Top 10 Quotes About Jesse Helms



10. "Few senators in the modern era have done more to buck the tide of progress and enlightenment than Mr. Helms. ... Helms's career played out like a harsh and intolerant moral crusade." — New York Times editorial

9. His nasty racial politics might have helped the GOP gain ascendancy for a while in the South, but it tarred Republicans for a long, long time with the stench of racism -- and deservedly so. If you want to know why our politics is so racially polarized, and why Republicans still can't get much more than 10 percent of the black vote, then take a look at the career of Jesse Helms. — Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic

8. "We'll have a new day in North Carolina, and I think it will be a better one. Obviously, he was a different kind of senator, a throwback to another time." — Harvey Gantt, former Charlotte mayor who lost close races to Mr. Helms in 1990 and 1996, commenting on Helms' retirement in 2003.

7. Helms fought long and hard to eliminate Americorps, the Clinton-created youth service organization. Helms, himself, however, was able to enroll at Wake Forest University only because, as Helms later recalled, a teacher there "negotiated an NYA job at $18.75 a month in sports publicity for me." The National Youth Administration was an arm of the Works Progress Administration championed by Eleanor Roosevelt. It provided federal jobs to young people as a way to help finance their education during the Depression. Compared to Americorps, the NYA was a socialist juggernaut spreading taxpayer-subsidized make-work across the land. Without it, Helms might never have made it to the US Senate. — Columnist Timothy Noah, writing for

6. Helms held on to an abrasive rhetorical style of the 1950s and 60s in which the world is divided between the Satanic forces on one side and the forces of righteousness on the other. — Dan T. Carter, historian at the University of South Carolina

5. Sen. Jesse A. Helms has come up with a plan that should make the US Senate a wiser and more fair-minded forum. The ailing Mr. Helms will retire when his term expires in 2003. — 2001 editorial in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

4. No significant piece of legislation designed to improve the lives of ordinary citizens produced over the last 30 years bears Jesse Helms' name. [O]nly four states receive less per capita in federal funds than Helms' North Carolina and only eight have more residents living in poverty. So take a look at the man in all his glory. An unrepentant racist, homophobe, and friend to right-wing dictators and terrorists who failed, during a career stretching 30 years, to improve the lives of his own constituents. — Columnist Eric Alterman

3. Jesse's customers are all white people, and in North Carolina white nostalgia for the good old days usually includes nostalgia for separate restrooms and lunch counters. A vote for Jesse Helms is a vote for their ancestors ... our senator is a walking theme park with two themes: Jim Crow and the Cold War. — Essayist Hal Crowther, 1996

2. The country isn't going back where Jesse is — there are too many young people and non-whites who will never figure out where he is, or where he's been. He serves the nation as a kind of navigational marker, a fixed thing to steer away from if you want to keep yourself from grounding on dangerous shoals. The whole political spectrum has shifted to the Right dramatically, but as long as Jesse lives we can always find Too Far. — Hal Crowther, 1996

In one essay published in CL, Hal Crowther said Helms, in a sense, wasn't elected to be a Senator, but a representative of Carolina orneriness. That essay produced our Number 1 Jesse quote:

1. Helms is like a mascot, a huge old pit bull, useless and vicious, that sits in its own mess at the end of a tow-truck chain and snarls at everything that moves.

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