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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Effects of a one-party system

As a politician from middle Tennessee in the 1930s and 1940s, Gore faced little competition from Republican candidates. Instead, as a candidate from a one-party region, he ran against other Democrats, making the primary the most important race he faced each term. Gore describes his first campaign for Congress and how he overcame his inadequate campaign funding and stiff competition by emphasizing his down-home roots.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. 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

DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
What about the campaign itself, Senator? Did you have strong opposition and could you describe your opposition and your own candidacy in the campaign?
ALBERT GORE:
I think I had five opponents. One of them was a district judge; another was . . . two more were what we call district attorney generals. Another was a former state senator and a prominent lawyer. Another, then a local politician in legislature, achieved some local fame. Large district, eighteen counties, our campaigning was very vigorous. Personally, my wife and I, we managed our own campaign. I think we were able to get together for the entire campaign maybe $10,000. I hired and persuaded, expensive really, some neighbor youngsters who, one of them played the guitar and another a banjo in some way or another. Sweet voices sang and I would join with them and play the fiddle. So we had a little road show going, and we went to all the crossroad communities and night rallies in rural schools. We were favored with good crowds frequently. Oh, I'd have thousands, sometimes two thousand people in a county seat town. I had a large crowd in, at homecoming in my home town. We called it 10,000 [laughter] ; that may have been a political estimate. But the point I'm trying to make is, political speakings were then attended. On a night during the week when I would speak at a rural school, the auditorium would be pretty well filled. We would give them some entertainment. I wouldn't call it choice, but at least it was acceptable. I pulled a right mean bow at that time and then spoke on the issues and used a right good deal of humor and a lot of entertainment. Then, a very important part of political campaigning was the pleasantries and the humor, however unsophisticated it was, that you generated in the audience, or you sought to generate in the audience. And if you were a good and effective candidate, you did generate in the audience some warm and pleasant rapport. You relaxed with your jokes and you illustrated your points with some humor, and sometimes there would be local color. I would frequently turn some particular event of the night or of the day or of the area with some humor, sometimes self-deprecating. The ingratiation of the candidate with the audience, the immediate audience, was a powerful political weapon if one could use it. Ridicule and humorous ridicule was a far more effective device against an opponent than personal invective. So I was of the old Southern political style, a fairly good story teller with some unsophisticated adroitness at turning the humorous incidents or making humor of some incident that occurred immediately there. Then, I must say the fiddle played a considerable part.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
Well, it's obvious that you had an energetic, well-planned . . .
ALBERT GORE:
Not well planned. [laughter] Accident.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
. . . campaign that proved effective, and that you yourself were the strongest part of your campaign. Do you think issues and your own program or proposals played a part in the '38 outcome?
ALBERT GORE:
Not a great deal. It was important that I be able to discuss issues of the day with some acceptability, not impressiveness. But at least I spoke in a strong voice [laughter] about one issue or another. It was necessary to impress the voters that the candidate had the capacity to get worked up on an issue and give a good accounting of himself in debate. But so far as my position on issues contrasting with other candidates, I don't think it played any part at all. It was a personality contest, in many respects, a personality contest.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
Senator, we're talking here about the primary, are we not?
ALBERT GORE:
Yes.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
Did you have opposition in the general election in 1938?
ALBERT GORE:
I don't even remember. The Republican opposition at that time was so insignificant, if it occurred, I don't remember.