Helms' departure is welcome

Goodbye, Jesse Helms, hello Elizabeth Dole!

Helms, arguably the most conservative and powerful politician of the last half of the 20th century, is numbering his days on Capitol Hill.

Should we embrace one another in solemn remembrance of him?

Hell no!

Raise your hands to the sky and praise glory that Homophobe No. 1, the man with the hate, the mortal enemy of federal arts funding, is headed home to Raleigh, N.C. In 2003, Helms is leaving to die in the garbage in which he was raised.

It is not hard to explain the reason for this article — one intended to create mass hatred for a man — considering I am speaking as the voice of a liberal institution.

Helms is against most of what this university stands for: the implementation of diversity and the openness to give students a liberal education. Over the years, “”Senator No”” has attacked many things that had possible repercussions at UCSD.

In 1984, he was influential in arguing to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts. That year, in Cincinnati, the Coalition for Family Values brought a suit against a museum that planned to show an NEA project by Robert Mapplethorpe. Some of the project’s pictures had homosexual and pornographic content. Nonetheless, it was art.

Many believe that Helms, who seems to be influential in the CFV, was trying to curb First Amendment rights. The excuse was that the NEA’s money is government money and that its projects should therefore fit a particular “”moral”” character — according to, well, Helms himself.

The coalition lost the case. Even so, damage had already been done to the NEA. The status of the NEA has been questioned ever since.

Jesse Helms ultimately gave up the fight, in a famous congressional deal that was called “”Corn for Porn.”” The NEA was allowed to continue giving its liberal grants while Helms and his conservative peers were appeased with higher corn prices for their farmer constituents.

Helms took advantage of a situation ripe for controversy. He is ingenious here in that he knew that the NEA was important enough to Democrats that they would engage in collective pork barreling to protect it.

Helms’ unease with “”moral”” change is what has defined his career and given him his nickname.

Before entering politics, he was a television broadcaster and an aide for segegrationist senatorial candidate Willis Smith.

Yes, that’s right: segregationist. Helms is from the segregationist camp. Segregation is the ultimate fight against change.

During those days, Helms was a conservative Democrat. The party divide that came with President Lyndon B. Johnson in the late 1960s steered Helms into the Republican Party.

He was elected to the Senate in 1972 and has served his North Carolina constituents ever since.

He has been most influential in the last few years of his career. In 1995, he was elected chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and could broadcast his views from that perch. Helms had the power to stall much legislation to satisfy his own agenda.

For example, he helped stall the confirmation vote on openly gay James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel was finally sworn in in June 1999 after a November 1997 recommendation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Most recently, Helms helped pass a bill to protect the Boy Scouts of America from being excluded from meeting on public property — schools and the like — based on the organization’s own discrimination against homosexuals.

Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, summed up the views of the gay community on Helms’ approaching retirement.

“”Senator Helms has used his power at every turn to harm the [gay] community and people with AIDS,”” she said. “”His retirement is not unwelcome at all. We hope this is a signal that that generation of anti-gay activism is coming to an end.””

There is much to celebrate. First, the old bat won’t be there to combat every liberal bill on the Senate agenda.

The opinion of the political community, and me, is that Helms is not seeking re-election because he was just released from his duties as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman. He has been replaced by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) due to the Senate’s political reshuffling, which was caused by Sen. James Jefford’s decision to become an independent.

It is not only Helms who will be returning home from Capitol Hill.

Some of his old partners are following his lead. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas and Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina are also going to throw in the towel.

The reshuffling in the Senate could continue if these senators are not all replaced by Republicans, although Helms’ seat has been all but promised to Dole.

2003 will be a year to remember, even if it is still two years away. The country’s harshest critics of “”moral indecency”” are marching home to the South.

I’ve already heard that several organizations in the liberal, gay and artist communities plan to hold “”retirement parties”” for the senators.

I would like to attend.

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