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SOHP Home > Media > "Excerpts -- The GOP Tapes: Frank Rouse"

"Excerpts -- The GOP Tapes: Frank Rouse"

Reprinted with permission from the Raleigh News & Observer (July 6, 1997).

Rouse organized a state network of Young Republican chapters in the '60s and is credited with coining the term "Jessecrat" to describe Eastern North Carolina Democrats who back Republican Jesse Helms. In the '80s, he served as a key advisor to Gov. Jim Martin.

1964: Building The New Republican Party
How Rouse built a network of Young Republican chapters across the state and his characterization of different party factions.

"At the time I ran for state Republican chairman, I ran out of the YRs. The YR organization in North Carolina was stronger than the party organization was.

"When I was organization chairman, I doubled the number of clubs in the state. We had 50 to 60 organized Young Republican clubs in North Carolina. We were the Goldwater types, the Young Turks, philosophically motivated.

"At that time, when I came along, it was us against them and us being the Goldwater people, the philosophically motivated people, against the old guard crowd who was the Eisenhower, Post Office Republicans. So we just took them on and just whipped their ass…

"You had another group of Republicans, you had a subgroup from the Post Office Republicans, which was the Civil War draft dodger Republicans, Republicans by heredity in Stanly County, Randolph County and Yadkin County, and Davie County and Mitchell County. They were Republicans by heredity. There was no damn difference between them and a Democrat, and still isn't."

1971: GOP Chairman Days
How Rouse became state Republican Party chairman and led Young Turks in revolt against GOP's old guard.

"I did it out of the YRs. I had five people that worked for me full-time. I did direct mail, everything you do. If anybody invited me to go somewhere to speak, I was there. And I was not a speaker. I had to learn… And I did it with energy, not with God given talent, or class, or looks or charm or anything else. It was just pure raw energy.

"And I was pretty well uniformly accepted by the Young Republicans, and we sort of just did it. We went into the convention. We had momentum. We had spent a lot of money. We went into the convention with three candidates. One was Holshouser's candidate - hand-picked candidate - Bill Graham. Ted Dent who was a state senator from Mitchell County, actually from Buncombe County at that time, ran. And I ran.

"He [Dent] and I were buddies. So we made a deal: whichever one of us got ahead of the other one, the other one would back out. So the day before the convention, he dropped out and endorsed me. And we had more signs than they did. I don't know to this day if we had more votes than they did because it was close.

"They had Vinegar Bend Mizell out there working like hell for Graham and most of the old guard people were supporting Graham. And we sort of just blew them out. They had never seen anything like this. They weren't used to it. The Young Turks liked it and we scared the hell out of the old people. Graham conceded. It never went to a vote. And I was elected by acclamation.

1988: The Rise of the Religious Right
How politics and religion proved a fertile mix for growth of the Republican Party.

"I disagree with a lot of people now about the influence of the religious right…. I consider the religious right a tremendous asset to the Republican Party…. They are tough people. There is no tougher politicians [than those] that come out of the Baptist church…. And I am sure some of the fundamentalist churches are the same way.

"They are single-issue people and, when you get them in the fold, then they aggravate the hell out of you and they pack meetings and play silly games over single issues, but when you get that person, or that family, or that group of people in the Republican Party they bring all the other good things with them.

"They are very family-oriented. They are hard-working people. They pay their taxes. They are self-sufficient. They love their mothers and fathers. They love their children. They are good, good people by and large. So I think one more than outweighs the other."

1996: Realignment of Parties
How the race issue reshaped North Carolina politics, turning conservative Democrats into Republican voters.

"You don't want to hear this. You don't want to hear this. It's race in North Carolina. That is not supposition, that is fact.

"The Democrats by and large were pro-busing, pro-integration, pro-welfare, pro-something for nothing. The Republicans resent the fact that blacks bloc-vote for Democrats and white Democrats resent the fact that blacks have such a stranglehold on their party.

"I will give you a quote from a very prominent eastern N.C. farmer who is a registered Democrat. When Harold Hardison ran for lieutenant governor [1988], they were neighbors and friends and this man told Harold, he says: Harold, I will support you. I will give you money. But I am not going to any meetings with the n-word.

"Folks who live in suburbia or folks who have moved to North Carolina don't understand it, but it is an absolute fact of life. If you in 1960 were a white tobacco farmer in Eastern North Carolina, you were a Democrat. In 1996, if you are a white tobacco farmer in Eastern North Carolina, you are a Republican.

"Now there has been a lot of other things that have been factors, but race has been far bigger than everything else. That is why Jesse's campaigns have been so successful because they understand that. And they put their little subtleties that you understand if you are a native North Carolinian. I am not saying that is right."

The GOP and Abortion
How Republicans struggle to keep their most divisive issue from tearing the party apart.

"Abortion is the one issue thing that has attracted these fundamentalists to the Republican Party. Most Republican old-timers don't look at abortion as a political issue. They look at it as a social issue. Abortion is a horrible issue because there are so many people who have such strong feelings about it that it blocks out everything else…. And that has been to our detriment. And it has hurt us. It has hurt us nationally, but I would rather have it than not have it and I think time will prove I am right."

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