Good Riddance to Ralph Northam and Terry McAuliffe

Virginia is moving on without the Democratic duo.


It's rare for a single election result to spell the likely end of the careers of two politicians, but Virginia Democrats appear to have accomplished just that in 2021. With Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin's two–percentage point upset victory, angry parents likely put an end to the careers of current Gov. Ralph Northam and 2014–2018 Gov. Terry McAuliffe. As we bid adieu to 2021, let's take a ride down memory lane as we also bid good riddance to Northam and McAuliffe.

McAuliffe's four years in office were plagued by corporate cronyism, which was not surprising given that an electric car company McAuliffe founded was excessively dependent on subsidies (the company sought subsidies for a factory in Virginia, but ended up with Mississippi's subsidies instead). Nonetheless, the company's lobbyist was McAuliffe's first appointment after winning the 2013 election. McAuliffe did manage to bring some jobs to Virginia—all it took was a meager $5 million grant to get Stone Brewing to create 300 jobs in Richmond, for instance. Another $5 million from the state brought the Corporate Executive Board and 800 jobs to Arlington, Virginia, while Nestle USA got the big bucks: $10 million in cash grants (for just 750 jobs).

But for all that cronyism, Virginia's decrease in unemployment under McAuliffe was about average compared to other states, at a time when the number of federal employees (and thus, wealth in Virginia) was growing.

While McAuliffe did pardon a record number of prisoners (227), three people were executed under his watch. He also tried and failed to expand Medicaid, which his successor, Northam, eventually accomplished.

With Virginia's restriction that governors may only serve one consecutive term, McAuliffe was out and Northam was in after winning the 2017 election by nine percentage points.

Under Northam, Democrats and Republicans came together to pass bad bills expanding Medicaid and raising the smoking age to 21 (less than a year before the federal government did it anyway). And while Northam signed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana, sales still won't be legal until 2024.

When the pandemic hit, Northam wasn't terrible on COVID-19 policy, at least compared to many of his fellow Democrats. Living in northern Virginia was quite literally a breath of fresh air during the pandemic compared to nearby Washington, D.C., where masks were required outside for a long time. Northam never issued nonsensical bans on buying gardening supplies or going boating, as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did.

Northam, who was term-limited, may have found it hard to come back in any future elections anyway thanks to the blackface scandal that nearly forced him to resign. While a monthslong investigation into a racist yearbook photo of two men (one in blackface, the other in a KKK outfit) was inconclusive, Northam admitted to once darkening his face with shoe polish to look like Michael Jackson (he was very close to moonwalking during a press conference before his wife stopped him and saved his governorship) and one of his college yearbooks listed "coonman" as one of his nicknames.

As a result, Northam refocused his time in office on racial issues, resulting in several positive reforms, including the abolition of the death penalty, banning no-knock search warrants, and the repeal of some Jim Crow laws that were still on the books even though they weren't enforced. It shouldn't have taken a scandal to get Northam to support these measures, though. Besides, Northam signed a slew of gun control bills into law, despite the racist roots of gun control and racially disproportionate harm they have.

Like pretty much every other Democrat in Virginia and most of the country, McAuliffe called on Northam to resign during the initial blackface outrage. Two years later, McAuliffe was asking Northam to campaign with him anyway.

McAuliffe crushed four competitors in the 2021 Democratic gubernatorial primary with 62 percent of the vote, and campaigned in the general election like he assumed he would win—after all, a Republican hadn't won a statewide election in Virginia since 2009. So McAuliffe was perhaps not thinking very hard when he said in a debate, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." He claimed the quote was taken out of context, but his coziness with teachers unions suggested otherwise.

And so, Virginia parents put the final nail in the coffin of the political careers of McAuliffe (surely) and Northam (probably—his approval rating was already falling even before the surge against Virginia Democrats). 

Youngkin won't be a perfect governor. While he seems likely to take a live-and-let-live approach on COVID-19 restrictions, he needs to keep his promise to stay the course on recreational marijuana and avoid going overboard against critical race theory and nonviolent crime. For at least two years, he'll have to work with a Democratic-leaning Senate and a slim Republican majority in the House of Delegates. Perhaps Youngkin will manage to exceed the bar set by Northam and McAuliffe.

NEXT: 2021 Was Another Disappointing Year for Immigration Policy

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  1. I won't miss either one of those assholes.

    1. 2021 wasn't such a bad year. Look at the bright side. Any year we get rid of McCauliff, Northam, and both Cuomos is a banner year. This year let's go after AOC and all other members of "The Squad".

  2. McAuliffe's four years in office were plagued by corporate cronyism ...

    The retrograde Hungarian brand of cronyism, or the modernized brand of progressive cronyism we enjoy in our very advanced, very enlightened nation?

  3. I met McAuliffe once years ago. The kind of guy who makes you want to wash with soap after meeting.

    1. I met both. Northam was personable, if a little stiff. McAuliffe is oppressively slimy and inauthentic. He is a man who projects a sense of pure evil. He is objectively someone who wields power with a gleeful intent of harming others.

  4. Northam refocused his time in office on racial issues, resulting in several positive reforms

    Like the razing of Monument Avenue?

    1. Funny they left the story of why they lost out of the new time capsule at the site of the Lee statue. People will be rolling their eyes 100 years into the future at these items:

      1. 'Ballerina at the Lee Statue' photo taken on June 5th, 2020

      2. Expired Vial of COVID-19 Pfizer Vaccine and CDC Vaccination Record Card

      3. National Geographic Special Issue '2020 in Pictures' with cover image of Lee Monument in Richmond

      4. Black Lives Matter sticker

      5. Collection of Michael Paul Williams' Pulitzer prize-winning columns on Monument Avenue

      6. 'Writing a new history' Kente cloth worn by the Commissioners of the Congressionally chartered 400 Years of African-American History Commission and Ghanian emissaries that participated in the 400th commemoration of 1619 at Point Comfort in Hampton

      7. New Virginians' booklet with portraits of 24 immigrants

      8. General Assembly Acts of Assembly from the 2020 Special Session

      9. 'Virginia is for Lovers' pride pin and stickers

      10. The Protagonist poem in uncontracted Unified English Braille

      11. Better Together LED Board coded by local schoolgirls

      12. VA Ratify ERA sash and ERA 2020 pins

      13. YOU ARE NOT ALONE pink heart print found on Richmond street after George Floyd protests in May 2020

      14. Election Officer Badge for 2020 General Election

      15. Monument Avenue Hip Hop Album by Noah-O and Taylor Whitelow

      16. Prayer beads left by a family member who passed away from COVID-19

      17. Danville Public Schools 'First Lady' face mask, donated by Pam Northam

      18. Photos of the June 4, 2020 press conference announcing the removal of the Lee Statue

      19. Steel railroad spike talking piece found near African Ancestral Burial Ground

      20. Photos and fliers from Stop Asian Hate protests in May 2021

      21. Program and video from the dedication of Arthur Ashe Boulevard featuring a keynote from former Congressman John Lewis

      22. Letter describing Virginia University Union's history and commitment to the Richmond community

      23. Photo of the Virginia State Police at 14th and F Street NW in Washington helping DC Metro Police Department patrol the city for unrest after the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021

      24. Essays and poems from Arcadia Middle School students reflecting on the experience of being a student during a pandemic

      25. Senate Resolution Commending the League of Women's Voters

      26. 'Charlottesville's Robert E. Lee Monument is Coming Down, Thanks to Me and Black Women Like Me' July 10, 2021 Teen Vogue article written and submitted by Zyahna Bryant

      27. Hard copy of the Virginia Poet Laureate Luisa Igloria's work Dear America

      28. Gifts from the dedication ceremony from the Mattiponi and Pamunkey nations, hand painted gourd rattle and hand crafted earrings with sturgeon scale and beading

      29. Booklet which outlines Virginia's first One Virginia Plan for Inclusive Excellence

      30. Rumors of War Wasn't a Rumor photo lithographic plate with oil-based ink & sealant

      31. Copy of the LGBTQ Richmond Walking Tour created by Blake McDonald

      32. First Presbyterian Church Session 2020 minutes approving the formation of a Dismantling Racism

      33. Video of the One Commonwealth Many Virginians: Uniting in Interfaith Prayer for Healing and Unity event

      34. Piece of tarp from the unveiling of Kehinde Wiley's Rumors of War Statue and photos from the unveiling event

      35. Document describing selected student submissions from the Governor's Inaugural Black History Month Historical Marker Contest

      36. Post-Colonial Love Poem by 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Winner Natalie Diaz

      37. New Legacy Postcard

      38. List of artifacts in the previous capsule as described in a Richmond Dispatch article

      39. Photo collage of individuals who contributed artifacts to the new time capsule and thank you note

    2. Northam and McAuliffe with the mayor Stoney / Council thrown in did more to ruin the heritage legacy of a historical city. This statue was a World Heritage Sculpture, what's up with Virginians have you become idiots sleeping during the past several years? The "Lee" should have been protected. It apparently became a symbol target for god knows what reason? some say Floyd if that is any excuse!. The did it in a devious and perverse manner, late night meetings, little public input, no referendum to force this rotten 'unanimous' choice upon us. hate it when those in public office kowtow to the culturally more ignorant among us. Even the Nazi party did not destroy any of the sculptures or painting they showed at the infamous "Degenerate Art" show in Germany in 1937. => described as thus: "650 modernist artworks chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. Designed to inflame public opinion …"
      Well what Northam-McAuliffe and Stoney did was inflame we the culture and city design respecters and they will be held responsible for destroying the profile of Richmond this way. Monument way was delightful spectacle now it's gone.
      Urban destruction at what cost...who the heck financed this? So much secrecy surrounds every corner of this Lee Removal...did you see the document looks like currency showing lee receiving a benediction of a brilliant burst of light beams from an angel of Jesus"! No mention in detail as if it is a coverup...well it is, and everything about this political "event" stinks to high heavens; and how it was done not to preserve it but to maliciously destroy it! it was . It had to have cost big big money to remove this massive art work the manner in which they did, why would anyone in their right mind forgo cash for improving the city parks into creating a bleak spot of crumble concrete strewn about the heroin and crack envelopes. Hope Y'all feel peaceful and cozy like.

  5. McAuliffe is a disgusting human being Virginia should be ashamed

  6. Be curious how Youngkin does. He didn't run on Trump (which immensely helped him win) so is very much his own man. A split legislature may be a good thing.

  7. Reason writers and readers: Republicans in libertarian clothing. Not all readers/commenters. Just most.

    1. More shameful conduct by these assholes:

      McAuliffe played a big part fomenting violence in Charlottesville, along with the evil then-mayor, whose name escapes me.

      In 2017, Northam, more than once, straight-up called his GOP opponent, Ed Gillespie, a racist because... well, just because.

      1. Tell me all the Wonderful things that come to mind when you think of the Black race?

  8. "He also tried and failed to expand Medicaid, which his successor, Northam, eventually accomplished."

    So is this a positive or a negative? For which one?

  9. "and avoid going overboard against critical race theory"

    I don't believe it is possible to go overboard concerning that distortion of reality, which is disguised as sociology.

  10. How exactly does "going overboard against critical race theory" mean? Bearing really colorblind?

  11. "When the pandemic hit, Northam wasn't terrible on COVID-19 policy, at least compared to many of his fellow Democrats."

    this is objectively not the case. he was not the same, but his inability to define "essential" versus "non-essential" activities meant that he issued arbitrary restrictions on disfavored activities that had no functional difference from very similar favored activities (grocery shopping vs. other shopping, secular gatherings vs. church services, etc.). these arbitrary & nonsensical distinctions without a difference led to confusion even among those trying to observe the rules, and excessive pushback among those who doubted the validity of the concerns (with some justification, since the restrictions were so arbitrary). not as bad as some, I'd guess, but far from "not terrible".

  12. "McAuliffe was perhaps not thinking very hard when he said in a debate, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." He claimed the quote was taken out of context, but his coziness with teachers unions suggested otherwise."

    whether the specific quote was taken out of context or not, it was clearly part of a larger approach to governance that both Northam and McAuliffe subscribed to - that the government should tell us in detail what to do in virtually any aspect of our lives, and we shoud let them handle it and not bother our little heads about thinking too much. that larger context is pretty clear if you look at how they both handled campaigning and decision making over the course of their governorships, and it seems to me that the reason that the schools comment resonated was not because it was about schools or timely or whatever. it resonated because it was a perfect distillation of their governing philosophy & people were sick of it.

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