I'll also never forget the recent attempt to whitewash his rampant homophobia by trying to portray him as having "softened" by embracing global AIDS funding later in his life.
Ya know, I'm not sure that late is better than never. Undoing a lifetime of truly evil words and behavior by "softening resistance" at the end of your career does not, in my mind, entitle this person to avoid the legacy that he has created, by his own stubborn and narrow-minded choices.
He never attempted to see things from the other person's perspective. He never listened and he never admitted that he was wrong. I have experience with negative politics. Jesse Helms was the king of it. He knew how to strike fear into the heart of working class people everywhere. He used "God" and gays to convince voters who don't follow politics that he was their man. He also knew where his bread was buttered.
Jesse Helms was a big friend of big tobacco. As the major crop produced by the Carolinas, Jesse fought hard to defeat legislation that would impinge on tobacco companies in any way, shape or form. He didn't care that people, not only in our home state of NC but people all over the world, were getting sick and dying horrible deaths from tobacco. He only cared that big tobacco continued to funnel big money into his campaign war chest.
Jesse had a national constituency. Right wing, racist, homophobic zealots all over the US rallied with the bucks whenever he needed them. Send out a few letters with a drag queen on the front and he could guarantee a flood of cash.
During one of his senate campaigns for re-election in 1990, while I was still living in North Carolina, I got involved directly with the fight to oust Jesse. I volunteered for Harvey Gantt's campaign, the former mayor of Charlotte and the first African American nominee for US Senate in North Carolina. I attended my first state Democratic convention as a delegate that year and was mesmerized by Mr. Gantt's intelligence, heart and passion.
It was a battle from the beginning. I poured a lot of my heart and soul that year into doing what I could for the Democrats. Harvey, much like Barack Obama this year, was the inspirational leader that I could get behind.
Unfortunately, Jesse won again with familiar and ultimately dishonest tactics. According to the Raleigh News and Observer around that time, "Republican Party operatives came forward as having worked within the Democratic Party of North Carolina. The Helms' campaign then used well-crafted TV ads against affirmative action. An advisor to Helms at the time, Charles R. Black, Jr. has since gone to work as chief campaign adviser for John McCain. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Gantt for more.
He never won an election in North Carolina by a landslide, but managed, through despicable campaigning, to hold on to his office until his health finally led to his retirement from the Senate in 2003.
His seat was taken over by Elizabeth "Libby" Dole, wife of unsuccessful presidential candidate for the Republican Party and Viagra spokesman, Bob Dole. A right wing conservative in her own right, Libby Dole has continued the tradition of rubber stamping essentially every position that her party leadership tells her to vote for. A recent estimate of her voting agreement with Bush is 88% (http://www.newsobserver.com/659/story/1187072.html) suggesting that there is nothing new, or even interesting about this token Republican woman.
Who, then is Kay Hagan? I discovered, amongst the tons of emails I received from Democratic and other progressive operatives daily, that Kay Hagan is Libby Dole's current Democratic opponent for the NC Senate seat. And I learned that she is leading Libby, albeit by a small margin (3%) at this point in time.
I don't know her and I don't follow her. But I sent her a small donation today because it's time to take down the Republican reign in my home state. For all the racist campaigning against affirmative action, for all the homophobic scapegoating, big tobacco protecting, and AIDS funding preventing, it's time to send a message that we want our state back.
And if you find out anything bad about Ms. Hagan, like she doesn't support gay rights or "Republican Light"...don't tell me.