Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam reportedly told staffers on Friday that he would not resign and is instead apparently embarking on a surreal remorse campaign that includes frantically reading seminal black texts like Roots and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay “The Case for Reparations.”
BuzzFeed News slipped this absurd detail into a Friday story about Northam’s strategy:
Northam doesn’t plan to hold any more press conferences any time soon. Advisers are in the midst of negotiations with major networks for a nationally televised interview they hope will humanize him. Additionally, his advisers have assigned the governor homework: He’s begun to read Alex Haley’s “Roots”, and “The Case for Reparations,” the seminal essay in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
At this point, basically everyone in both major political parties is calling for Northam to resign. He should. This is obvious to everyone except Northam, apparently, and perhaps to whichever staffer assigned him a week’s worth of reading to offset the fact that his nickname in college was “coonman.”
According to Politico, Northam has hired a high-powered DC crisis communications firm, IR Media, which it notes is run by a mostly black staff. The strategy, it seems, is to just hang on rather than resign—as Northam told staffers today, according to the AP—and hope the PR pros can help rehabilitate his image (hence the BuzzFeed mention of a national TV interview to “humanize” him soon).
Part of this campaign may also be legislative, as BuzzFeed reported:
Northam’s policy team is looking at crafting a set of proposals based on the premise that the governor’s mistakes have rendered him keenly aware of inequity and the lack of justice faced by black Virginians 400 years after the first African people arrived in the Commonwealth, at Point Comfort, in 1619.
This is possibly the only positive thing that could come out of this entire mess, barring a clean slate: if Northam’s contrition is so great it causes him to push for an actually substantial legislative step. Any bill he promotes will be tainted by the fact that it’s an obvious attempt to placate the many, many people who still rightfully question the character of anyone who’s ever participated in a deeply racist charade, but still! Among the options on the table, per the site:
The centerpiece proposal is not complete in its scope or in terms of what it will seek to accomplish. But there are many possibilities being considered for a broad platform: increasing resources for affordable housing; setting new, more equitable standards in small business procurement; implementing programs that expand economic opportunity for entrepreneurs; pumping money into public services like education and transportation.
This would be better if Northam took on something actually radical, like dismantling Virginia’s private prison system (its largest state prison is owned by the GEO Group, a private corporation notorious for abuse), but hey. Maybe he’ll learn something from “The Case for Reparations.”