‘When we have a complete understanding of how we got to the present, we are better prepared to improve our shared future…’
On Thursday, he announced the latest component, his “Historic Justice and Equity Agenda,” which includes eliminating the legal protections for Confederate monuments in the state—where much of the fighting occurred during the Civil War.
The package also would confer new protections on black cemeteries—along with a quarter-million dollars in funding for their maintenance.
“Virginia’s history is difficult and complex, and it is important that we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years,” Northam said in a statement.
“When we have a complete understanding of how we got to the present, we are better prepared to improve our shared future,” he continued. “These proposals will help us to tell the story of people and places that for too long have been neglected or marginalized and continue to build a modern, diverse, and inclusive Commonwealth.”
Confederate heritage played a central part in the fatal 2017 protests in Charlottesville, which saw right-wing extremists clash with Antifa and other leftist groups over the city’s failed attempt to remove statues of Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
Other prominent monuments—notably a stretch on the eponymous Monument Avenue in the state capital of Richmond—have also come under attack since activists during the Obama era intensified nationwide efforts to remove any vestiges of Confederate history from the Southern states.
Many of the points on Northam’s recently announced legislative agenda come directly from a laundry list of demands conveyed to the governor last year by radical black activists—including a Charlottesville city counselor who helped spearhead the city’s previous monument-removal attempt.
The Virginia Black Politicos presented Northam with the demands as part of a quid-pro-quo deal in return for their support following the emergence of a racist yearbook photo.
Northam faced near universal calls to step down after reports of the photo, which showed individuals in blackface and KKK regalia on his personal page of a 1984 medical-school yearbook.
However, following a rape scandal involving his would-be successor, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and a separate blackface concern from the third in line, state Attorney General Mark Herring, Democrats feared that standing on principle would cede the governorship to Republicans and quickly backtracked on their objections.
Northam has continued to deny knowledge of how the racist photo wound up on his yearbook page, insisting that neither of those depicted was him. However, he was identified in another photo with a friend wearing the same distinctive pattern of plaid pants as the blackface individual—suggesting the future governor may have been the hooded klansman.
Northam, who was elected as a moderate in 2017 and kept a low profile for much of last year while riding out the explosive scandal, seems now to be emboldened by it.
He was aided in his rehabilitation by last year’s state elections—during which national Democratic organizers and mega-donors targeted Virginia in hope of flipping its legislature blue prior to the next round of congressional redistricting.
Those efforts succeeded, giving state Democrats control of both legislative chambers for the first time in more than two decades.
Among the other controversial measures Northam and the Democratic General Assembly have threatened to enact is an extreme gun-confiscation proposal, which has met with considerable resistance. Nearly every county in the commonwealth has now passed resolutions declaring itself a 2nd Amendment sanctuary in defiance of the would-be regulations.
Undeterred, Northam and Herring set aside $250,000 in tax dollars from the state’s recent budget surplus to increase the Corrections Special Reserve Fund in anticipation of civil disobedience from gun owners.
Virginia also intends to ratify the so-called Equal Rights Amendment, which would provide new constitutional protections for abortions and raise other concerns regarding LGBT and transgender rights—an area that has met with objections from religious-freedom advocates and considerable hesitation from other civil liberties watchdogs.
While the US Justice Department says the 1970s-era feminist amendment has exceeded its statute of limitations, leftists will use Virginia’s passage to advance new legal challenges, likely waiting to reverse the ruling under another Democratic administration.
Northam, a former pediatrician, already faced controversy last year for seeming to advocate for infanticide while responding to a controversy surrounding bill to legalize late-term abortion in the state.