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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., May 9, 1998. Interview C-0328-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Supporting a robust two-party system

Holshouser argues for the importance of a big tent in a political party, although he worries about the influence of party intellectuals. He supports a robust two-party system, he adds.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., May 9, 1998. Interview C-0328-3. 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

JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Anybody who thinks about it for very long realizes that if you're going to have a viable party, you've got to have a big enough umbrella to have varying philosophies under that umbrella. If you don't, you're just not big enough to win. We still have a coalition put together that's not that different than it was in the sixties and early seventies. It's just gotten larger. You've got the business Republicans. You've got the country club Republicans—and there's a lot of overlap there. You've got the Populist Republicans who grew up in the mountains; and rural Republicans, who have a mixture of Populism and social conservatism. You also have a group of intellectual conservatives. I guess if I'm fair I say that it concerns me when either party gets dominated by intellectuals who never run for office, have never served, and who haven't had to go through the ordeal of trying to get elected and trying to build consensus for ideals as opposed to just getting out and fighting for them. There's a lot more subtlety in how you build consensus than trying to beat the other guy on the head with your ideas. That makes challenges in both parties. One of the reporters told me one time that the Democrats have their lettuce pickers and the Republicans have their Neanderthals, and it always makes for interesting conventions. I guess that's probably true.
JACK FLEER:
And good reporting, probably. [Laughter]
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
That's right.
JACK FLEER:
Has the party made as much progress here in the 1990s as you would have expected in the 1970s?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
More, I think. I always thought the hardest thing to do would be to get a majority in the legislature. Frankly, when I was talking with the state chairman about one o'clock in the morning on election night in '94 and he told me we were going to take the House, I just really couldn't believe it. I told a lot of people in Raleigh that I thought that was a much more important step as a party than if I had been elected governor. It might not have happened if I had not gotten elected governor. You never know about these things. I think the state is a two party system. It's not to parity on registration yet, but that's about the only place. The delegation in Washington is split right down the middle, while we've got two Republican senators now. The fact that the state can elect Terry Sanford and Jesse Helms to the Senate says that it's still a state that you can't exactly put your finger on. I think that's sort of intriguing, because it's still up for grabs for idealists all the time.
JACK FLEER:
And that's healthy for the state?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I think it is.
JACK FLEER:
Certainly part of what you hoped for when you started building the two-party system back in the 1960s?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
That's right, because it wasn't to build a one party Republican state, it was to have a state where people got to listen to different ideas. I have to admit, though, that listening to them in thirty-second commercials is not the best way to get them. I also know that as much as that gets criticized, if you do a thirty-minute talk to the people—you look at the Nielsons on that and the numbers go way down in terms of people who will watch that long.