The Inertia Behind Virginia’s Many Scandals

To say the past week in Virginia politics has been weird, turbulent and downright revolting doesn’t begin to describe what’s happened in Capitol Square.

It’s bad — epically bad. It may get much worse.

But while Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, all Democrats, take their successive turns in the outrage spotlight, it’s worth remembering a few of the other deeply embarrassing flaws in Virginia’s political life.

Where to begin? We need only go back to Jan. 18, when state government closes up shop in observance of Lee-Jackson Day.

Virginia has honored Robert E. Lee with a holiday since 1889. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was added in 1904. The General Assembly has honored the two confederate generals with speeches touting their honor and character.

The Senate adjourned in Lee’s honor this year, with the motion to adjourn and the speech lauding Lee coming from Republican Sen. Richard Stuart — whose other claim to fame is his lonely defense of Northam’s effort to stay in power post-racist yearbook photo.

Stuart took pains in his speech to say his motion and the honoring of Lee was merely to “celebrate his birthday because he was a great Virginian and a great American and not because it has anything to do with slavery.”

Whatever gets you through the night, senator. But the cold truth is Virginia needs to ditch this ridiculous celebration of Lost Cause mythology and move on.

Virginia also has issues with nepotism. Not so flagrant as hiring one’s brother-in-law for a state job for which he is manifestly unsuited, but the soft, wink-and-nod nepotism that’s allowed to go on in the clear light of day.

The most recent example: Sen. Ben Chafin, who lobbied his colleagues on his sister’s behalf for a slot on the state Supreme Court.

Worth raising an eyebrow, for sure. But as the Roanoke Times’s Amy Friedenberger reported, Chafin, who sits on the Senate committee interviewing prospective court candidates, took matters up a notch Wednesday:

He remained in the room, seated with the rest of the committee, to listen to his sister’s interview as well as those of the other three candidates. Chafin nodded at his sister while she spoke to the legislators. He didn’t ask questions of any of the candidates.

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