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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 >>

Changes in the GOP since the 1970s

Holshouser describes the changes in the Republican Party since his governorship in the early 1970s. The differences in the party caused by regional identities have given way to ideological conflicts, he believes, such as that between social and economic conservatives. He blames, or credits, Ronald Reagan for shifting conservatism's focus to shrinking government.

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

At that point you had a fairly well defined model of when—of people who came out of the mountains and went way back as Republicans, but for different reasons than those who came in later. It wasn't just the mountains; you go down to Wilkes and Yadkin counties. You had Sampson County with its own peculiar thing down east. You had the people who came into the party from the north—they moved into the state as industry came in. That's one of the legacies that Luther Hodges and Terry Sanford started; they brought in industry, and they brought Republicans in, too. Not that that's what they intended [Laughter] . Then you had a group of people who had a harder edge on their politics than others of us did. Today it's a whole different set of circumstances. You've got social conservatives and economic conservatives; you've got Libertarians. We don't have many liberal Republicans in North Carolina. You've got a few, but the line moves generally from the middle [to the] right. That tends to be true of the Democrats as well, except that they move from the middle left, because most of the conservative Democrats have switched. As a result, it gets much harder for a moderate in either party to be elected statewide. That's probably not particularly good, in that I think that the state tends to be moderate to moderate-conservative by its nature. The country has become more conservative, and I think North Carolina has become more conservative since I was governor. Since the sixties just a tide of things, and I'm not sure I know why all that was. I expect that a certain amount of it had to do with Reagan's four—eight years in Washington. I think regardless of whether you are for or against Ronald Reagan or his approach to government. I think he changed the agenda in Washington from what it had been since the thirties. All of a sudden it was just a whole bunch of different questions that were on the table. It wasn't as much a matter of expanding government as it was a matter of how much you were going to retrench it, so to speak.