Enough is enough. Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax must resign.

Northam and Herring have both admitted to wearing blackface; Fairfax has been accused of serious sexual assault and rape.

We won’t relitigate for you what’s led up to this sorry state of affairs. You’ve probably read the reports. It’s hard to miss them. Virginia has been at the epicenter of national attention and condemnation. All three men have become a liability. Northam’s increasingly desperate maneuvering to cling to the governor’s seat has grown more embarrassing by the day. Northam, Herring and Fairfax can no longer adequately carry out the duties of their office. This furor will not die down, nor will it go away while they remain.

Members of Northam’s own party have called on him to step aside, and if he does so, it’s only sensible that Herring do the same. Yes, they may have evolved as people; yes, they may be entirely different adults than they were young men, but this is not about how they perceive themselves to be as much as how others see them. Politics is perception; Northam and Herring’s reputations are perceived by friend and foe alike as fundamentally damaged to the point of irretrievability.

The disturbing charges against Fairfax have been described as “credible” by no lesser a personality than former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who, along with other influential members of the Democratic Party, has called on the lieutenant governor to resign. We believe that’s the right thing to do. The charges against Fairfax are serious and, if the alleged rape proven true, criminal.

This historically unique situation has triggered a political crisis for Old Dominion Democrats, who would, if all three men step down, lose control of the state’s top office. According to the rules of succession, conservative Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox is next in line for the governorship.

And while Republicans are salivating over this opportunity, we doubt they’d be quite so energetic if the governorship was theirs to lose. (Adding insult to injury, there are members of the state’s GOP also facing charges of racism. That bell is now ringing for Republican senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. Who knows who else in the GOP might be swept up as yearbook revelations pour forth?)

What other way forward is there, other than an incapacitated, morally tainted leadership, one that is unfit — and unable — to effectively serve the state of Virginia because it has lost the trust of the people who put it there, or the ascendance to power of a party that the people didn’t choose?

There may be an unconventional but clean way out of this, however, that retains the party leadership the people voted for — Democratic control of the governor’s mansion — while allowing a scandal-free candidate to take control. (We can’t lay claim to this idea; it was first floated by Geoffrey Skelley of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast. But it has merit, even as we doubt those involved will have the selflessness or moral grit to put it in motion.)

The scenario is this: Northam resigns. Fairfax becomes the governor and is free to choose a new lieutenant governor, one who is thoroughly vetted, without a hint of scandal. Then Fairfax steps aside, allowing that scandal-free selection to serve out what remains of the term.

However this shakes out, tumultuous times are ahead for Virginia. The question is, for how long?

Cliff Cumber is a Bristol Herald Courier/Washington County News columnist.

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