Saturday, July 05, 2008
Jesse Alexander Helms, Jr. (October 18, 1921 – July 4, 2008)
Jesse Helms: American Garbage
by KEN LAYNE0
Here's a July 4 history lesson we should print on the back of the American Flag: If you hate long enough and hard enough, you can go to the very top of the Washington garbage heap.
Jesse Helms died today, 25 years too late, but the stench of his rotten career will always linger in the Senate, and over the South.
He was a hero to bigots and the cigarette corporations, a menace to the poor and downtrodden, and a mean little troll whose heart was so wrecked by wickedness that doctors had to patch it up with coronary valves from a pig.
Jesse Helms was an ugly extremist even within his own party. His idea of reconciliation with those who had been dragged to America in chains? Ranting on the Senate floor against a holiday for Martin Luther King, who was gunned down peacefully struggling for the American rights Helms dedicated his miserable life to crushing.
The foreign policy of Helms was no different. Dictators and right-wing death squads never had a better friend than Jesse Helms, who used his control of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to push his own sick version of diplomacy, rewarding monsters with money and weapons from Washington.
His elections were always narrow victories, his campaigns based on motivating just enough angry white racists to the polls to give him another six years of hateful rule.
Fathered by a vicious, racist cop in the rural North Carolina hill country, Helms cowardly evaded combat in World War II by working as a Navy recruiter safe at home in the South. He was too dumb and lazy to graduate college, but mean enough to go to work for segregationist Democrats, where he spread rumors that his political opponents went out with black women, and wrote campaign material like this:
"White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories?"
He drifted to AM radio, ranting against the Negro. He wound up on the local TV news, giving the wingnut commentary at the end of the broadcast. His enemies were the same as always: "Negro hoodlums," the United Nations, "sex perverts," poor people.
For a dozen years he spewed his hate through the North Carolina airwaves, which was enough to -- barely -- win one of the state's Senate seats. He would never win by more than 55%
Once in Washington, Dixiecrat Helms became the new, stupid face of the Republican Party, the party that left behind intellectualism and civil rights and took up the Southern Strategy of pandering to bitter white losers while actively working against that same white working class. Helms was the perfect hack, the kind of lifelong fraud who made his career on the ignorant resentments of the same people he screwed so hard by always representing the mill owners and the tobacco corporations.
He was mean, cheap, petty and unloved. He was the ugliest kind of bigot and a stain on America. Anybody who says different is a liar.
Ken Layne is editor of Wonkette