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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Jesse’s Way

I’ve written a review for the latest issue of the Washington Monthly of a new biography entitled Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism, by William A. Link.
You can judge the review, and the book, for yourself. But I did want to note here that it’s astonishing how much impact the crazily extremist Helms had on the contemporary conservative movement and Republican Party. The politics of cultural reaction, partisan polarization, legislative obtructionism, and foreign policy unilateralism were all pioneered by Helms, who also helped create the Right’s ideological small donor base. He was the living link between the Old Right (including its racist and isolationist wings) and the modern Right. And it’s only in the context of the radicalized Republican Party Helms helped create that politicians like John McCain can be perceived as “centrist.”
Helms also personally mentored a host of young conservative zealots, among them Charlie Black, the Super Lobbyist who is now in McCain’s inner circle.
Jesse did a lot of damage to the body politic in his long career, but I’m afraid his legacy lives on.

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