The Daily Show, Chris Hayes, and Rachel Maddow are having a field day with NC Republicans over racial issues. My favorite part of Hayes and Maddow's reporting is that the Republican governor of NC went to an event honoring the late U.S. Senator Jesse Helms. I can't help but wonder though what Helms would make of his fellow NC Republicans nowadays. I suspect he would think, "You bunch of damn dummies."
What a minute? Why would Helms think that people like Yelton or Pittman were dummies? Wasn't Helms an unrepentant racist?
To many who have lived in NC for an extended period of time, like myself, it was painfully obvious that Helms was a racist. However, from my experience with Helms voters, there was this incredible high hurdle set to prove that Helms was a racist. As long as Helms did not use a racial slur that was captured on video tape, there was no proof that Helms was racist.
And Helms was never stupid enough to get caught saying a racial slur in public.
Helms was a radio and TV broadcaster, and he knew how to get his racist message across without alienating so called "swing" voters in NC. The swing voters were people who would vote for Helms because he was a "fiscal conservative" or for low taxes. But these same voters would feel less inclined to pull the lever for Helms if it was proved that he was a racist.
So Helms would go right up to the edge of the line with regards to racial matters, but he would never say any racial slurs. Yes, he would talk about busing, crime, welfare queens, racial quotas, the "bloc" vote, and Martin Luther King as a communist. And to swing voters who made the difference in all his elections, it was just Helms being a truth teller.
Oh, Helms had a nice little epithet that he coined for private conversations: Freds. According to the Wall Street Journal, Helms would refer to African Americans as "Freds." If an African American constituent asked something of Helms, he would tell his staff, "What does that Fred want?" So even in a more relaxed setting, Helms would not let his guard down. Besides, who in NC among Helms voter is going to read the Wall Street Journal?
Now, fast forward to the present. We have dummies like Yelton telling the truth about their feelings and political intentions. I say dummies because Republicans are not to go on the record with their racism. When you do, swing voters no longer have the luxury to vote Republican with a guilt free conscience. Supporting the Yelton's and Pittman's of the world is condoning racism. And condoning racism is ugly, and it is one thing that swing voters don't want to be.
So I think that if Helms was still alive, he would be privately telling his fellow NC Republicans that they were stupid.