A full 24 hours had not yet passed after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apologized for appearing in a racist yearbook photo before he was facing calls from his fellow Democrats to resign. The narrative has since become muddled—Northam insists it wasn’t him in that particular photo, but he had appeared in blackface on other occasions—but the Democratic verdict on his political career has not. Northam has to go, in the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, so that “the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia can heal and move forward.”
Even if Northam is disinclined to consent to his own exile, Democrats staked out a morally defensible position by calling for his ouster. It is essentially this: Any act of naked bigotry, even the bourgeois sort that stems from ignorance or social desirability biases, is unacceptable and unforgivable. It’s the type of position that doesn’t allow for much nuance and, as such, invites charges of hypocrisy if political imperatives get in the way of its universal application. And Rep. Ilhan Omar is testing her party’s capacity for hypocrisy.