Jesse Helms on Compromise in Politics–Don’t Do It!

A reference request today led me to this editorial that Jesse Helms penned for the January 1959 issue of the Tar Heel Banker. The magazine was a monthly publication from the North Carolina Bankers Association. Helms served as executive director of the group for much of the 1950s and, in that capacity, also served as editor of the publication. Some of the lines from this Helms editorial, titled “Compromise into Oblivion” are often quoted. But the full context and source are rarely cited.

As Congress and the President renew their efforts to avert the “fiscal cliff,” let’s hope compromise is little more appealing than Helms suggests.

If you happen to be a devotee of U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey, you’ll just have to forgive us. We want no part of the Humphrey way of doing things, and, frankly, all this recent effort to picture the Minnesota Senator as some sort of international statesman gives us a pain.

We’ll acknowledge one thing about the man and then we’ll retreat no further. He is a talking machine of considerable persistence and energy. But any citizen entertaining the barest idea that the Senator has any strong leanings towards free enterprise, anti-socialism or fundamental Constitutional government had better beware.

There is one valuable lesson to learn from observing Senator Humphrey’s record, however. And it is a lesson that today’s faint-hearted leaders in the so-called right wing might well study. The lesson: don’t give up just because you’re in the minority.

When Humphrey went to the Senate in 1948, he was in the minority. Not only that, he was considered by his fellow Senators to be a sort of eloquent joke. But Humphrey wasn’t joking. He was a left-winger and he didn’t mind playing the role. He talked and he screamed; he raved and he ranted. Though his fellow Senators chalked him up as a publicity-seeking ineffectuality—which he was—Humphrey was betting that the trend was moving his way. It was.

So, today Senator Humphrey has achieved a degree of success that not even he expected ten years ago. His plea for bigger, more powerful government has been answered. His so-called civil rights program has been thrust, almost entirely, upon the South. The liberals are in the saddle everywhere and complete socialism is just around the corner.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? But if you doubt it, just look around you. Measure the prospects for 1959 and the years beyond. Point if you can to the slightest glimmer of hope for those who believe in less government control, less government expenditures, less taxation.

But even these are not the worst signs of the times. Worse than the trend itself is the attitude of those holding public office who privately do not like or agree with the trend. But are they doing anything about it? Don’t be silly!

The only men in a position to do something about it are faint-hearted!

At a time when this nation needs men of courage, what do we hear? We hear statements that the South “may be able to compromise” with those who would destroy the very fundamentals that made this country great.

Compromise, hell! That’s what has happened to us all down the line—and that’s the very cause of our woes. If freedom is right and tyranny is wrong, why should those who believe in freedom treat it as if it were a roll of bologna to be bartered a slice at the time?

There are worse things in this world than to be in the minority. Indeed, the majority may be a myth feeding on the timidity of those who mistakenly believe they are in the minority.

Hubert Humphrey was not afraid of being in the minority ten years ago. Today he is trotting secrets between Kruschev and Eisenhower. Tomorrow he may be president.

All he needs is a few more compromises. Given them, he has the persistence and energy to talk his way into the White House.