I was saddened to read of the death of Jesse Helms, who--fittingly-- passed on to His Maker early this morning.
"We'll never forget how he battled, especially during those first lonely years, to protect our liberties, preserve our family values and keep America strong. There he was, standing day after day to a government Goliath, crying out like a voice in the wilderness," former President Ronald Reagan said in a 1983 speech. "Bit by bit, he became more than a lonely crusader. He grew into a lionhearted leader of a great and growing army."
Many political observers credit Helms' support for catapulting Reagan to the presidency in 1980 and accelerating the conservative agenda – cutting taxes at home, fighting communism abroad and opposing many government social programs – at the national level. He also served as Reagan's right flank for years, allowing the president to make political compromises as needed. "(I decided to) stay to the right of the president's right and make it easier for Reagan to be Reagan," Helms wrote in his memoir.
We all owe him a debt of gratitude. It will take courage for someone to take up this mantle--and yet in the time since his retirement in 2002, there has been no singular replacement. RIP, from an appreciative bystander.