By now most avid political watchers are aware evidence shows multiple elected officials in Virginia, both Democrats and Republicans, participated in some form of racist or inappropriate behavior in their young adult years. Some were revealed through yearbook photos; others as confessions, no doubt in an attempt to ward off future vilification and salvage whatever is left of a political career. Immediately, as if in unison, Republicans took the opportunity to call out what they saw as hypocrisy: Democrats raked Judge Kavanaugh over the coals for his yearbook. Shouldn’t they be held to the same standard?
Holding elected politicians—or any grown adult, really—to the “yearbook standard” is immature, lacking grace, and a sophomoric attempt to equate the behavior of one person three decades ago with their character and behavior now. It’s wrong. Both Democrats and Republicans should refuse to engage in this kind of trivial discourse that not only has the potential to ruin an entire person’s life over mistakes made long ago but can also overshadow far more important policy debates.
Last week, the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, revealed he favored third-trimester abortions in a radio interview that appalled many conservatives, including myself. Within hours, another controversy erupted that usurped that one: A 1984 yearbook from Northam’s medical school was unearthed, depicting him wearing “blackface”—a derogatory costume mocking African-Americans—which most people with an ounce of humanity consider racist at best and abhorrent at worst.