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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 >>

Minimizing ideological differences between himself and Jesse Helms

Holshouser reflects on the ideological division between himself and Jesse Helms, a divide he downplays. As he considers political style, he offers thoughts on his own approach, which emphasized compromise and consensus-building, a strategy he came to believe in as a member of the minority party in North Carolina.

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:
Right, right. Now you mentioned that once you got past the two primaries and was in fact the nominee of the party that you began to coordinate with the presidential and the US Senatorial campaign of Senator Helms. But you also mentioned that in a sense Senator Helms was representative of the faction or component of the party that you had just defeated in the sense that, if I am understanding this correctly, it was a more conservative element of the party. Can you talk a little bit about that or did I misread?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
And it tells you it is awfully easy to want to make that simplistic and want to make broad generalizations and it doesn't really hold because there was an awful lot of people that were for Helms and for me also in the primaries. Sim DeLapp and Charlie Jonas you recall had been the co-chairs of the Helms campaign and they both endorsed me in the runoff. If you looked around at the Helms' chairmen in the western part of the state in particular, there were an awful lot of those that were involved in our campaign in the primary.
JACK FLEER:
In the primary?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
So you can't really say that there were these two camps out there that were so well defined that there wasn't any overlap or cross breeding or whatever. It just wasn't so.
JACK FLEER:
And yet you had taken in a sense from what you mentioned earlier and had developed a reputation as being sort of a moderate Republican, a person who was open to listening to other peoples' ideas and Jesse Helms had at that time I think still today, had to some extent of a reputation as being a more ideological candidate. Was that a source of difficulty in coordinating these campaigns?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well it's sort of a funny thing. I don't keep up with all the votes in Congress but I have the impression that Senator Helms and I are a lot closer on 90% of the issues than most people would ever think. Our styles are just very different. I am not nearly as confrontational as he is. I always viewed myself as somebody who tried to build a consensus, which means some compromising along the way. I think Jesse has also over the time he's been in Washington has become a very skillful compromiser to get the key elements of things that he thinks are important. That wasn't as apparent early on and frankly it wasn't as viable a strategy because when you a minority trying to build a consensus is much more difficult than when you are majority.
JACK FLEER:
Why is that?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Because you don't have the votes. And when you are a committee chairman it makes a lot of difference. And I think in my own experience one of the things that I have found as governor was that because I knew the legislature and the legislative people and as importantly they knew me. They knew that I would stand by what I said and I knew which ones would stand by what they said and which ones wouldn't. We knew how to build a consensus in the legislature even when we didn't have a Republican majority there. And I think that was very important in having some success in legislative programs.