History

Jesse Don't Like It

A new biography of the liberal-slaying North Carolina senator leaves him without a legacy

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Early last year when his presidential bid was gearing up, one of Barack Obama's classmates from Harvard Law handed the New York Times a photo of the young superstar from a 1990 election-watching party. Obama is wearing jeans and a blue shirt opened down to the last button, as if he's en route to a phone booth and a battle with Lex Luthor. The buttons are undone so that Obama can reveal a T-shirt: "Harvey Gantt for U.S. Senate."

Why Harvey Gantt, the former mayor of Charlotte who was running for a Senate seat in North Carolina? Why not, say, John Kerry, who was winning his second term that night in Massachusetts? It wasn't just that Harvey Gantt was black. It was that he was running against Jesse Helms.

That year Helms had attacked Gantt for benefiting from racial preferences, for supporting racial quotas, and for being close to Jesse Jackson. Gantt fought back with millions of dollars in campaign funds, raised on swings to California and New York from liberals much like Obama. The result was the same as every time Helms faced a challenge from the left. Helms won.

Read the rest of this piece at The American Spectator.

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  1. The American Spectator?

    I thought only Hillary read that these days?

  2. Whoa, Helms was a reactionary dickhead? Thanks for alerting me to this shocking news, Dave.

  3. In other news, Jesse Helms was a douchebag.

    What’s that you say? He isn’t dead yet?

    Very well. Jesse Helms *is* a douchebag.

  4. Hey, let’s make it pile on Dave day.

    So how much did you get paid for that Spectator piece? I’m still scratching my head as to why it got written in the first place. Maybe you can write a 5000 word piece telling us that Jack Nicholson is considered cool.

  5. Epi, LMNOP, stop stealing our act!

  6. So how much did you get paid for that Spectator piece? I’m still scratching my head as to why it got written in the first place.

    Okay, let’s see if I can explain the process in short words.
    1. William Link writes Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism.
    2. The American Spectator calls David Weigel and asks if they can pay him (not much, but enough to make it worth his while) to do a book report.
    3. David writes a story about the book which American Spectator and William Link hope will make people want to purchase it. Note that David said nothing about Jesse Helms, he reported what William said in the book.

    Oh, and note that even in the article, the main points were not that Jesse was reactionary, but that he had a strong base of like-minded voters (which still exist) yet even so, his accomplishments have not held up long-term.

    Maybe you can write a 5000 word piece telling us that Jack Nicholson is considered cool.

    Coming up, right after you get your 100,000-word book on the subject published and accepted for review.

  7. “These long hairs keep talking about a revolution,” Helms said privately in 1970. “One of these days they may get one — but not the kind they expect.”

    Kill the Hippies

    Start with Asheville North Carolina

  8. LarryA, if you couldn’t tell I was joking, you need to work on your humor detector. I’d think the “let’s pile on Dave” comment would be enough to signify.

    But hey, thanks for earnestly ruining my attempts to create a thread where we jokingly rip on Dave. Next time I make a joke I’ll put a LarryA disclaimer on it.

  9. It’s that confusing? Helms never lost an election and drove liberals mad but he ended up losing the culture war, and pretty decisively. On the day that John McCain is apologizing for not rubber-stamping MLK Day, it seems strange to have to point this out.

  10. Make that a LarryA/Weigel disclaimer.

  11. The problem with Weigel’s article is that it says , both, that Helms was instrumental in building the conservative movement that got Ronald Reagan elected, and that Helms had no impact.

  12. Helms was instrumental in building the conservative movement that got Ronald Reagan elected, and that Helms had no impact.

    Yes: Helms was electorally successful but he lost the culture war. The few legislative, moral, cultural victories he won were short lived.

  13. Dave doesn’t address Jesse Helms’ ongoing racist outbursts at all — does Link also skip this painful part of the man’s biography, or is it just not worth mentioning?

    And why is Hit & Run so chock-full of paleocons and segregationists this week? It makes me nervous.

  14. And why is Hit & Run so chock-full of paleocons and segregationists this week?

    I think it’s ’cause Lew Rockwell’s panties got all twisted up and if you’ve ever had a wedgie, you know how unpleasant that is.

  15. I’ve lived in North Carolina all of my life, and I remember the enthusiasm in my household on election night 1990 when we briefly thought that Gant might win. I think what bothers me most about the man is that he consciously represents a strain of thought that is proud of its ignorance and anti-intellectualism.

  16. Proudly defending the fact that there are enough ignorant and rascist people to vote you into office makes me want to dry heave too.

  17. Sorry I missed the humor. I guess I was flashing back to numerous other H&R threads where Reason writers were seriously castigated for making statements when they were quoting someone else.

  18. In Jesse Helm’s heyday I was a left-liberal. I have since become a neoconservative. So I have never been on Jesse Helm’s team. Helm’s racial segregationist views were and are unacceptable.

    But in his pet cause when he was in the Senate, reform of the UN, Helms couldn’t have been more right. The UN was (and remains) corrupt, anti-Semitic, and anti-capitalist. The UN doesn’t defend the rights of people, instead it concentrates on defending just about any Third World dictator, not matter how vicious, provides he rails against Israel and “western colonialism”.

    Jesse Helms was wrong about racial segregation, but his views on many issues are much closer to those of libertarians than are the view of contemporary liberals. He is pro-free enterprise, anti-Communist, pro-2nd Amendment.

    Racist thought he be, Helms is not personally mean-spirited. When an African-American constituent asked Helms for a favor he usually got it. On constituent services he was fair. I like it when people act better than they talk. The other way ’round is much more common.

    Since leaving office he has worked in the employ of Bono, the Irish Rock star, doing humanitarian work.

  19. So it’s all about the Jews right? Israel is far from being the nastiest country on Earth (that distinction probably goes to North Korea), but it is without question the most self-important. Considering that Israel was created b/c of the United Nations, and (let’s not get involved in semantics) did that by kicking several hundred thousand people off their land, then tries to claim this holier-than-thou high moral ground for 60+ years (Arab behavior has often helped their case). At least don’t pretend that this is much different from what Serbia or China does; much less bloody, yes, but violating property rights nonetheless. For all those centuries of virulent anti-Semitism culminating in the Holocaust, now Israel has to constantly be in our faces about how advanced, moral and democratic it is. Again, this isn’t nastiness per se, but smugness and self-importance.

  20. Golda Meir said it best, “The day the Palestinians love their children more than they hate the Jews there will be peace in the Middle East”.

    Arabs in Israel have more rights than Arabs in any Arab country. Israel is an island of democracy, prosperity, and enlightenment in a sea of tyranny, poverty, and stupidity. That fact is of course deeply disturbing to anti-Semites like piranha.

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