more than a few South Carolinians refer to its neighbor to the north as something less than a Southern state. Those folks need to venture out a bit. Or read some history books.
South Carolina can lay claim to the first shot fired at Fort Sumter, with Abbeville’s place in history being the Confederacy’s cradle and grave, giving our state high rank in “the cause” known as the Civil War, the War of Northern Aggression and War Between the States. But that doesn’t take away Virginia’s role. After all, Gen. Robert E. Lee was Virginia born and bred, as were a number of Confederate generals, such as J.E.B. Stuart, George Pickett and A.P. Hill, to name a few.
A visit to Richmond, the City of Monuments that memorialize the Confederacy’s military leaders, will quickly dissolve any notion that Virginia is anything but a true Southern state.
Still, despite its deep roots in the Confederacy, Virginia has made great progress. Like so many states, it has become a melting pot, a diverse state in terms of industry and people. In fact, Virginia can lay claim to having the first black governor since Reconstruction, Doug Wilder, who served from 1990-94.
Fast forward, however, and Virginia now finds itself in a quandary. Its current governor, Ralph Northam is trying to keep himself afloat as he deals with calls for his resignation over a yearbook photo that includes a person in blackface beside another in a KKK hood. Despite the medical school’s facing pages being devoted to Northam, the Democrat denies he is the person photographed. Of course, had the yearbook staff had any sense of decorum, taste and what is right, Northam wouldn’t be in this jam because the photo wouldn’t have made print. But that’s another matter.
As Northam dangles, so too does his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, who is facing an allegations of sexual assault.
As the TV commercial goes, “But wait! There’s more.”
The governor and lieutenant governor face uphill odds to keep their posts, which would mean if both had to leave office the next in line would be the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring. Seeing all the explosions going off around the capitol, he went ahead and dropped his own bomb, admitting that while a 19-year-old student at the prestigious University of Virginia, he donned brown makeup and a wig to make himself look like a rapper.
So there sits the Old Dominion with a dilemma on its hands. Its white Democratic governor is in the eyes of many setting the state’s progress back by decades. Its black Democratic lieutenant governor has estranged himself from a party that largely lays claim to women’s rights and the #MeToo movement. Its Democratic attorney general, who is also white, figuring it would surface anyway, stands pale-faced as he admits to putting on brownface and, thus, possibly ending his political career.
If this trio finds itself out of office, the role of governor would then go to a conservative Republican, Kirk Cox, the speaker of the House of Delegates.
No doubt folks are combing through his past, digging up yearbooks and maybe even asking him if he likes beer and, if so, just how much he likes it.
Youthful indiscretions? That’s a hard argument to make in the governor’s case. It was, after all, medical school in 1984. At 19 attending a college costume party, that argument might hold up for the attorney general. Might, but doubtful. But in the case of the lieutenant governor, there’s no palpable youthful indiscretion argument. He can only hang his hopes on being believed when he says the act was consensual.
To say Virginians have a hot mess is an understatement. We don’t make light of the state’s situation, but we cannot help but be relieved this is not happening in the Palmetto State.
For far more years than James Earl Jones has uttered the phrase “This is CNN,” Virginia has proudly used the motto “Virginia is for lovers.” We bet someone in a state-run marketing department is busy trying to cobble together another motto to roll out. And soon.
This editorial is from the Index-Journal of Greenwood.