If Jesse Helms was an exemplar of contemporary American conservatism, then contemporary American conservatism is not a viewpoint a decent and well-informed person could hold.

Not-And is a two-place logical operator that assumes the value “true” unless both of its arguments are true. If

Not-And (A,B)

then A might be true, or B might be true, or neither, but not both.

If two predicates P and R are mutually inconsistent, then

Not-And (X is P, X is R)

is analytic: you know it’s true even if you don’t know what X is, because it must be true for any X.

For example:

Not-And (X is healthy, X is dead)

X might be neither healthy or dead: X might be sick, or imaginary, or a boulder, or the key of C minor, or the cube root of 7. But we can be sure, just as a matter of logic, that X is not both healthy and dead; that follows from the meanings of the terms “healthy” and “dead.”

For another example:

Not-And (A,B)


A = “Contemporary American conservatism is a political viewpoint that a decent, intelligent, well-informed human being might hold.”


B = “Jesse Helms was a central figure in contemporary American conservatism.”

Yes, yes, de mortuis nil nisi bonum and all that. I don’t expect conservatives to piss on poor Jesse’s gravesite, since that won’t help cool him down where he is now. And I would have preferred to maintain a decent silence until the grass had grown around the headstone.

But if the editors of the National Review think that Jesse Helms, who devoted a career to maintaining second-class citizenship for black and gay people and who supported tyrants and terrorists, was “a great American patriot,” then I don’t agree with them about the meaning of the term “American patriot,” since I don’t consider it patriotic to hate everything the country stands for.

I do tend to agree with them that Jesse Helms was an exemplar “mainstream conservatism.” But that says something very, very ugly about the movement of which NR is one of the flagships. Try to think of a comparable figure in American liberalism: someone who built a career on raw hatred, never repented, and lived and died a respected leader.

Ross Douthat’s approach is far more honorable. He says frankly that he agreed with Helms’s positions on some issues but would prefer to find someone who held those positions but wasn’t a flaming bigot.

However, as a practical matter I doubt that conservatism without its accompanying bigotries could ever command a voting majority. The targets of bigotry shift over time: Jews and Catholics, for example, are no longer fashionable hate-objects, and blacks, career women, and gays are becoming less and less so. That’s why the Good Lord made Muslims, atheists, and “illegal aliens.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: