Friday, July 04, 2008

Jesse Helms has passed away

It's being reported at this hour that Jesse Helms, who served in the United States Senate longer than any other North Carolinian, has passed away at the age of 86.

Let's go ahead and get it out of the way: yes, Helms did some things in his day that to current sensibilities were very callous, even downright crude. The "white hands" television ad that he ran against Harvey Gantt in 1990 was one of the first things that really made me take notice at how dirty the political process had become (that alone was enough to make me vow, even back then, that I'd never run a negative ad aimed against a person if I were to enter politics). And then there was his early career at WRAL in Raleigh, which some people will quickly ascribe some nastier connotations to.

But I still voted for Helms in the 1996 election. And if he were able to run again, I'd vote for him once more. Because disagree with him on some things though I did (and still do), I could not doubt his sincerity in doing what he believed was in the best interest of the people he was sworn to serve... and that's a quality that is hard to find anymore.

Whatever else could be said about the man, it cannot be denied that Jesse Helms was a product of his time, and to that he did hold faithful and true. Whatever your political stripe, he's owed a measure of respect for that. And I think that when the books are finally written on his life, he's going to emerge as one of the most influential - if not also among the most enigmatic - figures of American politics in the past half-century. I will even go so far to say that in the greater scheme of things Helms did far more good than any harm attributed to him... and the full appreciation for that is still to come.

Rest in peace, Senator Helms.


Anonymous said...

How the hell can you admit that you voted for Helms and not call yourself a conservative?

Chris Knight said...

I vote for the candidate, not the party. Always have and always will.

Not once have I voted a straight ticket. In my mind, voting for a party - to any degree - is so lazy as to demonstrate that the voter doing it has no business voting at all.

I don't know if I've even considered Helms to be a "conservative". He was just a man trying to follow his principles, and that's all I saw him as.

In my time I've voted for Republicans, Democrats, independents, Libertarians and Constitution Party candidates. I know that no candidate is perfect, but it takes a LOT to convince me that he or she is not worth considering for my vote at all.

I can boast with pride that not once did I vote for a Clinton or a Bush. Parse that as you will...

Anonymous said...

Do you think Clinton did what he believed to be "in the best interest of the people he was sworn to serve?" How about Bush?

Anonymous said...

Even in death, some people hate the man. I wonder if his grave will become an annual pilgrimmage site for liberals with full bladders.

Rest well deserve it.

Chris Knight said...

"Do you think Clinton did what he believed to be "in the best interest of the people he was sworn to serve?" How about Bush?"

Heck no!

The past two presidential administrations have been guided by no principle other than egotism and greed.

And it will be no different regardless of who wins this next election for President.

I do not trust anyone whose first priority in high office is the establishing of their "legacy". I do trust someone who adheres to their principles, however unpopular that might be to do, and simply tries to do right for its own sake.

You wanna know who my personal favorite Senator from North Carolina was? It was Sam Ervin. Way more than Helms, he was a man who wasn't defined by party. And even though they were from different parties, nobody today doubts that both men had the people of their state at heart, rather than how they themselves would be viewed by history.

I like to think that history will be kind to both Helms and Ervin, though.

That can't be said for Clinton or Bush Jr.

Anonymous said...

Long live Senator NO!