VA Gov. Ralph Northam Will Launch A 'Listening Tour' Instead Of Resigning

Virginia governor Ralph Northam won't resign over allegations he posed in blackface (or, possibly, in a Ku Klux Klan hood) for his medical school yearbook. Instead, he's taking a page out of Hillary Clinton's playbook and embarking on a multi-city "listening tour" to learn about racism and its impact within his home state.

Northam told reporters last week that he'd been meeting one-on-one with minority staffers in the Virginia statehouse, and that he's already begun work on a stack of assigned reading, designed to fill him in on the minority experience.

But, Buzzfeed reports, Northam will also try to placate Virginia voters by traveling the state for a series of town hall-style events, where he'll hear from marginalized communities and minority voters.

"[H]e and his advisers are close to finalizing plans for a statewide 'listening tour' to engage different communities in conversations about race," the outlet reports.

Northam also intends to share his own experiences, the New York Post reports, in the hopes that voters will better understand his actions — though he still denies he committed any errors, and that he is either of the two young men pictured in the now-infamous yearbook photo.

"But he won’t just be 'listening.' The 59-year-old governor — who admitted in an interview this week that he has only just realized why blackface is 'so offensive' — also wants to share what he has learned from his own experiences, an adviser tells the news outlet."

If the effort seems insincere and contrived, that's likely because the "apology tour" is something of a Clinton invention. Hillary Clinton undertook a similar tour in 2000 while running for Senate in New York to distance herself from her husband's social policies, including Bill Clinton's support for the "Defense of Marriage Act," and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. She pounded the pavement on a second tour in 2008 after losing out to Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, and again after losing the presidential election in 2012.

Hillary Clinton was extended a measure of forgiveness on all three tours, and Northam is clearly hoping Virginia voters will do the same for him, particularly given that he has abjectly refused to resign from his position as Virginia's governor, and yet, somehow, he hopes to have a political career after he leaves office.

It may be the wrong move. If Northam wants his voters to forget his alleged transgressions, the worst possible thing to do would be host public "listening events," where he's sure to get asked — repeatedly — about the blackface photo, and why he only began recognizing that blackface was a hurtful and offensive thing in February of 2019. Northam will have to have a concrete excuse ready for deployment, if he hopes to make the situation better, not worse.

Northam also runs the risk of prolonging scandals dogging both his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, who has now been accused of sexual assault by two women, both of whom seem to have given contemporaneous accounts of Fairfax's actions, lending their allegations an air of credibility, and his attorney general, who also reportedly posed in blackface for a party in the 1980s (though he was significantly younger than Northam at the time of his transgression).


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