J. Peder Zane

Democrats display their knack for the negative in attacks on Thomas Farr

The larger question – which might be worth addressing – is whether the work of Thomas Farr, right, for a Senator who tapped into racial resentment should be disqualifying for a lifetime appointment to the bench.
The larger question – which might be worth addressing – is whether the work of Thomas Farr, right, for a Senator who tapped into racial resentment should be disqualifying for a lifetime appointment to the bench. AP

I try not to drink coffee while reading or watching the news because I don’t want to stain my rugs. The political coverage in particular offers such a mixture of absurd bias and ridiculous high-mindedness that I find myself choking with laughter.

The Germans probably have some eight-syllable word for the strange bedfellow emotions these articles provoke; the best I can come up with is … guffawful.

In my weaker moments, I almost admire their brazenness – their Clintonesque ability to deny plain facts: Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?

I’ve already written about the guffawful story of our time: the phony Trump/Russia collusion story, whereby those posing as Guardians of the Republic try to subvert our democracy.

So instead I’ll note a Dec. 27 piece in these pages that produced that seething laughter of guffawfulness when it claimed “Democrats have never been good at ‘negative’ campaigns.”

Wowza!

That, of course would come as news to George W. Bush, who was blamed in 2000 for the murder of a Texas man, James Byrd, by a pack of racists and to Mitt Romney, who was accused of causing a woman’s death from cancer in 2012. It would also surprise Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who were viciously smeared during their Supreme Court nomination hearings.

It is an especially brazen assertion given recent revelations that Democrats funded the bogus Steele dossier that libeled Trump – and then peddled it to the press as an intelligence report rather than scurrilous opposition research. We’ve also learned that Hillary Clinton’s confederates had offered secret payments to women to accuse Trump of sexual abuse.

Indeed, the Democrat electoral strategy has become increasingly negative over the years. To distract voters from their unpopular, progressive agenda – which led to massive losses at every level during the Obama years – their campaigns focus on demonizing their opponents as stupid, selfish haters.

Yes, the Republicans also engage in nasty, negative campaigns. The difference is that the press calls them out on this even as it pretends that Democrats are paragons of virtue.

This mindset was expressed by the late Mario Cuomo who described the difference between liberals and conservatives this way: “Well, because we believe in subtlety. We believe in telling the whole truth. We don’t want to exaggerate. You see, look, they write their message with crayons. We use fine-point quills.”

The delusional smugness of that statement is vintage guffawful. The problem is that many on the left truly believe this nonsense, advancing a Manichean narrative of Americans politics as the battle of good versus evil. They believe their Crayola smears are subtle truths!

Consider the recent attacks on Thomas Farr, the Raleigh lawyer whom Trump has nominated to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Although Farr has received a “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association which said he has “the highest reputation for integrity,” he has been smeared repeatedly as a “white supremacist.”

Why? Because Farr was a longtime advisor to Senator Jesse Helms and a law partner of one of Helms’s chief backers, Thomas Ellis. Farr has also represented the GOP legislature in suits brought against it regarding racial gerrymandering.

The attacks on Farr have centered on his alleged involvement in postcards sent during Helms’s 1990 campaign against Harvey Gantt aimed at discouraging African-Americans from voting. All the available evidence indicates that Farr had nothing to do with this ugly mailing. Nevertheless, it continues to be peddled as fact. For that matter, there is no evidence that Farr has ever expressed racist sentiments.

The larger question – which might be worth addressing – is whether Farr’s work for a Senator who tapped into racial resentment should be disqualifying for a lifetime appointment to the bench.

I don’t think it should – but I understand why others might disagree. It is complicated, as are so many issues in a nation that has seen so much change so quickly on so many fronts. By the time Farr worked for Helms, Jim Crow was dead; the key racial debate wasn’t over segregation but affirmative action, which many people of good faith oppose.

Instead of addressing those complexities, Farr’s opponents play the Crayola race card, casting him as a Klansman in a bespoke suit. By arguing that anyone who supported Helms, who was elected five times by the people of North Carolina, is beyond the pale, paints a damning portrait of our citizenry.

It is not a serious argument but the politics of personal destruction. It is, in a word, guffawful.

Contributing columnist J. Peder Zane can be reached at jpederzane@jpederzane.com.

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