Dick Lugar Is Dead, and the Ghost of Jesse Helms Haunts the Nation

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., died last month, 45 days after his great Democratic Indiana rival, Sen. Birch Bayh. But these days the country is haunted by the Tarheel ghost of Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C.The three senators, who served together for four years (1977-1981), embodied competing forces in American politics: reformist for Bayh, conservative for Lugar, and white nationalist for Helms.Reformists try to change the political system to empower those who have been shut out. Politicians who are conservatives (note the small "c") try to slow the speed of change to preserve the good parts of existing societies. Nationalists try to reverse the tide of change, preserving a "national" political system that disproportionally benefits their supporters.Scholars for centuries have used these categories to analyze politics, with a recent American version presented by political scientists Rogers Smith and Angus King. Their theory conceives of U.S. nationalism as "white nationalism," since whites (particularly older whites) have possessed disproportionate power in Colonial and post-Revolutionary America.  Continue reading...

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