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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Approaching politics as a vehicle for achieving goals, rather than party-building

Scott lays out his interpretation of the two kinds of political careers, one in the party machinery and the other in personal leadership. Scott never had much interest in the former, and saw his campaign, and his office, as a personal organization that sought to use the party machinery to advance his own goals, rather than use his position to strengthen his party.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. 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

…in 1968 did you see your campaign as primarily a personal organization success?
Well, of course, in the primary, it was personal organization. It was my organization and Mel Broughton's organization. Dan Moore had a lot to do with bringing those two together, to help heal the wounds. And so it was a party organization in the fall, although I had my own. As was true during that period of time and I guess still is, the candidate for governor of necessity has his own organization in the primary. Well, you can't just discard that and go with the party organization; you run in parallel. And depending on who's running on the national ticket, and perhaps in the local races, determines whether you're going to pair up with a Democratic party organization or you want to distance yourself from it. And there've been governor's campaigns who didn't choose to get too close to the party organization. And here in 1998, in Alamance County, I see people maneuvering around with respect to state offices, state appointments and all like that, with the governor's office and so forth, and not going through the party organization. Party organization, about the time I was running for governor, was becoming less and less important because there's really, other than the office of governor, there's really nothing anybody can do for it, other than the satisfaction of being on the winning side. The patronage system was beginning to weaken considerably. Now, personally I've always had two views—Politics has two tracks. One track is the party mechanism. If you want to be involved in politics and you want to start at the ground level, you run for precinct chair. And then you may be a county chairperson. And then you may be on the state executive committee, you know. And you move up, and you participate in politics in the party organization, be it Democrat or Republican. The other track is running for office as a candidate, be it county commissioner, or state legislature, governor, what have you. I chose to go the route—and this wasn't a conscious choice; in fact, it was well on into my political career before I began to think about these things. But I ran for lieutenant governor and governor, and I was running down this track, and the party organization's over here on this other track, and we were staying in touch and all like that, but really they were separate. I've been isolated. To this day I have never read a party platform. And didn't really care what was in it, so long as it wasn't counter to what I was interested in. Now, the governor and his political supporters get involved in the Democratic convention, or the Republican convention, as it may be, mainly to be sure that there's not anything in there that the governor can't live with, and to try to avoid there being any embarrassing kinds of things. And to try to get the governor's main points in the party platform. Well, sometimes I think it's not so much trying to get the governor's campaign agenda incorporated into the party platform as it is simply a power struggle. Who's gonna run the show? And the governor's staff people, you know, they're going to say, "We're it, we're going to run the show, and we're going to say who's going to be the party executive director", or the national committee woman, national committee man, all that kind of stuff. That was true back in my father's day—he had a rift with the Democratic party organization at that time, and refused to sit on the stage with the state party people, but sat down with his Alamance County delegation. Well, to some extent I was that way. I just really didn't care for the intricacies of the party mechanism. I understood it, and appreciated it. The party, to me, was a mechanism by which I could run for office. In our democratic society, that's the way it's done. So I took advantage of that, obviously; had to. But it wasn't so much that I was on—I didn't get all bent out of shape too much one way or the other about the national party, except as it reflected the tenor of liberal versus moderate versus conservative and it made it difficult for me to run my own race if I was tabbed as a big-spending Democratic liberal.
But you did mention, for example, that Governor Moore, you felt, helped bring the various divisions within the party together, and that benefited you some. And presumably he didn't do that from a personal motivation, but from a party motivation. Is that fair?
I'd say that's a fair assessment. You'd have to ask—well, you can't ask him now, you could ask some of his people about that. Wayne Corpening in Winston-Salem was close to him. But who knows? The fact that he did this, and that he raised some money for me, and he urged the business community to support me, and says, you know, "He's not as bad as he looks,"—all that weighed in to my being willing to support him for the Supreme Court. He may have had an ulterior motive. But I think Dan Moore was a loyal party man, I really think he believed in that, and regardless of what the future held for him with respect to a court appointment, I think he would have done that anyway. Incidentally, for the fact that we were not politically close to begin with, we became very good personal friends, and I still stay in touch with Mrs. Moore. She's in extremely poor health right now.