We’ve often talked about how politics in the U.S. has become a perpetual Armageddon-like battle between opposing forces who believe all means are justified in combating “the enemy.”
Part of that trend is opposition research — going through people’s personal and professional histories to find dirt that can be used as a “Gotcha” to compel them to do something, or silence or even drive them from public life. It could be a microbe or a truckload; each is equally effective, particularly in the social media era where anyone with a smartphone and a bunch of followers can play Javert. And there’s no statute of limitations or consideration of anything the violator has done since.
It sounds like we’re building up to a defense of Gov. Kay Ivey, the latest public figure to be caught up in such a furor after revelations that she appeared in blackface during a skit 52 years ago at Auburn University’s Baptist Student Union.
Nope. There is no defense for Ivey’s actions, even so long ago. It’s irrelevant that it was a “different time” with “different values” and “different sensibilities” where “people didn’t get so upset or ‘politically correct’ about such things.”
The Civil Rights Movement was active and already had scored major victories that had changed this country, the South and, in particular, Alabama in righteous and absolutely necessary ways. One of the ways — although things already were heading in this direction separate from the movement — was establishing the impropriety of people donning blackface to get laughs. People in Auburn (including Ivey, who was in her early 20s, no kid) should’ve known better, even in 1967.
The same applies to any other prominent person — like Virginia’s governor and attorney general — who gets busted for the same thing. Outrage and indignation should be applied fairly and with bipartisanship. (Yes, we’re dreamers.)
Ivey apparently understands the score and has pretty much owned this situation, which is as it should be. She was proactive in releasing an audio recording of her former fiancé describing the incident (no photos exist), even though she still maintains she doesn’t remember it. (Ivey also was quizzed in February about Auburn’s 1967 yearbook showing some of her sorority sisters in blackface for a different skit; she said she didn’t remember that, either.)
The governor apologized after the revelation, and doubled down this week by saying (a.) she shouldn’t have done it; (b.) it doesn’t reflect her current values; and (c.) she has no plans to resign despite calls from Alabama’s NAACP for her to do so. We’re satisfied with that, plus driving her from office would only be a gun barrel notch for someone, it wouldn’t suddenly or dramatically change this state’s political compass.
People also have poked at Ivey for signing a bill two years ago to preserve Confederate monuments in Alabama, and have called upon her to show penance for her actions by supporting initiatives (generally liberal ones) they believe would lessen racial discrepancies and promote reconciliation in the state. That leads us back to our comments about opposition research and what it seeks to achieve — especially in a place like Alabama where, at least right now, what those folks want from Ivey has little chance of happening via the political process, even if it’s stuff that merits consideration.
Again, we think people who do indefensible things should own it when they get caught. Those who dig in dirt should be equally honest about their motivations.