HAYMARKET, VA - OCTOBER 20:  Virginia State Attorney General Mark Herring (C) participates in the annual Haymarket Day parade October 20, 2018 in Haymarket, Virginia. Democratic U.S. House candidate and Virginia State Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33rd District) is challenging incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) for the House seat that has been in Republican hands since 1981. Wexton is currently leading Comstock in most of the polls.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
HAYMARKET, VA - OCTOBER 20: Virginia State Attorney General Mark Herring (C) participates in the annual Haymarket Day parade October 20, 2018 in Haymarket, Virginia. Democratic U.S. House candidate and Virginia State Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33rd District) is challenging incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) for the House seat that has been in Republican hands since 1981. Wexton is currently leading Comstock in most of the polls. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
02:00
Virginia attorney general admits to wearing blackface
Now playing
02:56
Some GOP lawmakers are defying Capitol security measures
Now playing
02:41
Loyal Texas Trump voters want Biden to be less divisive
Now playing
01:33
Chuck Schumer announces timeline for Trump impeachment
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during an event on economic crisis in the State Dining Room of the White House January 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden spoke on his administration
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during an event on economic crisis in the State Dining Room of the White House January 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden spoke on his administration's response to the economic crisis that caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and signed two executive orders. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
02:31
Biden zeroes in on the teetering economy in first week
White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett speaks with reporters at the White House, Friday, June 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett speaks with reporters at the White House, Friday, June 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
PHOTO: Alex Brandon/AP
Now playing
05:08
Ex-Trump official who supports Biden stimulus plan speaks out
Dick Durbin 0122
Dick Durbin 0122
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:41
Sen. Durbin: We can't pass anything without bipartisanship
Guard Soldiers were ordered to move from the cafeteria to the parking garage
Guard Soldiers were ordered to move from the cafeteria to the parking garage
PHOTO: Obtained by CNN
Now playing
01:42
Photos show National Guard confined to parking garage
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cpt 0121
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cpt 0121
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:42
Ocasio-Cortez: We still don't feel safe around other members of Congress
mccarthy
mccarthy
Now playing
04:18
McCarthy contradicts himself on Trump's role in insurrection
Now playing
06:30
'Do you feel you were duped?': Burnett presses GOP lawmaker
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during her first press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during her first press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
PHOTO: Evan Vucci/AP
Now playing
01:48
WH press secretary vows transparency and honesty on first day
Now playing
02:30
Pences share a laugh with Vice President Harris and her husband
Now playing
01:12
Kamala Harris sworn in as Vice President
President Donald Trump speaks at Joint Base Andrew on Wednesday, January 20.
President Donald Trump speaks at Joint Base Andrew on Wednesday, January 20.
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:00
See Trump's final message as President as his family looks on
(CNN) —  

That sound you hear is Virginia’s Democratic Party collapsing on itself.

In the last six days, the following things have happened:

What. The. Actual. Hell.

  • Gov. Ralph Northam said he was in a picture in his medical school yearbook of two people – one in blackface, the other in KKK robes. He then recanted and said he wasn’t in that picture. But he added that he *had* darkened his face to look more like Michael Jackson for a dance contest in 1984.
  • A woman named Vanessa Tyson accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of assaulting her during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax angrily denied the allegations. Then on Wednesday Tyson released a statement, in which she said in part “what began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault.”
  • State Attorney General Mark Herring, in a statement released Wednesday morning, acknowledged that he, too, had appeared in blackface at a party. “In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” Herring said.

It’s hard to process this chain of events. In the immediate aftermath of the blackface/KKK picture that may or may not have featured Northam, the writing appeared to be on the wall: He needed to go. Every major national Democrat this side of Barack Obama called for Northam to step aside. As did many of Northam’s longtime allies, including former Virginia governors Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe.

The rush to get Northam was due, in part, to what appeared to be an elegant solution: Fairfax, the 39-year old African-American lieutenant governor seemed ready, willing and able to take over.

That quick succession plan took a major hit with the allegation from Tyson. And the subsequent, largely behind-the-scenes finger-pointing between forces aligned with Fairfax, Northam and Democratic Richmond Mayor LeVar Stoney over who leaked the Fairfax allegation.

That alone was enough to create something very close to total chaos in the Virginia Democratic Party, which has been ascendant in recent years – having held the governorship for all but four years since 2001 and now controlling both of the state’s US Senate seats and seven of the state’s 11 congressional districts.

But the Herring news – on top of everything else – made for a full sky-is-falling moment among Virginia Democrats.

And for somewhat good reason. The party’s top three elected officials in the state are now in varying levels of political distress. All three are damaged, although it remains to be seen how badly. Then there’s this: If all three resign, the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates – Republican Kirk Cox – would be next in line to take over.

But wait, there’s more!

Cox is speaker solely because Republican David Yancey won a state House seat in early 2018 when his name was picked out of a bowl. Yes, this really happened! (The race was tied. If Yancey had lost the random drawing, the state House would have been split 50-50.)

The implications of this stunning series of events could be considerable – in both Virginia and the rest of the country.

Virginia holds state legislative elections this November and, prior to the past five days, Democrats believed they were in strong shape to take over majorities in both the state House and state Senate. (Republicans have a three-seat edge in the state House and a two seat gap in the state Senate.)

Plus, Virginia is the only state in the country that limits its governors to a single term – meaning that no matter what happens, there will be an open seat race in 2021. And now Fairfax and Herring – two likely contenders for that job – are in the midst of scandals. It’s less clear how much residual damage if any Stoney, who also has gubernatorial ambitions, suffers from all of this.

Nationally, Democrats have sought to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward allegations of sexual assault and race amid the Trump presidency and the #MeToo movement. To have not one, not two, but three statewide elected officials in a swing state battling a variety of these charges – and with none currently signaling they will step aside – is a political nightmare for the party writ large.

There’s a tendency in politics – especially with Trump in the White House – to insist that nothing like this has ever happened before. In most cases, that’s a significant exaggeration.

The situation in Virginia is not one of those cases.