Mainstreaming the Fringe
This epilogue considers Helms’s place in the conservative movement and the rise of the New Right during the 1970s and President Ronald Reagan’s first term. Mastering the chamber’s complex rules, he adapted pious incitement to the Senate. Helms raised issues many believed settled: abortion, school prayer, détente, and the Panama Canal. Helms’s purpose, which he never lost sight of, was to build the conservative movement. The issues he championed were critical in conservative fund-raising and campaigning. He played a crucial role in the formation of the New Right network. Helms built the National Congressional Club, which raised money, elected conservatives, and helped establish other New Right organizations. Helms’s organization provided Ronald Reagan with critical funding and advice in the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns. Helms won reelection in 1978 while helping other conservative Republicans win election in 1978 and 1980. These conservative victories shifted the U.S. political center to the right, achieving the transformation of national politics that Helms had coveted since the 1950s. Helms faced his closest electoral contest in the 1984 senatorial race against Governor Jim Hunt. The Helms campaign beat Hunt with a negative television ad campaign of unprecedented intensity and duration.
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