Last week, the Democrat governor of Virginia Ralph Northam went on the radio defending an abortion bill which appeared to legalise infanticide:
The paediatric neurologist said the measure allowed termination “in cases where there may be severe deformities” or when there is a “foetus that’s not viable” outside the womb.
“So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labour, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” he told WTOP’s Ask the Governor programme Wednesday.
“The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
This generated outrage in conservative circles and a dismissive shrug among liberals. It wasn’t until a picture emerged in the 1984 East Virginia Medical School yearbook a day or two later that the left went into meltdown:
Quite why there is a picture of a man in blackface beside someone dressed as a KKK member in a medical school yearbook I don’t know. Northam hasn’t provided much clarity either: first he apologised without saying whether he was Mr Blackface or Mr KKK, then he backtracked and said he isn’t in the photo but he did black up on another occasion, but only to impersonate Michael Jackson.
Here’s my take. As everyone here knows I went to Manchester University, which has a large medical school. I knew a handful of medics and they were all nuts. Their philosophy was to work hard and play hard. You’d not see them during much of the semester as they were in various placements or putting in stupid hours somewhere, then one night the student bars would be invaded by a horde of them wearing white gowns and stethoscopes. They’d dance like maniacs, drink themselves into oblivion, and would often be open to taking someone home before hooking themselves up to a saline drip to stave off the inevitable hangover. Having spoken to several medics who went to other schools around the UK, this behaviour seems typical. Also common are tales of pranks and acts of stupidity medical students get up to, especially around cadavers. All of this is a way of coping with a job which is usually difficult and often unpleasant. So if a bizarre photo turns up in a medical yearbook from 1984, I’m not going to be very surprised.
Do I think such a photo is in itself proof that Northam is, or was, racist? No I don’t. Insensitive maybe, but medical students aren’t the most delicate of people as I’ve already explained and I’m old-fashioned in that I think there’s a big difference between offensive humour in your twenties which you later realise was in rather poor taste, and genuine racism. But in the last few years blackface – which is something I’d never heard of until recently – is now up there with child sacrifice as something for which you can never be forgiven. Actually, that’s a poor comparison: American liberals don’t appear to mind child sacrifice as the reaction to Northam’s radio appearance showed, but blackface is really beyond the pale. Ahem.
As such, we’ve seen all the white grannies of the Democrat party – Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi – queuing up to denounce him and demand his resignation. At some point they’ll be held to account over their hideous whiteness, and they’re doing all they can to burnish their anti-racist credentials while bashing someone from the rival sex. Naturally, any Democrat or liberal duskier than Keira Knightley is not only looking to throw Northam under the bus, but to reverse back over him and apply the handbrake. Equally naturally, you have a bunch of Republicans furrowing their brows and saying “we’re better than them” and “we shouldn’t stoop to their level” when contemplating calling for his resignation.
In actual fact, the Republicans shouldn’t call for his resignation over this photo. Not because of principles – this is a war to the knife in which anything goes – but because it’s unnecessary. As we’ve seen, the Democrats are tearing him apart for them. They’d be better off keeping their mouths shut and asking themselves why, when Northam was running campaign adverts depicting Republicans running down Latinos in pickup trucks, they didn’t unearth this photo. What was Ed Gillespie’s research team doing? And, redundantly, what were the press doing? How long have they known about this photo?
So there’s no need for Republicans to pretend to be upset over a dumb photo, especially given Northam has a 35 year track record on which to judge him instead. Republicans, and sane liberals, need to prepare themselves for inevitable attacks which will come from unearthing dodgy photos and yearbook scribblings in future. They should do this by poking their opponents in the eye and refusing to play the game.