Nobody could have predicted the kind of February Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has had.
One day, he’s atop the world, next in line for governor behind a man hoping to moonwalk his way out of photographic evidence that he donned blackface, or a Klan hood, in his med school yearbook. And then, one woman came forward with a credible allegation of rape against him. Then another. State and national figures have called for Fairfax to resign and articles of impeachment are being drafted as he tries to hold on.
It doesn’t take a sidewalk fortune teller to see where this is headed. Nobody’s standing up for him. Nobody’s sticking their neck out. The dude should be toast. But nobody has told Justin Fairfax, who’s hoping that with the AG behind him in line to become governor “explaining” his own blackface photo, Virginia Democrats will flinch before removing the only black statewide elected official.
But these are crimes Fairfax is accused of. I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson’s account that Justin Fairfax sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, because she has been telling her friends what happened to her for years. I believe Meredith Watson, who has also confided her story—of Justin Fairfax raping her when they were classmates at Duke —in people she trusts. The likelihood that two women who have nothing to do with each other would coordinate identical lies in their social circles for years is infinitesimally small. I believe them.
But Fairfax expects us to believe him. This weekend, he called the allegations part of a coordinated smear campaign as he refused to step down without an investigation. I’ve got a lot of questions, but the biggest is: What does Justin Fairfax think is going to happen now? Does he think this is going to go away? That people are going to forget?
None of this is pleasant or amusing. It’s not fun to confront the reality that predators exist in the annals of power, but it makes a sick sort of sense. The hubris that leads a man to believe that he can sexually assault a professor at a political convention and then run for political office without that incident ever coming up again is the same kind of hubris that would lead a person to think that their career is worth the soul of their political party. It’s the same hubris that would lead a person to throw an entire state into turmoil to protect a series of lies he told, about the crimes he committed.
We’ve seen Fairfaxian magical thinking before. In fact, it’s so predictable a year and a half into the Post-Weinstein Era that it could be mad-libbed. Public figure is accused of a certain number of misdeeds of a sexual nature by one person. Public figure denies it, calls it a smear campaign. Reputable news outlet gathers more reporting on allegations, finds corroboration, talks to other alleged victims, publishes those stories. Public figure continues denials, making it worse. Public figure expects us to believe that they are so important that dozens of people coordinated a lie good enough to dupe the Washington Post, or the New York Times, or whatever. Public figure keeps at it, raising two middle fingers as they disappear entirely below the magma of public scorn.
But for every man “taken down” by his own inability to not be a sex creep, there are men who have continued on as though nothing has happened. We have their resilience to thank for this headache of a news cycle.
Sure, Bill Cosby’s finally in jail, but Bryan Singer’s very bad movie is nominated for Best Picture this year despite several men’s allegations that he sexually assaulted them when they were boys. Charlie Rose lost his show; meanwhile it took several waves of reports of R. Kelly’s misdeeds and a blockbuster Lifetime documentary to get radio stations to consider pulling Ignition (Remix) from their rotation. Louis CK pretended he was sorry for almost a complete baseball season’s worth of time before taking his newly hacky No, It’s The Children Who Are Wrong act to stage. Roy Moore lost a gimme of a Senate special election, but Brett Kavanaugh’s on the Supreme Court. The Republican Party still has not returned the millions that serial sexual predator Steve Wynn donated to them. And Donald Trump is the president.
As immoral as it seems for somebody like Fairfax to prioritize himself over the needs of his constituents (and his party), if he were a Republican or a comedian or a musician, something like this might go away. That’s why Virginia Democrats—as flawed as they obviously are, and in need of new leadership across the board—are doing the right thing by holding Fairfax to a higher standard than the Republican party holds their own.