The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics: The Personalities, Elections, and Events That Shaped Modern North Carolina / Edition 1

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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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A romp through 100 years of North Carolina politics...Help[s] readers understand the conflicts and contradictions that define North Carolina to this day."
Greensboro News and Record
From the Publisher
Christensen brilliantly navigates the complex political past of North Carolina.—Journal of NC Association of Historians

Winner of the 2008 Ragan Old North State Award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association

"A lively account of history [that] includes eyebrow-raising facts."
—The Fayetteville Observer

"A romp through 100 years of North Carolina politics. . . . Help[s] readers understand the conflicts and contradictions that define North Carolina to this day."
—Greensboro News and Record

"Hotter and slicker than a politician's handshake at a pig pickin' in July."
—Marcy Smith, Raleigh News and Observer

"Christensen has written a terrific . . . history here, one that is very readable and absolutely jammed full of facts, figures, and anecdotes. . . . [He] lay[s] the historical basis for North Carolina politics as they exist today."
—Winston-Salem Journal

"Presents the pivotal figures and elections of North Carolina's twentieth-century politics in an entertaining and insightful fashion. . . . Christensen's panoramic picture of the state's modern politics is much more than fascinating."
—North Carolina Historical Review

"Lively and well crafted. . . . A valuable study of an important aspect of the state's history, accessible for both general and scholarly audiences."
—The Journal of Southern History

Hotter and slicker than a politician's handshake at a pig pickin' in July."
—Marcy Smith, Raleigh News and Observer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807831892
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/21/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Rob Christensen has covered North Carolina politics for thirty-four years at the News and Observer in Raleigh.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Very Good Book - Lots of History to Learn About

    I picked this book up at the North Carolina Council for the Social Studies Conference last month where the author gave a keynote address.
    The first 200 pages are fabulous. I found out I did not know much about my own state and Mr. Christenson filled in a lot of those gaps for me. The writing is very good and flows nicely.
    In the last 100 pages, I found myself wanting more. That is not the author's fault, I just wanted to know more.
    This book helped me, as perhaps no other book has done, to remind me about the importance of being an informed voter and the importance of avoiding a lot of the fear tactics in elections. His coverage of the many different periods and ages of NC politics was very insightful. I like that he took a lot of his sources from newspapers as well.
    Thank You, Mr. Christensen, for a very good read. I plan to use some of the information in my history classes at the high school and community college.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Real Reason

    OK, so I will admit that the original reason I bought the book has to do with the fact that the author is my cousin by marriage. Of course, in the South, that is considered blood kin. But my interest in regional politics is real and this was an entertaining read. Some of the material I was familiar with but lots of the material was new or presented in a different frame of reference than I had heard. The writing was succinct and insightful and I was pleasantly pleased to see that many of my previously held views of politicians from NC were not all that far off base. I enjoyed the book but I think that it is not for everyone. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys learning more about how government and state officials work.

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