Admiring Jesse Helms - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Admiring Jesse Helms

Matt Yglesias passes along an anecdote about Jesse Helms saying something unflattering about interracial marriage while criticizing some college protesters, concluding snarkily “And George Bush, Mitch McConnell, National Review, and the Heritage Foundation admire [Helms] greatly.” As if any of them admire Helms because of his 1960s racial views rather than in spite of them.

The “hands” ad was perfectly legitimate and a factually accurate description of the impact racial preferences can have on white workers. But Helms did have an actual, regrettable record as a racial segregationist early in his career (though he did in fact shift toward color-blind rhetoric and policies later in his career, even if he didn’t apologize for his past statements). He defended policies that hurt and denied opportunities to his black fellow Americans. Conservatives should not minimize that or pretend he was an early Ward Connerly. Neither should they discard all recognition of Helms’s real, substantial, and, yes, admirable accomplishments just because he was, like all of us, a product of his time and place. Perhaps Yglesias should have read that Soujourners article for its message of charity as well as for its anecdotes.

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