The Corner

More Helms & Conservative Principles

From a longtime reader:

Dear Jonah,

I read your post Affirm the Stereotype or Be Stereotypical! and was frankly a bit surprised. The Jonah I used to look forward to reading in the magazine and author of the G-Files used to make the principled argument that conservative thought and many conservatives supported ideas such as states’ rights and federalism because the ideas themselves were sound. Even that Goldberg admitted that there were less principled fellow-travellers who signed on because of race. At least I think I remember that. Back to Helms, I think he was a principled conservative, and I would be fine with hearing conservatives extol his pugnacious defense and advancement of conservativism, but ignoring his problems with race is really appalling. Honestly. Do we really need to go through his many, many racist statements [If so here is a non-comprehensive list]  or his puzzling–puzzling only if you honeslty believe he wasn’t a racist–problem with creating an MLK holiday? Many of us liberals have discussions with conservatives all the time, respect them, and don’t assume conservatives are racists, but this circle the wagons defense of Helms is just odd. I realize that times are tough for Republicans at the moment, but I think it is counterproductive to take this line on Helms, as well as intellectually specious, craven even. It wouldn’t be throwing him under the bus to make a differentiated argument about the good and bad (from a conservative point of view) that he has done. I’m sorry you don’t see that.

Me: I’ll have more thoughts on this when I’m finished with my column deadline.  

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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