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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Thoughts on the GOP post-Goldwater

Holshouser reflects on the Republican Party after Barry Goldwater in this portion of the interview. The GOP of the 1960s was less divided than it was at the time of this interview, Holshouser believes, and the divisions that existed were drawn by personality rather than ideology. He does, however, remember some nascent ideological wings of the party, such as the John Birch Society. In seeking to smooth over disputes with the John Birchers, Holshouser believes he helped build the party.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. 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

JACK FLEER:
Could you describe those, sort of the composition of what you see as those two groups, the old guard and the new guard? Were there any issue components or ideological components?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I think Goldwater's campaign in 1964 ignited a lot of interest in the Republican Party all over the South. Even though he only carried five states, I guess there were a lot of people who came into the Republican party because of that campaign and who ended up as leaders, congressmen, governors, state chairmen over the next decade in particular. Because they hadn't had the background of the past, there was just a different approach, may be a better way to say it. A lot of times the issues, their positions on different issues, weren't that different than other people who had been there. But just a little bit more hard nose, a little bit more impatient as opposed to the populist kind of Republicanism that had been in the mountains and foothills and in a few odd places like Sampson County; some of it left over from the Civil War I think.
JACK FLEER:
So you didn't see any clear ideological differences in the party at the time, even though the Goldwater experience was very recent.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I think it was more personalities. Now political scientist would argue with me about that perhaps and I can see some philosophical differences. But the lines weren't nearly as well drawn then, as it seems to me that they are today at times.
JACK FLEER:
The lines within the Republican Party?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Right. Although, there are several different lines in the Republican Party. There is not just one. I believe that it was more over power and control than it was philosophy, personalities involved. There may have been those who thought that the old guard was more interested in post office politics and patronage when we won the presidency than they were in getting out and winning elections. Now that certainly wasn't the case for me. Life was too short, I thought, to be involved in things if you weren't going to win. I mean that may be for some people it just wasn't for me.
JACK FLEER:
Were there beyond these ideological, or possible nascent ideological components, were there other groups beyond what you referred to earlier as the old guard and new guard that you had to be concerned about during that election and in fact while you were chairman of the party?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well during the time that I was going to state conventions in the 1960s, we had a fairly vocal group that would come to our convention who were members of John Birch Society. They would always come in with a specific set of resolutions that they wanted to see the convention adopt. At first it really bothered me and we would have some knock down drag outs.
JACK FLEER:
Publicly?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
On the floor over the resolutions. Because they always stepped it out one more notch over issues that people weren't use to talking about for the most part. And I finally concluded though that resolutions adopted at a state convention didn't amount to anything more than at most a sub-headline in the next day's paper. After that they were forgotten. And I finally just said I wasn't going to worry about them. Let them introduce them at the tail end of the convention when the resolutions got looked at. If the convention adopted them, fine; if not, fine. I just wasn't going to worry about them. Made my sense about the convention much more comfortable.
JACK FLEER:
Did that cause you any difficulties while being chairman or did it in fact garner you new friends or at least respect?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I think that people recognized from the early dealings with these resolutions that I was not going to be supportive of the resolutions but at the same time they started coming to the same conclusions that I did because some of us talked about it that it wasn't worth having all these fights about. I think it was part of a goal I had at the convention of Republicans that we were too small to be fragmented. That we needed to find that 90% of the ground that we could agree on and just not worry about the 10% until we got to be a majority. And I think looking back over time I have a real sense of not personal accomplishment, but a real sense of having been part of an historical evolvement of change within the state in terms of building the two party system because I think that has been healthy. And the state will be better off for it in the long run.