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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Claude Pepper, February 1, 1974. Interview A-0056. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The South continues on its rightward course

Pepper has not seen much of a return to liberalism on the part of young congressmen entering the House of Representative in the 1970s. He thinks these politicians may be afraid of turning to the left because of institutional pressure from anti-union interests and others. Pepper regrets that party interests seem to trump the best interests of Florida.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Claude Pepper, February 1, 1974. Interview A-0056. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WALTER DE VRIES:
Is that attitude changing with the newer freshmen members that are Democrats from the South?
CLAUDE PEPPER:
I don't know . . . maybe . . . well, I don't know. I haven't seen much change in the new members. Some of the new members . . . we have a new man from Florida, Gunter from Orlando, who is fairly liberal. He's a new first-timer. There should be an improvement in it on the part of the younger people, but I don't know. Maybe they think they can't survive if they take a liberal attitude. And I was the only conspicuous liberal among the southerners, the most, I think. And of course, they finally defeated me and tried to destroy me. One of the campaign finance people of Smathers, who defeated me in '50, told me that he personally received $700,000 from the Republicans in the North, that they sent down to Florida to use against me, because I was a friend of labor. He spent at least two million dollars altogether. So, maybe a lot of the younger men are fearful of coming out too strongly for the liberal point of view. Because today, it's generally assumed that you can't be too liberal to get elected in the South. It's generally accepted. But I don't know what the reason for it is, I wish that I knew, and I wish that there was something that I could do about it. Because my people have lived in the South every since the early days of the country and I love the South. It's my home. I was born and reared in Alabama. It's been a source of painful regret to me to see the conservative sentiment that there is in the South in the last two years, we had a man, Leroy Collins, who was a liberal governor of Florida, and yet, this man Gurney, whose record has been so tainted by associations of corruption, defeated him by 250,000 votes. In Florida, in the Senate race. It is generally considered that a man who is what they call an "extreme liberal" or really just a good Democrat, would have difficulty winning a statewide race for the Senate, although Gunter is probably going to have a fair chance in the Senate race that is going on down there now. He is rather liberal in his attitude.