The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics: The Personalities, Elections, and Events That Shaped Modern North Carolina

Synopsis

How can a state be represented by Jesse Helms and John Edwards at the same time? Journalist Rob Christensen answers that question and navigates a century of political history in North Carolina, one of the most vibrant and competitive southern states, where neither conservatives nor liberals, Democrats nor Republicans, have been able to rest easy. It is this climate of competition and challenge, Christensen argues, that enabled North Carolina to rise from poverty in the nineteenth century to become a leader in research, education, and banking in the twentieth.

Although party divisions and the issues of race that often distinguish them are deeply rooted, Christensen explains, North Carolina voters remain loyal to candidates who focus on issues such as education and building a business-friendly infrastructure. He takes us to picket lines and debates and through numerous red-baiting and race-baiting political campaigns. Along the way we are introduced to many remarkable characters, including a U.S. senator who was a Nazi sympathizer, a candidate for governor who was a Soviet agent, a senator who helped bring down Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon, and a TV commentator who helped usher in the Reagan Revolution. Long before the talk of red state-blue state polarization, North Carolina was an intensely divided state politically. With Christensen as a guide, readers may find there is sense after all in the topsy-turvy nature of Tar Heel politics.

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