The unwavering independence of L. Douglas Wilder


Former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder is not responding to anyone. He has always been truly independent, which makes him a problem in the Democratic Party.

Long before Barack Obama told fairy tales about “hope” and “change,” Mr. Wilder made history.

The grandson of slaves, Mr. Wilder, became the first African-American governor elected in the United States.

He ran on typical Democratic issues of the time in what was then a solidly Republican state but pragmatically governed. His loyalty to the constitution has never wavered. And he never gave up his independence.

Again, this is where the problem lies with Doug Wilder for the Democratic Party. Democrats cannot tolerate people like Doug Wilder being independent and thinking for themselves.

So, perhaps, it wasn’t the biggest surprise of the summer when Mr Wilder turned his independence stylus on the retreaded Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe.

Why did Mr. Wilder question whether Mr. McAuliffe insisted on violating “Virginia’s long-standing precedent” by running for a second term as governor of Virginia?

But even more uncomfortable for Democrats in Virginia were Mr. Wilder’s comments in July recounting the party’s horrific and widespread scandal involving prominent white Democratic politicians dressing in “blackface.”

Sitting Democratic Governor Ralph Northam admitted to wearing a “blackface” after his college yearbook page surfaced, showing him either in blackface or wearing a Ku Klux Klan balaclava. Regardless, it appeared at the time that the Democrat’s political career was over.

Among the first bloodthirsty poles on the scene was Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, who was second in line to succeed the governor if Mr Northam resigned. Mr. Herring demanded that Mr. Northam resign for wearing blackface.

A few days later, however, Mr. Herring admitted that he too had worn blackface.

“It was a unique event, and I accept full responsibility for my conduct,” the Democrat said after his own shocking admission. Mr. Herring, however, did not “accept full responsibility” in resigning his post. Surprisingly, Mr. Herring is currently running for re-election.

Moreover, Terry McAuliffe himself called for the resignation of Mr Northam and Mr Herring at a time when the scandal was hottest.

But Mr McAuliffe has radically changed his mind now that he is tracing that greasy pole up to the governor’s mansion. Today, Mr. McAuliffe wants the support of Mr. “blackface” Northam. And he’s running alongside Mr. “blackface” Herring!

“You asked Ralph Northam to step down,” Wilder told radio host Jeff Katz.

“Now he hasn’t quit. Why are you now seeking their support and asking for their support for your candidacy? “

Mr Wilder’s distaste for his party’s retread candidate goes far beyond hypocrisy and blackface. Just last week, Mr. Wilder blew up Mr. McAuliffe, Mr. Northam and the rest of Virginia’s Democratic leaders for their long-standing refusal to fully fund the state’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Worse still for the Virginia Democrats, Mr. Wilder applauded the platform of Glenn Youngkin, the Republican vying against Terry McAuliffe.

“When I saw Glenn Youngkin pledge last night to provide funding to our five HBCUs in any budget he submitted to the legislature if he was governor, it was historic,” Wilder said. “This is the first time that a candidate for governor has made this public commitment.”

Even more pointedly, Wilder noted that Democrats in Virginia cannot win “without massive support from the black community.”

However, he said, “their needs continue to be ignored by those who claim to represent them.”


“People are not stupid,” Wilder warned Democrats.

“Maybe Northam and McAuliffe will tell us why they didn’t support our HBCUs,” he quipped. “Stay tuned.”

Indeed, stay tuned.

Election day in Virginia is next Tuesday.

• Charles Hurt is an opinion writer for the Washington Times.

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