Justin Fairfax vs. the Marble Man

Let’s hand it to Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. He may not have the longest political resume in state politics, but he has a talent for getting seasoned colleagues to make embarrassing unforced errors.

His most recent success: Stepping down from the Senate dais (for the second year in a row) while a Republican lawmaker, Sen. Richard Stuart, praised Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and asked the Senate to adjourn in honor of Lee’s birthday.

Fairfax’s protest was quiet and dignified. But his Twitter message was a hard jab at the Senate’s habit of conferring an honor without considering the context:

History repeats itself. I will be stepping off the dais today in protest of the Virginia Senate honoring Robert E. Lee. I’ll be thinking of this June 5, 1798 manumission document that freed my great-great-great grandfather Simon Fairfax from slavery in Virginia.

Fairfax gets the headlines and the pictures that go with them. In purely political terms, Fairfax wins, and he wins big.

One might think his Senate colleagues, particularly the Republicans who narrowly control the chamber, would heed the lesson and drop the Confederate mummery.

But that appears to be asking far too much.

The Senate agreed to adjourn in honor of Stonewall Jackson in 2018, despite the deadly Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017 that grew out of an alt-right protest over a proposal to remove a statue of Lee from a city park.

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