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Something those on the left and right can learn from Jesse Helms

Being a native and lifelong resident of North Carolina, I grew up with Jesse Helms -- but not the Helms caricature that so many on the left have painted of him for the past several decades. After his death on July 4th, in spite of the many public statements by Helms' friends and supporters, many on the left are still baffled that North Carolinians reelected the outspoken conservative to the Senate so many times. I only met Helms a couple of times very briefly, but my sister and several of my friends worked for Helms' campaigns over the years and have given me more close up and personal accounts of the man. Whether you knew him in person or grew up watching him on television, the Jesse Helms you saw was what you got and that, in a nutshell, is what so many loved about him.

It might be easier for those who hated Helms to hold on to their caricature of him as a hate-filled bigot who was only in office because voters in NC are backward hicks, but that is not the reality.

Regardless of whether a politician is liberal or conservative, or what their position is on the war, or abortion or guns or any other issue, if they serve their constituents well, treat others with respect, make clear where they stand and then stand without compromising their principles without regard to what anyone says or thinks of them, voters will elect them, and reelect them, time and time again. That is a lesson anyone seeking elected office would do well to learn from the example of Senator Jesse Helms.

In this piece linked above I use quotes from some of those eulogizing Helms this week to explain why he was so successful. The way Helms always said what he believed, without apology, and stood by those words with actions is the thing that so many are yearning for in a politician today -- whether they be on the left or right.

One of my favorite accounts was from Senator Mitch McConnell's eulogy at Helms funeral this week (as reported in the Rocky Mount Telegram):

McConnell said he often has observed a disparity between a man's public image and his true character.

"No one seemed to suffer more from this peculiar disconnect more than Jesse Helms," McConnell said, pausing. "And no one seemed to care about it less."

A target of newspaper editorial writers, Helms was known largely as the conservative liberals loved to hate. But Helms, a magnet for racially divisive controversy over the years, never became bitter with the negative publicity, McConnell said. He remembered Helms dedicated an entire wall in his Washington office to hanging unflattering editorial cartoons of himself.

After The New York Times published one particularly scathing editorial, McConnell recalled, a young Helms staff worker prepared a harsh rebuttal. Helms read the letter then turned to the aide and said, "Son, just so you understand, I don't care what The New York Times thinks about me."

Additional links to a few of the many things said and written about Senator Helms can be found here.


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Comments (19)

Shameful, Lorie. Your siste... (Below threshold)

Shameful, Lorie. Your sister and your friends enabled this racist hatemonger? Are you proud of their service?

"There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy"

"Homosexuals are weak, morally sick wretches."

"They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro."
- In response to Duke University students holding a vigil after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, 1968

"To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing."

Spit on a disginguished dea... (Below threshold)

Spit on a disginguished dead man JP2. The leftist class revealed again. Oh how you hate a differing opinion. ww

Wild Willie, does your opin... (Below threshold)

Wild Willie, does your opinion differ from jp2's? Do you not find the above quotations completely, categorically reprehensible?

Lorie asserts that he treated others with respect. I'm sure he did most of the time (if he didn't, he would be a sociopath), but the examples of when he didn't will in part define this man's legacy, and necessarily (else it'll be a whitewashing of a sordid bit of history). He whistled Dixie at Senator Carol Moseley-Braun because he wanted to make her cry. You don't think that matters? You think people should just forget that?

"Son, just so you understan... (Below threshold)

"Son, just so you understand, I don't care what The New York Times thinks about me."

This alone makes me wish Helms had run for president, so I could have voted for him.

I don't think a more striking line could be drawn to illustrate the fundamental difference between a politician and a statesman.

It's not a caricature if it... (Below threshold)

It's not a caricature if it's true. Ross Douthat understands why Helms should not be heralded as a conservative hero:

But a specific ad is one thing; Helms himself is another. He simply was an awful bigot, and worse he was an awful bigot who never expressed a shred of remorse, so far as I know, for his toxic approach to issues ranging from civil rights to HIV to foreign affairs. Far from being the sort of politicians who conservatives ought to defend, out of a sense of issue-by-issue solidarity, he's the sort of politician conservatives ought to carefully distance themselves from, because his political style brought (and continues to bring) intellectual disrepute to almost every cause with which he was associated. Inherent to conservatism is the responsibility to stand up and say to bien-pensant opinion: Just because a bigot opposes something doesn't mean it's a good idea. But the necessity (and difficulty) of making that case, whether the issue is affirmative action or "comprehensive" immigration reform or the NEA and Piss Christ, is all the more reason for conservatives to keep their distance from actual bigots, even (or especially) when they're representing the great state of North Carolina in the U.S. Senate. Jonathan Rauch had it right in 2002: If Ronald Reagan and Helms had similar positions on countless issues, that doesn't prove that Helms was good for conservatism; it only suggests that conservatives should look for more Reagans, and fewer Jesse Helms. I'm happy to defend Helms' views on a variety of issues, but the man himself has no business in the right-wing pantheon, and the conservatives who have used his death as an occasion to argue that he does are doing their movement a grave disservice.

He's right, but keep it up Lorie; defending people like Helms only hurts the conservative movement. And I do like how your idea of "treat(ing) others with respect" excludes so many people. Or do you actually think Helms treated blacks and gays with respect?

And you all wonder why blacks don't vote Republican. Such delusion.

Senator Jesse Helms is one ... (Below threshold)

Senator Jesse Helms is one of the top ten greatest patriots in the history of this country. He is getting due recognition now. Those ignorant turds who do not know their history from their morning droppings can go ahead and keep inviting their Ahmadinejads for their version of tolerance. A**wipes.

Helms gave comfort to creti... (Below threshold)

Helms gave comfort to cretins like you, nehemiah. As the last remnants of that clutch of hate mongers leave this earth, hopefully there will be fewer and fewer people who adopt their beliefs, and obstacles to justice, fairness, progress, and universal human flourishing will be diminished and gradually whither and die.

jp2, hyperbolist -lighten u... (Below threshold)

jp2, hyperbolist -lighten up. You have any idea how greeat it was when Helms was elected FIVE TIMES and lawn jockeys were in in vogue?

Eight comments and still no... (Below threshold)

Eight comments and still no attempts to mitigate Helms' evil beliefs with the obligatory "But Robert Byrd was in the KKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!" shriek--is the internet broken south of the Mason-Dixon line or something?

Hyper,When your oppo... (Below threshold)

When your opponent keeps pointing a gun at his own foot, your don't correct him. You offer him another box of shells.

is the internet broke... (Below threshold)

is the internet broken south of the Mason-Dixon line or something?

HB, how much time have you actually spent in the American South? Your stereotyping brings nothing to this discussion. There is a level of racism that can be found in south Boston and north of 96th in Manhattan that makes Helms' evil beliefs look pedestrian.

Jesse Helms was a racist pi... (Below threshold)

Jesse Helms was a racist pig! He had a chance in this life to bridge the gap between the races but he took the path of division & bigotry! Wonder what his maker had to say to him? Hmmm....

I've lived in North Carolin... (Below threshold)

I've lived in North Carolina all my life--fifty-some years now. I saw up close and personal exactly what Senator Helms' policies did *for* some North Carolinians...and *to* many others, as well as people in other states and countries. He was a hate-monger, and the harm he caused will out-live him by decades or generations. May God forgive me, I'm glad he's dead. I would never have thought I would say that about anyone at all, but that's how I feel about Helms. God forgive me.

God bless Senator Helms !</... (Below threshold)
The Exposer:

God bless Senator Helms !

And for all the pissant liberal haters, bigots and slanderers in this thread, it's nice to know that Jesse would've cared less what you had to think about him.

It doesn't surprise me that... (Below threshold)

It doesn't surprise me that demons from hell could care less. Jesse Helms was a demon without conscience. He polluted the land and now he is purged. May God's rain wash away every trace of his wicked tracks!

"And you all wonder why ... (Below threshold)

"And you all wonder why blacks don't vote Republican. Such delusion."

There are numerous reasons to make me wonder why they vote Democrat.

Yes, I've spent time in the... (Below threshold)

Yes, I've spent time in the South. I found it to be the friendliest part of the United States, actually. The people were great, and my dad still doesn't shut up about how wonderfully heavy-handed the bartenders were in South Carolina. Even as a pre-teen, the ethnic tension in places like Atlanta, Orlando, Hilton Head, and Atlantic Beach was palpable to me.

But I suppose I'd have felt the same in Harlem, LA, Detroit, or even the worst parts of Toronto. So I do apologize for making a blanket statement about the South. It's the sort of ignorant over-generalization that I get pissed off about. It does bother me, though, that people who have nice things to say about Jesse Helms have a problem with people pointing out how repugnant the man's views were.

Judge not, lest ye be judge... (Below threshold)
Damn the Haters:

Judge not, lest ye be judged. No one can condemn Sen. Helms when their own hearts are dripping with bitter Satanic hatred that the diseased liberal mindset breeds. Liberalism has harmed, killed and consigned to hell on earth more black people (and people of all shades) than any bad words allegedly spoken by this man.

Sen. Helms believed in TRUTH and FREEDOM. Satan and his agents hated Sen. Helms because he opposed Communism and the anti-Christ liberals.

Shame on you repugnant anti-Christian hypocrites! Repent before you burn!

When someone mentions Sa... (Below threshold)

When someone mentions Satan, that's a sane person's cue to start ignoring the hell out of them.






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