Saturday, February 02, 2019

A Clamor To Act In Haste

The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and David Cay Johnston brings needed perspective to a rush to judgment:

In rush by Dems to pressure Democrat Ralph Northam to resign as @GovernorVA, let's remember that we want people to change, grow and improve. Better to replace, say, learned bigotry in youth with advocacy for equality as adults.
#Redemption matters.

In the article to which Johnston linked, Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty argues

There are many things that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should say right now.

The first is that he is resigning.

Once he has done that, he also owes the Commonwealth of Virginia — and the rest of the country — a much fuller explanation.

A racist photo like the one he apparently chose to represent himself in his 1984 medical school yearbook does not just happen spontaneously. It is the product of something much larger — the culture that produced Northam, the kind of person he was. And there may indeed be a story of redemption in there somewhere. If there is, it is one that should have been told to the voters of his state long ago, so they could judge whether the man who put himself forward to lead them was who he said he was.

Facts first, CNN and especially Chris Cuomo assert. It's precisely because allowing yourself to be photographed in black face or a KKK hood "does not happen spontaneously" that facts- and details- matter. We don't have those details as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday.

And if it "does not happen spontaneously," the culture that produced Northam (and very likely, Mitch McConnell in part), is significant. It's significant in a way similar to the relatively high violent crime rate among American blacks is due to the culture- slavery, segregation, discrimination- whose effects persist and contribute to criminal behavior.

The governor of Virginia does owe the citizens and legal residents of his state an explanation- if he resists calls for his resignation. Clearly, Tumulty is calling for an explanation not to determine whether he can legitimately remain governor, but that he fall on his sword, plead for mercy, and be banished from public life altogether.

Whatever the wisdom of resignation, it is not the responsibility of the wrongdoer to fall on his knees and prostrate himself to a mere mortal. Nor should it be required that Ralph Northam resign, any more than it should be required (as it properly is not) for Steve King or Donald Trump to quit.

 The "failure to come to terms" with the photo constitutes a past failure, while it "openly speaks to a character flaw that is also part of who he is today."

Given that Tumulty believes a "failure to come to terms" with the photo "openly speaks to a character flaw that is also part of who he is today," she already has decided not only that there is no room for the redemption Johnston prefers, but that present character derives immutably from past transgression,

Moral certitude leaves no room for explanation, context, or consideration or other factors. A closed mind may preclude compassion, but at least it suffices for self-affirmation.

Update: Johnston has joined the (figurative) firing squad:

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