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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A lack of interest in party machinery

Scott was never interested in party politics, he says. He did not care who was running the mechanisms of the Democratic Party as long as he was able to advance his policies. He attended fundraisers for Democratic politicians, but confesses that he did so as much for himself as he did for them. Scott's lack of interest in party building, beyond what it took to win his election, reveals an intriguing political vision.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. 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:
Governor, every governor in the United States referred to as a titular head of a political party, because of a number of authorities and powers that governors have. How important was this particular role to you in your service as governor?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
In my public role, it was important. In my personal role, it wasn't, in my personal thinking. I realized and respected, and still do, that the party is the mechanism in our democracy by which one acquires public office, and I'm a strong believer in the two-party system, so long as the Democratic party is in the majority. No, really, it is good to have a two-party system, and now that I'm not active in the political life, I can say that I think North Carolina is better, probably, by having a two-party system. However, one must remember that when the Democratic party was in power for so many years, the first part of this century, they had a two-party system, it was just fought out within the Democratic party, that is, the liberals and the conservatives within the party. But I never paid much attention to party politics, entirely. I didn't really care who was going to be the chairman of the party in a given county, didn't really care who was chairman of the state party, although as governor, clearly I did exert great influence on who that person would be. It just wasn't that important to me in the scheme of things. Others felt it was terribly important. My feeling is that there are two ways in which one can participate in the political process. One way is through the party mechanism, by being active in precinct work, the county convention, the district and the state conventions, campaigning for the office of the state Democratic executive committee, or to be the chairman of the county party, whatever. And get deeply involved in writing the party platform, passing resolutions at the county convention. I never did really care for that, it didn't bother me. I don't think I've ever read a party platform. The other way one participates is by being a candidate for a public office, whether it's the county commissioner, or sheriff, or legislature, or state office. That was the route that I chose. It wasn't a conscious decision; I just never had— probably wouldn't have been interested in doing it otherwise. So I did what I felt obligated to do, as governor, for the party, that is to say, attend fundraisers, to make the appointments to the office of the national committee, get my person in as the party chair. And those were interesting exercises, but in the scheme of things I really didn't think it was that important. The reason I didn't think the party platform was all that important, because a person who campaigns for the office of governor, he has his agenda; that agenda becomes the governor's platform. It is conceivable that the state party platform which would be adopted would be at odds with the governor's platform. And so to prevent that embarrassment, you want to be certain that you allies are in control of the party apparatus. And therein lies one of the main reasons that I was as active as I was in party activities. I really didn't care that much about what went on at the national level, party-wise; I just hoped that there would be somebody nominated for president that we could live with politically.
JACK FLEER:
Did you ever use, or attempt to use, the resources of the party to help in the identification and election of legislators for the state general assembly? Was that a part of what you did?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
No, I never did get involved in that. I didn't worry about that. I say I didn't worry about it; I was interested in who was going to get elected to the legislature, but party resources—are you speaking here of the parties in politics, Democrats or Republicans?
JACK FLEER:
That's right.
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
No, only in the sense that I would attend and support party fundraisers, and you know, political rallies and do all that. But in retrospect, I suspect that was as much for myself as it was for the party as a whole.
JACK FLEER:
Those rallies were for yourself. So that trying to develop a following that would be sympathetic to your political interest and your political agenda in the legislature was not something that you—
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
That wasn't really a factor. And along that line, when I completed my term as governor and left office, I made no effort to keep a political organization. I really thought I was through with that, I didn't see an opportunity and didn't particularly want to go to Washington as a senator or a house member. I went up there for two years in party administration, but I didn't really like that. So I didn't attempt to keep an organization going, nor work all that hard in the party, although again I felt an obligation to participate in functions of the party. For several years I would go to the state conventions of the Jefferson-Jackson dinners and Vance-Aycock dinners. But it wasn't too long before I didn't even bother to do that. I don't go anymore.
JACK FLEER:
Do you think that if you had been eligible to run for reelection, that party would have been a more important thing for you?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Yeah, oh, yeah. And I appreciate the fact that the Democratic party gave me the opportunity to serve. It was the mechanism, it was the apparatus by which I could reach that point. And if I had had an opportunity to run again, I expect I would have been a little more diligent in trying to strengthen the party than I was. Interesting enough, there was a call on my voice-mail now by the newly designated party chairman Barbara [unclear] wanting me to talk about the party and what I think needs to be done, and I'm sure she's doing this for a number of people, including former party officials and so on. And that's good. But I never did really worry about that too much. It just wasn't that high on my priorities of things to do.