[Fred] Barnes tried to argue that Helms, like Reagan, reoriented the political debate. "Positions he noisily took in Washington two decades ago, almost alone," wrote Barnes, "are now part of mainstream conservatism. Among them: the balanced-budget amendment, a flat tax, school prayer, curbs on food stamps, legislation banning abortion." Of course, what the items on that list have in common, with the possible and partial exception of limits on food stamps, is that none is a whit closer to enactment or broad acceptance than it was 20 years ago.
In 1997, Barnes asked: "Would the House have voted to kill the National Endowment for the Arts on July 10 if Helms hadn't first zinged the agency in 1989 for funding obscene art and roasted it regularly since then? Not a chance." Five years later, the NEA is not only alive but thriving, its budget up by 16 percent since 1997. If you are a conservative, pray that Jesse Helms does not take up your cause