Throughout his lengthy career, Jesse Helms did the Republican Party no favors. A shambling, verminous bag of bigotry, Helms' presence at the forefront of the Republican party served mainly to ensure that the cartoon image of the GOP as a haven for vile racists always had a tinge of truth to it. Helms emphasized so many GOP negatives, that it's really sort of sad to see so many conservatives stumbling over themselves to praise him.
But even as Helms brought out the worst side of the fringey right, there was an opposing upside, in that he inspired some wonderful oppositional activism. Via Towleroad/Rex Wockner, we can cast our minds back seventeen years ago, to the day seven activists from ACT UP came to Arlington, Virginia, and put a giant condom over Helms' house.