Sunday, December 02, 2018

The GOP's Effort to Disenfranchise Minority Voters Through Judicial Appointments

Trump's racist judicial nominee, Thomas Farr. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP/REX/Shutterstock
I have written for years now about Republican efforts to disenfranchise minority voters , first through gerrymandered districts and then through "voter ID laws" fighting non-existent voter fraud.  Now, it has moved to deleting voters from the voter rolls as we witnessed in Georgia.  But even more insidious is the Trump/Pence effort to put avowed racists and white supremacists on the benches of the federal courts where they will have lifetime appointments and can use judicial rulings to undermine minority voting rights. Thankfully, the nomination of one of the most foul individuals selected by Der Trumpenf├╝hrer was blocked this week by two Republicans, but many other racists and homophobes have slipped through  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the scuttled nomination of Thomas Farr who illustrates the type of individuals Trump is seeking to pack the courts with.  This effort ought to frighten decent people everywhere.  Here are article highlights:
Senator Tim Scott announced on Thursday that he would oppose the judicial nomination of Thomas Farr, who President Donald Trump had tapped to become a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The news ended a suspenseful four days of deliberation for Scott, whose decision cited Farr’s past efforts to undermine black suffrage. His opposition — paired with Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s — effectively killed Farr’s bid, which would have secured the Raleigh-based lawyer a lifetime on the federal bench.
Farr’s abysmal record on black voting rights is well-documented. As a lawyer for United States Senator Jesse Helms — who, in 2001, Washington Post journalist David S. Broder described as “the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country” — Farr was the “coordinator” of a racist 1984 “ballot security” initiative spearhead by the North Carolina GOP. It included a “postcard mailing to voters in predominantly black precincts which was designed to serve as a basis to challenge [them] on election day,” according to a 1991 Justice Department memo.
His campaign sent 125,000 mailers to black voters falsely claiming they were barred from the ballot box unless they had lived in that precinct for at least 30 days, and would face jail time if they voted. The result was his successful reelection against then-Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, a black man.
The DOJ recommended the North Carolina GOP be sued for its conduct that November. But Farr’s efforts to thwart black voters continued well into the 21st century. In 2013, he represented the Republican-controlled state legislature defending a voting law that a federal appeals court eventually overruled, saying it had “[targeted] African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The law imposed stringent voter ID requirements, curtailed election day registration and early voting, and ended other procedures favored by black voters, . . . . Tellingly, legislators had enacted the law almost immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act that year, allowing several North Carolina counties to change their voting laws without federal “preclearance” for the first time since 1965. 
It should surprise no one that none of this was disqualifying for the Senate GOP. On the contrary, the vast majority still backed Farr’s nomination, with only a handful besides Scott and Flake signaling their reservations in light of his record. This is a feature of modern conservative politics, not a bug. The moral stench engulfing Republicans’ efforts to suppress nonwhite votes is detectable from Georgia to North Dakota. But black political participation has alarmed racist white North Carolinians for far longer.
Efforts to suppress black political power may have been bloodier before, but they are not new. The legacy Farr would have advanced on the bench — and the GOP support he amassed en route — is enough to sour any relief generated by his narrow failure.
That black North Carolinians have endured such a history only to have Republicans subject them to a man like Farr is remarkable, and even more so considering said history’s enduring relevance. Anti-black voter suppression may have narrowed its scope and obscured its intentions in light of strengthening civil rights legislation of late, but for decades, its most effective means — physical violence — was sanctioned gladly by a kleptocratic white elite.
North Carolina’s black population share has fallen dramatically since the era of the coup, from 49 percent in 1897, to 44 percent in 1900, to 26 percent in 2000, to just over 18 percent today. But the progressive resurgence and ballot access reforms that helped Barack Obama carry the state in 2008 and 2012 spurred Republicans to tighten their grip on power, using means both brazenly partisan, racist, and anti-democratic. The GOP’s redistricting efforts in 2010 paid special attention to North Carolina, gerrymandering the state so ruthlessly that, in the 2018 midterms, Democrats won just three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans’ 10 — despite the parties garnering a comparable share of the statewide vote. . . .
This history should matter when considering a nomination like Farr’s. The racist and anti-democratic urge that propels efforts like those he spearheaded in 1984 and advised in 1990, on behalf of Helms, further delegitimizes the electoral process and should be disqualifying. In reality, it is often rewarded. Georgia’s gubernatorial race saw suppression architect Brian Kemp claim victory after seeking to disqualify black voters and refusing to recuse himself from oversight, as secretary of state, in an election where he was a candidate. That Farr came up short attests to Tim Scott’s brief flirtation with morals, as his party’s only black senator. But that may not matter in 2019, when Republicans control two more senate seats and Trump can re-nominate.

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