I’ve been trying to get a line on the craziness in Virginia, but I just can’t. Now we have its Democratic governor and Democratic attorney general admitting to 1980s blackface incidents, and its (black) Democratic lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, accused of a 2004 sexual assault. Here’s a link to the detailed statement by the accuser, Vanessa Tyson.
It is at this point only an accusation — one that Fairfax disputes. He concedes that they had sex at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, but says it was consensual. Tyson says that the Washington Post investigated her story, and found no corroboration. This, of course, does not mean that she’s lying, but Tyson has about as much evidence against Fairfax as Christine Blasey Ford had against Brett Kavanaugh, who was excoriated by progressives who said that women should always be believed.
Nationally, Democrats have sought to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward allegations of sexual assault and race amid the Trump presidency and the #MeToo movement. To have not one, not two, but three statewide elected officials in a swing state battling a variety of these charges — and with none currently signaling they will step aside — is a political nightmare for the party writ large.
There’s a tendency in politics — especially with Trump in the White House — to insist that nothing like this has ever happened before. In most cases, that’s a significant exaggeration.
The situation in Virginia is not one of those cases.
As a conservative, I can’t pretend that I’m not enjoying the Democrats’ distress. They’re the ones who created this zero tolerance ethic, and the believe-women-at-all-costs standard; it’s delightful to watch them suffer from it. Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty writes:
Fairfax’s accuser, like Kavanaugh’s, is an academic who lives in California. Tyson is a tenured professor at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., and is currently on a year-long fellowship at Stanford University, where she is involved in research on sexual violence against women and children. Like Ford, she cannot produce anyone who witnessed what she says she went through.
But, as with Ford, I keep coming back to the question: Why would she make this up?
I get that. I don’t see what Tyson has to gain here at all. But that does not make her allegation true, and if we conduct politics by the standard that a mere accusation of sexual misconduct is enough to sideline a career, who would take that risk? After all, a man might be completely innocent, but if we Believe The Women without any corroborating facts, we give extraordinary power to accusers. Nevertheless, this is the standard that a lot of progressives took when the accused was Brett Kavanaugh, so forgive me if I take a certain satisfaction at their distress today.
I do warn my fellow Kavanaugh-backing conservatives, though, not to be hypocrites here. Justin Fairfax may stand for things we oppose, but if we believed that Brett Kavanaugh should not be taken down on the basis of an uncorroborated accusation, we owe the same standard to Justin Fairfax.
I do wonder how sustainable all of this is in the long run. Look at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who continues to be roasted over her past claim that she is descended from Native Americans (which was untrue). She claimed on her Texas state bar application that she was an American Indian:
She claims now that she was always told by her family that they had Indian heritage. I can believe that. My mom passed the same story on to me, saying it was in her family. We didn’t find out that it was untrue until she took a DNA test a couple of years ago. She was honestly surprised. However, my mom is a shade darker than Elizabeth Warren, and never would have claimed that she is an American Indian. But then again, my mom was a school bus driver, and unlike Elizabeth Warren, was not part of a professional culture in which you could advance if you were a member of a racial minority.
Still, she apologized for it, and by now, that should be the end of it — unless as a presidential candidate, Warren gets wound up about identity politics. Which she probably won’t be able to avoid, given how consumed the Left is with identity politics. Read Democrat Stacey Abrams’s defense of identity politics in response to Francis Fukuyama’s article claiming that identity politics are divisive and hurt the Left’s ability to achieve more progressive economic policies.
Anyway, this is where identity politics have gotten us. I’m on record here saying that blackface, even in the 1980s, is inexcusable — but I don’t believe that Ralph Northam should resign over it, provided that he has no record of mistreating black people as a physician and a politician. As far as I know, nobody has accused him of that. We have got to come up with a standard in which we give politicians — Democrats and Republicans both — grace when it comes to stupid and offensive things they said or did as younger adults.
Though sexual assault is an incomparably more serious matter than blackface, we also have to embrace a standard that protects a politician’s career from destruction on the basis of an unsupported accusation alone — even if it allows that politician to get away with a crime. What is the alternative?
What is the alternative in either case? Are politicians going to be vulnerable to having their careers destroyed over youthful mistakes, even egregious ones? This introduces radical instability into the system. And for what? If Ralph Northam and Mark Herring have been good public servants, should their racist stupidity as college students mean that none of that matters?
It is remarkable that the Democratic Party of Virginia is falling apart over these issues. But again: that’s what progressive identity politics have done to the party that has embraced them.