Ding-Dong, Jesse Helms is Dead

First Jerry Falwell, now Jesse Helms. One by one, the famous bigots of America are contributing their best (and last) service to this nation’s progress -- they’re dying. 

BY Choire Sicha

July 30 2008 12:00 AM ET

Jesse Helms as Witch -- smaller (Tom Nick Cocotos) | Advocate.com

Nowadays the
political marketplace simply offers fewer rewards for
outright bigotry. (Helms’s increasing isolation as a
lawmaker in the latter part of his tenure, which ended
in 2003, was proof that he, as The Washington Post
put it, “often took stands that isolated him
from the left and the right.”) Compared to a Helms or
a Falwell, today’s bigots wield little real
power besides that of the comfort of blather. They
feed a conservative viewpoint -- but in actual effect
they more closely resemble institutions like the Roman
Catholic Church, which instructs its followers to do
one thing (reject contraception and abortion, for
example) but knows that many of them will do just the
opposite (according to the Guttmacher Institute, Catholic
women are almost as likely to have an abortion as
nonreligious women).

Today’s
just-for-profit pundits lack the power of a Helms or the
pulpit of a Falwell. And they’re getting pretty
old themselves. Syndicated conservative talker Michael
Alan Weiner, who does business under the name Michael
Savage, is 66. Sure, he’s psychotically antigay, and
he reaches something like 10 million listeners. But
think about it. Savage’s audience is much
smaller than the number of folks who grew up absorbing
Sesame Street’s overarching message that “one
of these things is not like the other, but
that’s OK.”

The talking heads
on Fox News Channel and other cable outlets do espouse
a popular conservative agenda, but they’re still what
a Helms would call members of the coastal, cultural
elite. And what of professional opinion-haver Rush
Limbaugh, who’s relatively young at 57? His $38
million contract, three divorces, and arrests on drug
charges assure that he no longer carries much moral
clout with conservatives.

Also supposedly
on the bigot circuit is 46-year-old Ann Coulter. But she
isn’t a threat to gays in the slightest. Actually,
according to mutual friends, she loves them -- though
some pals have dropped her as she’s become more
unhinged. (Calling John Edwards a “faggot”
didn’t help.)

Tags: Politics

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