Oral History Interview with Jesse Helms
"Jesse Helms, at the beginning of a long career as a Republican senator from North Carolina, discusses his entry into politics, describes some of his political positions, and reflects on the state of the Republican Party. A Democrat, Helms was inspired to switch parties after hearing a speech delivered by Richard Nixon; shortly after doing so, he won a Senate seat. In the Senate, and in this interview, he argued forcefully against busing to achieve desegregation, against the welfare system, and against government interference in the free market. At the time of this interview, in 1974, he does not see a significant political shift in North Carolina's future despite the recent, historic election of a Republican as governor. He maintains that voters cast their ballots for candidates rather than for parties. The issues that Helms hopes to engage include what he sees as family values—which would indeed come to dominate political discourse—and the racial issues that signaled the growing strength of the frustrated white voters who would cast their votes for Republicans in the 1970s and 1980s. This interview provides a useful look into the mind of one of the most influential southern senators of the post-1960s era, as well as into the budding conservative movement. "