Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, [date unknown]. Interview A-0140. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Democratic coalitions are necessary after intraparty elections to garner public support

This passage highlights a theme that runs throughout this interview. Within a competitive two-party system, Democrats must unite their factions after internal elections in order to preserve the party. The failure to develop a coalition from the splintered factions results in voter disinterest.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, [date unknown]. Interview A-0140. 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

TERRY SANFORD:
...I think the party, in any state, has to get together in the fall, if you're going to have open primary elections. Because there's so much bitterness, even healthy bitterness developed in the primary, that you've got to heal those wounds. Galifianakis didn't have many wounds to heal, but he had been right vicious against Jordan. Jordan was an old line regular, that felt a sense of obligation to dutifully support the nominee. But he felt terribly offended at some of the things that he perceived that Galifianakis had gone and said. He was not an enthusiastic supporter, but he did, in a dutiful way, speak for the ticket. As did Sam Ervin. But we did not get the party together in the governor's race, and this was Bowles' fundamental mistake, it seems to me. I don't fully understand it, and I'll simply comment on it in response to your question. You have to get the party together. He failed to get the party together. Now, if he'd have won, who could have questioned him, but it'd been done. He'd done it his way, and he'd come out the governor with the absolute mandate. But he didn't have the sense of coalition that I thought was essential. And I was worried from the first of the summer about it. I later asked one of his very close associates, about Christmas time, and they'd had a month and a half to think about it, if he thought Skipper was going to run again. We might talk about some of the mistakes. Otherwise, let's just forget about it and get on down to this Christmas oyster roast. He said, "He didn't make any mistakes." After Skipper decided to tell Pat Taylor and Scott to go to hell - and I don't think he quite decided to tell them to go to hell, but for all appearances from their points of view, he did tell them to go to hell - and he failed to bring the party together. Now could the party have been brought together? Could Taylor have been brought in? Could Scott have been mobilized? I suspect that some of Scott's closest associates supported Holshouser. You would know more about that than I, perhaps, but I think they did. I think they resented Skipper's treatment of Scott, especially after he got the nomination. And I know Taylor's people were terribly resentful that Skipper more or less told them that they were on the second string. And that's simply not good politics in a two party state. And it, I would say more than anything else lost it. You . . . I'm sure you have some other views on it, and I'm not basing mine on any studies or trends. I take it that in the past . . . in the last two or three weeks that it began to break against Bowles, and not until then. That he had . . . he was riding pretty much of a majority until then. Again, I don't . . . I wasn't following any polls. But that I could see resentment building up and I tried to communicate this. And I even sent Bill Wright a couple of notes about it. Even I couldn't get through to them much. And I'm saying the pressures of the campaign . . . I'm not complaining about it. But when I say "even I," if I couldn't get through to them, certainly some Taylor supporter in Gaston County couldn't get through to them. They began to feel that they'd be better off with Holshouser in there than Bowles. And I went back to '60s, a whole lot of people were saying, "I think it'd be better to have a Republican than to have Sanford. If we elect Sanford, he'll be in the saddle for twenty years, and if we can put up with four years of one Republican and then we'll start over . . . " Well, there weren't enough of those people. That was the old guard. Lake didn't support me, you see, and I had to put up with that kind of opposition. He didn't support the opposition. He campaigned, best I could observe, for Thomas Jefferson. But he didn't support me. Morgan did, enthusiastically, and that got to what I . . . If I could have traveled, as I did, with Morgan, with great appreciation . . . He introduced me, spoke for me, went to rallies I couldn't go to. He carried the Lake forces back around to me, or I would have lost. Especially carrying Kennedy. And I think that was a fundamental mistake, and I think that's the lesson, that the nominee has simply got to make it the first order of business, to heal the primary wounds. And that sore. To keep the two party system, We never knew it before.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Well, you really didn't have a two party system before.
TERRY SANFORD:
I say, we never knew it before.
WALTER DE VRIES:
You didn't know it until . . .
JACK BASS:
One of the interesting . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
I think Skipper was getting on dangerous ground and really didn't realize it, because there was no precedent.
JACK BASS:
One of the interesting statistics we've uncovered was that in 1960, of the eleven states of the old Confederacy, North Carolina had the highest rate of participation in the presidential election. In 1972, North Carolina ranked ninth among the eleven states in participation of eligible voters, and actually, only two of the eleven states had declined. Everybody else was going up in the South. And we're trying to figure out why. One of my hunches on this is it may be that this alienation within the party just resulted in a lot of stay-at-homes in November.