Home 2017 Races Northam Gives Interview to Far-Right-Wing Talk Radio, Gives the Finger to Progressives

Northam Gives Interview to Far-Right-Wing Talk Radio, Gives the Finger to Progressives


by Cindy Cunningham

Yesterday, Ralph Northam, who we haven’t seen much of since his June 13th win in the primary, emerged in an interview on the far-right-wing radio show, The John Fredericks Show (audio at the end of this post), where he officially stopped hedging about his position on the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

Fredericks asked “If it’s approved by the federal FERQ agency…if you’re governor of Virginia, you’re going to do nothing to hinder and stand in the way or delay it, you’re going to be enthusiastic and go forward with it, is that what I’ve heard?”

Northam replied, “Yeah, sure. And you know, again it’s the permitting process is–not to get too into the weeds of all that–but you know, we’ve gone from a blanket permit to more of a site-specific, just to look at where there are  streams and rivers. So, you know if it’s done safely and responsibly, it’s gonna move forward.”

Like many people I know, this left me seething angry. Not surprised, mind you, but angry nonetheless. Because as soon as Tom Perriello lost, I feared that the candidate who’d been refusing to give a clear answer on the pipelines, who’d taken over $200,000 from Dominion and who owned an unknown amount of stock in Dominion Power, might not take the right position on this critical issue. So on June 16th, I wrote to his campaign, informing him that I strongly oppose these pipelines, and that I would like him to take the same position. I said that until he opposed the pipelines, I couldn’t be his enthusiastic supporter. I received no response. Not even the courtesy robo-response. And now, with today’s interview, he outright gives the middle finger to me and all the other progressive voters who care about our environment, who care about the beautiful forests and mountains of Virginia that will be destroyed, who care about their fellow Virginians whose land will be taken. He is letting us know that he has no interest in winning our support, that he thinks he doesn’t need our votes. Perhaps he thinks we should “just get over it.”

You can deride people who say that they won’t vote for Ralph Northam in November, but the truth is that it’s Northam who has chosen to drive a wedge into the Democratic Party of Virginia. By choosing to ignore the voices that are clamoring for him to take a stronger position against the pipelines–a position, by the way, that matches Democratic principles of “securing environmental and climate justice,” “protecting our public lands and waters,” “building a clean energy economy,” and “protecting the property rights of landowners from Natural Gas Companies making examinations, tests, land auger borings, appraisals, and surveys without the written consent of the landowner,” he is splitting our party apart.

Maybe it’s not a loud enough, resounding enough voice for him to think he needs to pay attention to? But, I ask you: is there some loud, resounding voice in the Democratic party calling for the building of these pipelines? Who exactly is pro-pipeline? Only those who stand to profit from them. Perhaps it’s all the people in Virginia who will get great jobs from this new enterprise. Not according to this report from the APPPL. Perhaps consumers in Virginia will all benefit from lower energy prices. Not according to a Southern Environmental Law Center report. And even if building these pipelines resulted in energy price reductions, who benefits, and at whose expense? Are Democrats in the business of robbing land from people who are already struggling, to redistribute the wealth to energy-consuming businesses? Are we in the business of exposing one group of people to poisoned water and toxic hazards to lower energy prices for others? No.

So where do we go from here? What do we do with our seething anger? Well, each person has to follow his or her own conscience here. There will be many who do not vote. Or who vote for someone else. We don’t get to shame them, or call them idiots, or tell them to just get over it, because our vote is our voice, and we’re all entitled to determine for ourselves how much weight to put on a particular issue. Others will hold their noses and vote for Northam. But perhaps they won’t donate, or won’t volunteer, or won’t remind all their friends to go out and vote for him.

But this is a false choice. There are plenty of other ways I will be heard regardless of which way I decide to vote. I can continue to voice opposition to the pipelines, and to insist that Northam do the same. I can write letters and emails to him over and over, leave messages with his campaign, comment on those charming facebook posts of his, tweet at him, write letters to the Sierra Club asking them to rescind their endorsement of him. I hope you will join me. We can and should also write letters to legislators, and those hoping to be legislators, asking them to take the Water Security Pledge. I can write articles such as this and letters to the editor, voicing my anger, and we can all attend events in the affected counties (like the DEQ hearing in Radford and Chatham) and participate in their protests and offer any help we can. We can share videos and news stories with friends to make them aware, to encourage them to speak out with us. In short, we will prove to him that we will not “just get over it.”

Oh, and one other thing I will do. When I hear something like that “we’ve gone from a blanket permit to more of a site-specific,” I will call this out as what it is: simply not true. Northam said in a debate in Roanoke during the primary, “I was the only one on this stage that actually wrote a letter to the DEQ and had communication with the DEQ to do what I could as Lieutenant Governor through the executive branch to make sure that we changed from blanket permitting to a site-specific permitting, which they followed my lead on.” As we all found out, while in April the DEQ indicated it would use individual site-specific permits for each water and wetlands crossing, 7 weeks later they admitted they weren’t doing that and said that it was some sort of “internal communications error.”  Now, in fact, DEQ says it will use the Army Corps of Engineers blanket permit for most of the ACP route and will conduct extra research (through a Dominion contractor) only in the headlands (perhaps what Northam was talking about). Are you seething yet?

  • A_Siegel

    Having written that, post primary, I would support Ralph Northam with the same energy as I would have Tom Perriello, I am finding that Northam does not wish this to occur: that he seems willing to make some soft commentaries/points about climate/environment, without this truly integral to his policy construct(s), while taking damaging positions re the pipeline which, honestly, I do believe he understands as a system-of-system in terms of high risks for low returns (other than Dominion contributions?). Does Northam believe that embracing pipelines will flip Trump-istas to voting for him?

    A key item, here, however is why do Democratic politicians keep showing up on Fredericks — who, to remind, is a Tea-Partyite who was the Deputy of the Virginia Trump campaign. Hmmm … while he might seem so warm and cordial to them, being on the show means that he frames the conversation, frames with questions, drives discussion … Hmmm … certainly doesn’t seem like Northam/et al prepare for being on the air with him as if they were going on ‘opposition radio’ (which they are).

    • “Does Northam believe that embracing pipelines will flip Trump-istas to voting for him?”

      Highly doubtful. My guess is this is all about supporting Dominion Power.

      “why do Democratic politicians keep showing up on Fredericks — who, to remind, is a Tea-Partyite who was the Deputy of the Virginia Trump campaign. ”


  • Glen Bayless

    I completely understand the frustration and anger at Northam’s position. My problem is do I allow a Corey Stuart type to gain traction in Virginia by allowing a republican to become governor? The solution. I think, is to elect Northam plus a senate majority and maybe a delegate majority (pipe dream, I know) and then prohibit these environmental disasters by legislation? We have got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot over single issues.

    • A_Siegel

      1. Come November, there is no choice for a sane person concerned about the Commonwealth’s and the nation’s future. Thus, working to get Northam elected is an imperative —

      2. even as his stance re the pipelines is bad on multiple levels (politicly in terms of dividing the Party, economics in terms of risk (long-term energy price fluctuations, $Bs to natural gas that could go elsewhere, etc …), climate change & other pollution, undermining economic/energy democracy, etc …).

      One of the substantive gaps between Northam and Perriello that might be an opening for Northam to change/embrace: read Northam’s policy pages/look at what he says, there is a siloing of ‘environment’ separate from the economy. Tom recognizes that it is not environment vs or separate from economic (and evening ‘economic within environment’). It would be healthy (in many meanings of the world) for Northam’s campaign/Northam to move toward an embracing of the interlinking of environment/energy/economy with, for example, discussions of the power of ‘greening’ asa win-win-win across these domains along with substantive proposals for greening initiatives that he will drive as Governor.

      • Intersectionality, anyone? 🙂

    • Cindy

      My point is that it’s a false choice. Even if you know that you have to vote for Northam anyway, because he’s still a million times better than Gillespie, that doesn’t mean you have to “shut up and vote.” You can still continue to advocate–loudly–for this issue at any and every turn. We can’t afford to always wait for a majority that we think is going to magically solve all our problems.

    • Another Scott

      Unfortunately, the Virginia Senate election isn’t until November 2019, so the Senate isn’t going to somehow be a check on Northam’s opinion on this until 2020 at the earliest.

      Cindy made a great case that we can vote for Northam while simultaneously decrying and working to oppose the pipelines. She’s right.

      I’ve never been enthusiastic about Northam, and his statements and actions during and since the primary haven’t changed that. I too will vote for him not least because the GOP is insane, but it seems clear that on this issue (and probably many others) Northam is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming to work for mainstream Democratic priorities.

      That’s yet another incentive for us to work as hard as we can to elect Democrats and contest every seat. A larger team makes it possible to move policies to the left (especially compared to the Teabagger policies we’re suffering under now). Smart politicians find ways to change tactics to get in front and “lead” when the people change direction. We have to make it impossible for him to ignore the will of the people on this.


  • C Pruett

    This is well-said and encompasses a lot if my frustrations. I have said before and will reiterate again that I’m voting for Northam in November, that’s never been in question. I’ve been a Democratic voter for *mumble mumble* years (let’s just say longer than Ralph Northam has) and nothing happening here will change that.

    But campaigns don’t just need votes, they need volunteer labor, they need mental real estate and, like it or not, emotional energy. Whenever I got worn out working my butt off for the Perriello campaign, I could look in the paper or on the Internet or show up at an event in town and see the candidate was working just as hard. Same with the House of Delegates candidates I have supported and continue to support.

    I’ve yet to get that from Ralph; I see him talking to a right wing outlet and declining to get ‘in the weeds’ of substantive policy discussion, as though stakeholders in those issues don’t care, and fail to acknowledge the real consequences that these policy decisions will have.

    Vote Northam, for sure, but being his voters should be MORE reason to have our viewpoints treated with respect, not less.

    • Cindy

      “Mumble, mumble years,” lol! So true! I was already ranting and putting political signs in my window and teaching my kids about elections when he wasn’t a Democrat yet. But you’re right–“shut up and vote because I have a D in front of my name” is a poor strategy for turnout.

  • RobertColgan

    Thanks for this, Ms Cindy Cunningham.
    You’ve stated the case well.

    Your frustration ……the frustration of everyone who cares about the environment and reducing use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible has been at an all-time high since Trump & His Corporate Minion Crew took over the Executive branch…..and Northam has only added to the level of ire with his self-serving profiteering proclamation on Dominion’s pipeline.

    He’s what striking worker always referred non-affectionately to as a scab: a person who undermines the larger group’s aims and well-being in favor of his own, or the business’s.

    What to do, what to do, what to do . . . that IS the question.
    The only thing that I can see is to continue to rabblerouse——as loudly and often as possible, in every venue, web and social, as possible.
    To keep shouting.
    Eventually . . . . someone will listen, and hear.

    I note that in PA the State Supreme Court has recently held the State accountable to honor that clause in the State Constitution that proclaims the gov’t to be the steward of the State lands to guarantee clean water, air, soil for the citizens (Art1 Sect27)——prior to this, under different Party governorships and DEP appointees the State engaged in a wholescale sell off of natural resources to the gas driller bidders….without regard for local municipalities or landowners affected by the selling.
    The SC decision happened only because of the actions of those who fought for the safeguarding of the environment…otherwise nothing would have been done.

    Keep up the good fight.

  • dirich

    Thank you Cindy Cunningham. As others have said, you express well our frustrations. I’m a person who lives near the MVP and has fought it from the beginning, I am beyond frustrated – I am cynical about almost all politicians. I have always been a Dem, but lately, it’s not so much because the Party, especially in Virginia, lives its supposed Democratic principles, but because the Repugs are worse. I will vote for Northam, and that’s what he is counting on because he merely wants votes, but I will not work for him because I cannot in good conscience. I will endure him because I have no other choice. That’s the new “Virginia Way” that we all must live.

  • ThereisJustUs

    John Fredericks ran a ‘Republicans for Northam’ campaign back in 2012 I think when Northam was running for Lt. Gov. That’s probably why Northam comes on his show from time to time. Economically, Northam isn’t nearly as extreme, but it’s a case of two guys getting along despite drastically different views.

    As for the pipeline itself, I never subscribed to the whole ‘Dominion Power runs Virginia Politics’ or the notion that Dominion won Northam the campaign (the vast majority of his money came from grassroots donations, more so than even Perriello at times). That said, Dominion is clearly a powerful ally to have.

    I’d assume Northam doesn’t think he’ll lose much political capital on this. Gillespie can’t hit him on it, given that he’s just as big a proponent of the pipeline. And Democrats don’t listen to this show either, nor is this likely to make major local headlines.

    Disappointing that he’s still gung-ho about the pipeline, but given how convincingly he won the primary all while touting the pipeline as a possibility, it seems like the lions share of his supporters don’t care so much. I expect he’ll be picking up a number of independents and Republicans in November too, so I think he feels comfortable right now, hence why he’s not blazing on the campaign trail right now.

  • woodrowfan

    if Northam wins them the left-wing of the Democratic Party will have some influence as part of his base. If Gillespie wins we have zero influence.