Kevin M. Kruse @KevinMKruse Historian. Author/editor of White Flight; The New Suburban History; Spaces of the Modern City; Fog of War; One Nation Under God; Fault Lines. Nov. 29, 2018 2 min read

One of Trump's judicial nominees just went down, due in large part to his role in Jesse Helms' 1990 Senate campaign, one of the most starkly racist of the modern era.

As I've noted before, Helms got his start four decades earlier as a Democrat, when he ran a starkly racist campaign for Willis Smith against the liberal incumbent, Sen. Frank Porter Graham.

I discussed that campaign and Helms' early career here:

After winning re-election in 1978 fairly easily, Helms faced a tough fight the third time against Gov. Jim Hunt, a popular moderate.

Helms rallied white voters on racial issues, playing up his outspoken opposition to the creation of Martin Luther King Jr Day. Helms won, 52-48.

In 1990, the fourth time around, Helms faced off against Charlotte's mayor Harvey Gantt, an African American.

The race was tight down the stretch, with late polls showing Gantt holding a lead of 47%-41%, with 12% of voters (mostly white) saying they were still undecided.

His back against the wall, Jesse Helms once again resorted to racist appeals, most famously with the notorious "Hands" ad that played to white fears about affirmative action.

(It was written and produced by current CNN contributor Alex Castellanos.) 

In addition to such ads, the 1990 Helms campaign witnessed a mass mailing of "voter information" postcards to black voters, in what seemed to be a campaign to intimidate them from turning out to vote.

The postcards were so egregious that the Republican-led Department of Justice of George HW Bush's administration lodged a complaint against the Helms campaign and the North Carolina Republican Party.

Thanks to the @washingtonpost you can read it here: 

As @seungminkim and @WPJohnWagner noted in this piece, Thomas Farr's role as Helms' chief lawyer in the 1990 race and his suspected ties to the postcard campaign, brought these past events back into the public eye. 

Because of this history, @SenatorTimScott joined Jeff Flake and all the Democrats in stopping Farr's nomination. And good for him.

But as @AdamSerwer notes here, it really shouldn't have fallen to Scott to stop this.

A quarter century ago, a Republican administration thought the NC voter suppression campaign was egregious enough to condemn, regardless of partisanship.

This week, virtually every GOP senator was ready to give the architect of that campaign a lifetime appointment as a judge.

You can follow @KevinMKruse.


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