“Jesse Helms understood before anyone else that the proverbial angry white male feels the most aggrieved, and is therefore the most likely to vote,” says Larry Sabato, a professor of government at the University of Virginia. “Jesse Helms was an angry white male before most of his compatriots were.”
Surely you remember that segregationist from North Carolina- the senator who pleased the white folks of that state so greatly that he was the longest-serving popularly-elected Senator in North Carolina’s history.
Among other hateful positions that Helms backed was opposition to federal intervention into what he considered state affairs or states’ rights- integration, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. And the angry whites, feeling ‘disenfranchised’ over the increasing rights of blacks in the state, loved him.
Helms fueled white fears by opposing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whistling “Dixie” while standing next to African-American Senator Carol Moseley-Braun, and supporting apartheid in South Africa.
“His racial politics are deeply held convictions, not simply politics of convenience,” says Christopher Scott. “He has a view of a fundamentalist Christian society in which everyone is not welcome. If you could pick up the South Africa of 20 years ago and transplant it to America, that’s what he would do.”
His political career began in 1957 when he won a seat on the Raleigh City Council and, in 1960, took a job as a TV commentator. He spent the decade railing against King, “Negro hoodlums,” the media, “sex perverts,” and anyone on welfare. As he explained in one of his nightly five-minute broadcasts, “A lot of human beings have been born bums.”
His views on gay and lesbian citizens were depicted in the in the film, Dear Jesse. Helms fought against increasing federal financing for AIDS research and treatment, saying the disease resulted from ‘unnatural’ and ‘disgusting’ homosexual behavior. “There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy,” he said in 1988.
Wow! What a Christian life! He was a Southern Baptist as we can tell from his racism and homophobia. It would be interesting to have a copy of the ‘tribute’ for the senator given by the pastor at his church at his death in July, 2008.
Although I don’t have a copy of that tribute, I did find one from someone who worked on his senatorial campaign. She may be known to some of the people who visit this blog. Here’s what she said on the online Legacy Guestbook for tributes to Sen. Helms-
I was proud to have worked on Sen. Helms’ first campaign for the Senate so many years ago.
He never let down the conservatives, and served his state and his nation well.
May he rest in peace.
~ Jeanette Lucey, Rock Hill, South Carolina
Love those [c]hristians!