North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms opposed the Civil Rights Act, calling it “the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.” He opposed the Voting Rights Act. He filibustered a bill to establish a federal holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr., accusing the civil rights leader of “action-oriented Marxism. He protected South Africa’s apartheid government from sanctions. He backed white rule in Rhodesia. And when he died in 2008, President George W. Bush called him an “unwavering champion of those struggling for liberty.”
It makes perfect sense that a party that celebrates a man like Helms, whose many former aides retain positions all over Washington, would nominate Thomas Farr to the federal bench. The Justice Department identified Farr, an attorney for Helms in 1984 and 1990, as aiding the Helms campaign’s effort to keep black voters from the polls. The campaign mailing postcards to some 125,000 black voters in the state threatening them with prosecution if they had lived in a given precinct for less than a month and attempted to vote. Disenfranchising black voters was of the utmost urgency, because Helms was running against Harvey Gantt, the black former mayor of Charlotte, and his campaign feared an energized black electorate. After running a campaign on naked appeals to white racism, including the infamous “white hands” ad, Helms prevailed.
Farr has spent much of his post-Helms career attempting to weaken the influence of black voters or to keep them from the polls. He defended gerrymandered maps that were drawn with race as “the legislature’s paramount concern.” He defended a North Carolina voting law that a federal court said targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.” In response to the the court’s ruling finding that the North Carolina voting restrictions “constituted racial discrimination,” Farr said that the decision “insults the people of North Carolina and their elected representatives by convicting them of abject racism.” Attempting to disenfranchise or otherwise diminish the power of black voters, was not, in Farr’s view, cause for outrage. Rather, it was accurately describing those attempts as targeting black voters that he found offensive. [Continue reading…]