The unyielding independence of L. Douglas Wilder

Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder answers to no one. He has always been truly independent, which makes him a problem inside the Democratic Party.

Long before Barack Obama was spinning fairy tales about “hope” and “change,” Mr. Wilder was making history.

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

He ran on typical Democrat issues of the day in what was then a solidly Republican state yet governed as a pragmatist. His fidelity to the constitution never wavered. And he never surrendered his independence.

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

So, perhaps, it did not come as the biggest surprise back in the summer when Mr. Wilder turned his stiletto of independence on Democrats’ retread nominee for governor, Terry McAuliffe.

Why Mr. Wilder wondered, did Mr. McAuliffe insist upon violating “Virginia’s long-standing precedent” by seeking a second term as Virginia governor?

But even more uncomfortable for Virginia Democrats were Mr. Wilder’s comments in July dredging up the party’s horrifying and widespread scandal involving top white Democrat politicians dressing up in “blackface.”

Sitting Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam acknowledged wearing “blackface” after his college yearbook page surfaced, showing him either in blackface or wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood. Either way, it appeared at the time that the Democrat’s political career was over.

Among the first bloodthirsty pols on the scene was sitting Democrat 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.

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

“This was a one-time occurrence, and I accept full responsibility for my conduct,” the Democrat said after his own shocking admission. Mr. Herring did not, however, “accept full responsibility” by resigning his post. Astonishingly, Mr. Herring is presently running for reelection.

Also, calling for the resignation of Mr. Northam and Mr. Herring at the time when the scandal was burning hottest was none other than Mr. McAuliffe himself. 

But Mr. McAuliffe has had a dramatic change of heart now that he is shimmying back up that greasy pole to the governor’s mansion. Today, Mr. McAuliffe wants Mr. “blackface” Northam’s support. And he is running alongside Mr. “blackface” Herring!

“You called on Ralph Northam to resign,” Mr. Wilder fumed to radio host Jeff Katz.

“Now, he didn’t resign. Why do you now seek his support and sought his support for your candidacy?”

Mr. Wilder’s distaste for his party’s retread nominee goes well beyond hypocrisy and blackface. Just last week, Mr. Wilder blew up Mr. McAuliffe, Mr. Northam and the rest of Virginia Democrat leaders over their long-standing refusal to fully fund the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Even worse for Virginia Democrats, Mr. Wilder applauded the platform of Glenn Youngkin, the Republican running against Mr. McAuliffe.

“When I watched Glenn Youngkin last evening commit to providing funding for all five of our HBCUs in any budget he submitted to the legislature if he were governor, it was historical,” Mr. Wilder said. “This is the first time any candidate for governor has made this public commitment.”

Even more pointed, Mr. 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 purport to represent them.”


“The people are not stupid,” Mr. Wilder warned Democrats.

“Maybe Northam and McAuliffe will tell us why they have not supported our HBCUs,” he taunted. “Stay tuned.”

Indeed, stay tuned.

Election Day in Virginia is next Tuesday.

• Charles Hurt is the opinion editor at the Washington Times.

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