There’s an old Chinese saying, “may you live in interesting times.” Only the “interesting” is used in the same way as if someone asks how you like their homemade chili, and you say, “It’s. . .um. . .interesting.” So the Chinese saying is more schadenfreude than well-wishing. We are certainly living in “interesting times” now, in many ways, but let’s focus on the current backlash against sexism and racism.
The most recent case is the situation in which the governor of Virginia finds himself. In a medical school yearbook photo, a picture of a student in a KKK sheet and another in blackface was discovered Friday on the same page as now-Gov. Ralph Northam (D). After an uproar, Northam quickly apologized on the same day, according to The Hill.
“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said in the statement.
“This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”
The Congressional Black Caucus just as immediately issued a statement that an apology is not good enough.
“Maya Angelou once said ‘when you know better, you do better.’ Ralph Northam has had three decades to know better but only now does he acknowledge this racist act. An apology now isn’t enough. He must resign,” the caucus tweeted.
One should remember that the yearbook was from way back in 1984–when Ronald Reagan was turning old-line racist “Dixiecrats” into “Land-of-Cotton Republicans.” So it’s not that it took Northam 35 years to admit he was in the photo. It was, instead, seen as a “youthful indiscretion.”
However, the next day, Northam says, wait a minute, that was not me in that photo!!, according to Fox.
He had not previously seen the photo.
Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Saturday that he was not in a racist 1984 yearbook photo of two men dressed in blackface and Ku Klux Klan garb, despite admitting he was in the picture a day earlier. . .
He apologized for the picture appearing on his page, calling the image “offensive” and “racist,” but said that he had nothing to do with the preparation of the yearbook, and that he did not purchase it.
This is quite different from the earlier comments by former Fox host Megyn Kelly–a defense of white people wearing blackface, according to Business Insider, which was condemned by Al Roker. Kelly’s defense of blackface led to her firing by NBC.
The current furor is a response to growing White Nationalism, as evidenced by the Neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, NC, in 2017, which ended in the murder of a woman.
That episode was also famous for Donald Trump calling them “very fine people.”
Whether Northam survives the controversy is unknown at this time, although some are promoting his resignation so that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax could become the Commonwealth’s second Black governor.
Also, as the New Yorker notes in another case, “the force [of MeToo] is greater than the truth.”
There is much more going on in these “interesting times,” but let’s just focus on the racism and sexism backlashes. Over the past few years, the “MeToo” movement has brought down 201 powerful men including nine politicians, with 414 men named so far.
The most famous politician removed so far is Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who admitted to kissing a costar, as well as miming a grope (but not actually touching her) during a USO show to entertain the troops. Democrats jumped on him, in an effort to claim the mantel of the party that is against even a hint of sexism or racism. In fact, 31 of the 49 Democratic Senators turned on him.
In his resignation speech, Franken denied the allegations but felt that his resignation would have symbolic power.
The trouble with the “holier than thou” pitch is that it puts a target on your back. We are all racists and sexist, to varying degrees, and we all do stupid, silly things that are not consistent with our whole person. You don’t have to hang a Black man to be a racist, and you don’t have to rape a woman to be a sexist. It’s about prejudice. “Prejudice” means to “pre-judge,” that is, to rely on stereotypes and assumptions. If you lock your door if a black man comes up to your car, or if you think girls can’t be good at math, you are a racist and sexist. Period.
The risk for Democrats is that a goofy snapshot from 30 or 40 years ago could eliminate any rising star.
Republicans have usually been the “holier than thou” party. That’s why Henry Hyde, rockstar of anti-abortion, was snubbed and ridiculed—not because of his savings-and-loan scandal, or his defense of Iran-Contra. It was because, as the darling of the religious right, he admitted to an extramarital affair—with a married woman. He called it a “youthful indiscretion” that occurred when he was 41 years old.
However, Hyde stayed in office for another seven years. The religious right also swallowed its self-righteousness to continue to support Trump, despite multiple marriages to younger and younger women, adultery and proudly boasting about abuse of women. Democrats always fall like flies, with a few exceptions, such as Sen.Bob Menendez, including 14 criminal counts of federal corruption and bribery, three girlfriends, and seven lavish trips on the public dime.
Back to Franken, in his speech, he said he thought it was ironic that Trump can continue in office after the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump bragged about groping women, and having the power to do so as a celebrity.
And that brings us back to presidential politics for 2020. We’ve heard a lot over the past few weeks from conservatives who are angry that Trump caved (twice) regarding the wall. In fact, Ann Coulter is calling him a “lazy and incompetent lunatic.”
Trump’s response was seen as sexist.
In an interview last week, Trump remarked of Coulter, “I hear she’s become very hostile. Maybe I didn’t return her phone call or something.”
Trump’s comments on women and White Nationalism might make him vulnerable from the center, during these times of battling racism and sexism. In fact, a recent poll showed that 57% say they will definitely not vote for Trump in 2020.
Instead of taking advantage of Franken’s situation, taking the high ground on sexism, Trump ridiculed him.
President Trump mocked former Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) at a campaign rally in Minnesota Thursday for resigning following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
“That guy was wacky. Boy did he fold up like a wet rag, huh?” Trump said at a rally in Rochester in Franken’s home state.
“He was gone so fast, I don’t want to mention Al Franken’s name, he was gone so fast,” he added.
A national uproar over sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh did not stop President Donald Trump from suggesting a former Democratic senator “folded” under his own allegations. . .
Trump’s comment threatened to derail Republican leaders’ efforts to secure 50 votes to confirm Kavanaugh, who was forced to testify late last week about sexual assault allegations dating to his high school days.
The incident allegedly involving Kavanaugh occurred at the same time as Northam’s yearbook woes, and ironically, also involved yearbook photos and statements.
Trump, who has always said you should deny, deny, deny even absolutely true allegations, may be out of step with the times. Moreover, he may have kicked the wrong sleeping dog, as the saying goes. We have previously said that Al Franken had the quick wit and likeability that made him, maybe the only Democrat who might have beaten Trump. And he may, yet, not as the nominee, but as a comedian, as suggested by Bill Maher.
“We need Democrats to be laser-focused on the one thing that really matters—finding out what is Trump’s kryptonite,” Maher said on HBO’s Real Time show which he hosts. “I think its ridicule.”
“The one thing that gets under his skin, besides red dye No. 2, is being made fun of,” Maher said, then referenced how Trump “seethed” when Obama made fun of him at the Correspondents’ Dinner. . .
Maher said that America needs “someone who can shred Trump like a standup takes down a heckler because Trump is a heckler.
“And to fight him, we need a comedian,” Maher continued. “That is why tonight, after serious thought and consideration, I am officially announcing that I, Bill Maher, think it would be a great idea if Al Franken got back in the game!”
We also previously noted that Trump is not fast on his feet, nor witty, so he may be vulnerable to humor.
The 2016 primaries and general election were largely a glum affair. It would be refreshing to get a laugh or two next year.