Risk of drifting toward totalitarianism
America is at constant risk to drift toward totalitarianism, Herring believes, because it is an efficient method of governance. Less efficient, perhaps, is democracy, which takes hard work.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with William Dallas Herring, May 16, 1987. Interview C-0035. 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
nothing more than Jeffersonian democracy. The amazing thing is that the
American experiment has worked because we trusted the people, in large
numbers, to make the right decisions, and you created a situation in
which they could speak to the issues.
I went out politicking for one of the candidates for governor one time in
north Duplin. We came to a crossroads filling station-country store, and
the boys had been out setting out tobacco, and they were dirty and
barefooted, sprawled on the floor, glad to get a moment to relax. I was
with Hubert Philips, a lawyer over here in Kenansville, and we were
plugging the virtues of our candidate. We were not making much headway,
but Hubert spoke to one fellow sitting on the floor with his back
against the wall and his boots spread ajar, his overalls rolled up half
way his shank bone and his feet just as dirty as could be. He got to
talking to him about tobacco and got his interest. He said,
"How about voting for our man." He said,
"Well, it don't matter how I'm going to
vote anyway. It's them people up there in Baltimore
that's the ones that elect the governor of North
He didn't know his geography, but he
made this point—they don't give a
damn about us. We don't have a chance. I said,
"Well, if you didn't have a chance, I
wouldn't be here." That's what
we're over here for, to hear from you. It has worked, Jay,
all the way through my career. When we got in trouble, is when we
drifted away from the grass roots.
Walter Hines Page makes this point over and over and over again, and I
could cite you chapter and verse where it is that kind of philosophy
that helps build America. We can drift into the idea of totalitarianism
too easily, because it's simple. It's efficient.
It's cost-effective. It brings the judgment now. But it has
taken two hundred or more years to build what we've got, and
we're not through with it yet.