Resign, Resign, Resign: Virginia's Three Democrats Must Go, or They'll Drag Their Party Down with Them I Opinion

Donald Trump may have given the best speech of his life Tuesday. The delayed 2019 State of the Union was full of vigor, pathos, calls to action, and a clear vision for America's future. Unfortunately, it's already overshadowed by the incredible mess in Virginia embroiling the commonwealth's top three elected officials.

That unholy trinity was completed on Wednesday, when Attorney General Mark Herring, the presumptive frontrunner for the Virginia Democrats' 2021 gubernatorial nomination, admitted he, too, had on at least one occasion appeared at a party in blackface.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam had already confessed to have done the same thing, possibly while enrolled at Eastern Virginia Medical School and admittedly as a "Michael Jackson" in a talent show. And Lt. Govt Justin Fairfax, for his part, had already been accused by Dr. Virginia Tyson, a professor of politics at California's Scripps College, of sexually assaulting her at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, in 2004.

None of this is good news for the party that likes to preach how progressive it is on race and the treatment of women. The whole thing reeks of hypocrisy, too: Herring had called on Northam to resign after photos from the governor's med school yearbook page began to circulate on the Internet, but so far appears reluctant to take his own advice, despite having admitted having done the same thing. Still, it's not a foregone conclusion that Herring will be gone, along with Northam and Fairfax.

Fairfax, like Northam, says he's innocent. Perhaps, but he did not help himself by saying "fuck that bitch," in reference to Tyson, in a meeting with advisors, as reported on Wednesday by NBC. That kind of talk flies in the face of the position the Democrats adopted during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings: that all women who make accusations of sexual assault must be believed.

It's a serious situation, and not just because three top Virginia Democrats have found themselves on the wrong end of the identity politics strategy that's proven so successful for progressives in the age of Trump. It's serious because it threatens to wreck the party's chances to win all over the country in 2020.

Every Democrat running for president, every Democrat running for U.S. Senate, heck, every Democrat running for dog catcher can now count on being asked all kinds of questions over the course of the next election, the answer to which could prove embarrassing if not career-ending. Here are just a few:

Have you ever put on in blackface? Have you ever been at a party where someone else put on blackface and, if you have, what did you do? Did you leave? If you stayed, why did you stay? Do you think all women should be believed when they accuse a man of sexual harassment? Are the allegations against Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax enough that he should resign? Do you agree with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam that it's okay to let a baby die post-delivery if it survives a late-term abortion procedure?

That last one has little to do with the crisis at hand, but Northam's very public embrace of a late-term abortion bill that failed to clear the Virginia Legislature is a problem for Democrats everywhere. They're going to be asked about it and they're going to have to have an answer and, no matter what they say, someone isn't going to like it.

That's why the resignation of the three, even though Northam can't run for re-election and has nothing else to do, are likely, if not certain. Northam, Fairfax, and Herring have become a problem not just for Democrats running for the Virginia Legislature in 2019—where the Republican majorities are hanging on by a thread in both chambers—but in every state from Maine to California. None of them want to deal with this, just like no Republican wanted to be asked about former U.S. Rep. Todd Atkins comments about "real rape" during his run for U.S. Senate in Missouri a little over six years ago. For the good of the party, all three need to go.

The same is true of Iowa GOP U.S. Rep. Steve King, recently condemned by his colleagues for comments he made suggesting he didn't understand why the concept of white supremacy brought so many people to the boiling point. By refusing to resign, he makes himself a talking point for every Democrat running in 2019 and 2020.

King threatens his party nationally, but especially in his home state where first-term Iowa GOP U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst is up for re-election. Prior to 2018, Republicans held three of the Iowa's four congressional seats. Now they have just one – King's. Ernst won't be able to dance around the issue of his comments on the campaign trail. King is going to be an issue for Ernst—the Democrats will make sure of it—and her re-election is not at all a sure thing. To avoid being a problem for Ernst, King needs to go.

Giving up one congressional seat out of 435 in order to hang on to one of 100 seats in the U.S. Senate sounds like a no-brainer; but then, the jury's very much out on whether King has a brain. Perhaps if it were explained to him slowly that his resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives would take the issue off the table, he might see the light. Just like Northam, Fairfax, and Herring might, once they understand that continuing to fight for themselves is the height of selfishness.

Politics is a team sport and, if you damage your team like King and the Virginia three have, you deserve be benched, if not sent down entirely.

Newsweek contributing editor Peter Roff has written extensively about politics and the American experience for U.S. News and World Report, United Press International, and other publications. He can be reached by email at Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​