I was having a meeting with Senator Saslaw today, and at the end, he asked if I’d mind going along on a quick stop to a house nearby, because a constituent had sent him a long email about the nightmare in Richmond this week, and he thought she deserved an answer in person.
Well, first of all, this woman was really surprised to open her door to the Senator! They talked for a few minutes about how everything had played out the last two weeks. She wasn’t pleased that the calls for Northam to resign had come so quickly, from every elected official inside and outside the state, and from Presidential candidates. She thought everyone should have just taken a breath before speaking out. Naturally she said that Northam didn’t exactly do himself any favors with that press conference. She had some notion, and maybe this was just what she wanted to believe, that some people’s instinct when something goes wrong is to instantly deny and say that it wasn’t their fault, but that other people’s instinct is to instantly apologize, and she figured Northam must be someone like the latter. Senator Saslaw listened, and tried to explain a bit about how the news and information and decisions had flowed over those couple of days.
I’ve had a bunch of these conversations with my friends and neighbors the past week. People who know me and know how active I was in the campaigns to elect these Democrats have stopped me in the street to talk about it. Despite how swift and unanimous the calls for resignation were from elected officials, ordinary Democrats are more divided and uncertain on this. A couple of people have told me that if these three are allowed to continue to serve, it’s as if the Democratic party has completely lost its principles. Many think that what Northam did 35 years ago probably doesn’t reflect on who he is today. Others have told me that there’s a lot of good he could accomplish if he takes this opportunity to start some genuine conversations about race and discrimination. And one neighbor (a Latina woman who literally stood on our sidewalk with me in November 2016, sobbing) said that she was terrified of what would happen if Republicans took over.
Senator Saslaw thanked this constituent again for her email, and was ready to leave, when she told him she had one more thing she wanted to say. “Cars zoom by really fast on this street, and it’s very dangerous. Can your office help us get a crosswalk put in two blocks down the road, in front of the bus stop?” she asked. Saslaw made a note and said he’d make a call; after we left her, he walked down to check out the street and the bus stop. Because, no matter what becomes of Governor Northam, or LG Fairfax or AG Herring, your representatives in the General Assembly will continue to go about the business that you elected them to do. They’re still passing bills, writing a budget, and making sure you get crosswalks where you need them.