UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Fred Cooper, September 5, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:27 - Introduction to politics

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let's start off by- tell me a little about your childhood, your upbringing, before we really dig into your political life and experience.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recalls his introduction to the political scene--particularly the Republican side--as being the mock nominating convention held at Washington and Lee University. He then describes how working for Flowers Industries helped him develop a conservative ideology, particularly in regard to business.

Keywords: 1964 Presidential election; 2nd Congressional District; Barry Goldwater; Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party; Democratic Party; Harry Wingate; Lyndon Johnson; Mack Mattingly; Richard B. Russell; Thomasville, Georgia; University of Georgia School of Law; capitalism; conservatism; free market; general counsel; limited government; political action committee

00:09:54 - Republican Senatorial Trust / Running for state party chairman

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So before you ran for state party chairman, you were involved in the Republican Senatorial trust during the 1970s?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper lists the roles and actions of the Republican Senatorial Trust, which he says focused on getting Republicans elected to vulnerable Senate seats across the nation. Cooper then discusses his decision to run for state party chairman in 1981 and credits his ultimate success to Joe Rogers's support and encouragement.

Keywords: 1980 election; 1981 state party chairman election; Dick DeVos; Flowers Industries; Herman Talmadge; Mack Mattingly; Matt Patton; Newt Gingrich; Paul Coverdell; Republican National Committee; Senatorial committee; Waffle House; business experience; candidate recruitment; free market; fundraising; leadership; national committeeman; national committeewoman; organization

00:19:59 - Party unity / 1980 election

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You mentioned a relatively coherent, cohesive unit in Paul Coverdell, Bob Irvin, Newt Gingrich, Mack Mattingly--what brought all of you together at that particular time?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recalls how members of the Republican Party, during its time as a small minority party, were able to reconcile their political difference and focus on their success. He then talks about campaigning for George H.W. Bush in 1980.

Keywords: 1980 election; David Perdue; John Connally; Mack Mattingly; Ronald Reagan; Saxby Chambliss; common interest; federal patronage; party divisions; party unity; state senator

00:27:20 - 1982 gubernatorial race

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So in 1982, there is a governor's race, and there has always been a significant amount of discussion within the party as to whether to offer a candidate for governor.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper remembers the Republicans' unsuccessful attempt to take the governorship by running Bob Bell as their candidate in 1982. Cooper then explains stepping down as state party chairman,as a result of being offered the position of Flowers Industries president.

Keywords: Barry Goldwater; Bob Bell; Fortune 500 company; businessman; executive vice president; general counsel; state senator

00:31:41 - 1988 Republican Presidential primary

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I have not fallen by the wayside.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recounts the particularly vicious race for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. He emphasizes Pat Robertson's role in shaking up the race by bringing large amounts of evangelical Christians into the voting base.

Keywords: Bob Bell; George H.W. Bush; George W. Bush; Jeb Bush; Marguerite Neel Williams; Mitt Romney; national committeewoman; nominating convention; religious beliefs; televangelists

00:42:35 - Bush's 1988 Campaign

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So in 1988, you were the state campaign chair for George H.W. Bush?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper gives an overview of the Republican Presidential nomination system and explains what made the 1988 convention so peculiar- namely the attempt by Pat Robertson supporters to send delegates favorable to Robertson to the national convention instead of delegates favorable to Bush, who won the Georgia primary. He also describes his role as chair of George H.W. Bush's campaign in Georgia.

Keywords: campaigning; delegates; fundraising; general election; precinct conventions; primary election

00:49:13 - Republican Party in the 1990s

Play segment

Partial Transcript: We talked a little bit about this in the 1988 contest, but working our way up into Republican politics of the 1990s, the Christian right played an ever-increasing role in those primary elections.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper considers the influence the religious right had on the Republican Party in the 1990s, such as making abortion a key issue. Cooper then elaborates on why people felt the need to switch away from the Democratic Party, citing the Democrats' embrace of organized labor as a key reason for why conservatives left.

Keywords: African-American voters; Democratic Party; Republican establishment; candidate recruitment; conservatives; economic freedom; female voters; job creation; liberalism; messaging; party organization; party switching; two-party system

00:57:52 - Threats to Republicans

Play segment

Partial Transcript: The Democrats in Georgia have been out of power since Sonny Perdue was elected.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper discusses what he believes could threaten Republican majority in Georgia, namely not having a cohesive message that the Party can communicate. He also claims that significant infighting between Republican factions can also hinder their success, citing the attempted Obamacare repeal as an example.

Keywords: Georgia House of Representatives; Georgia Senate; Hurricane Harvey; Joe Frank Harris; Nathan Deal; Trump administration; Zell Miller; independent voters; party platform; party switching; tax reform

01:06:09 - Bipartisanship and polarization

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What do you think the issues are here in Georgia where Democrats and Republicans could work together, could compromise?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper lists the areas he believes Democrats and Republicans can work together, emphasizing public education as the main topic in Georgia. Cooper then gives his thoughts on why people in Georgia and the United States have become more politically polarized.

Keywords: Elizabeth Warren; Hillary Clinton; demographic shifts; illegal immigration; labor unions; political expediancy; religious liberty; school systems; self-reliance; welfare

01:15:11 - 2016 Presidential race

Play segment

Partial Transcript: We're sort of talking around it, but we're still living in the aftereffect of the 2016 election.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper explains why Donald Trump was so popular in Georgia in the 2016 presidential race, claiming that Trump's willingness to say politically-incorrect things was what endeared him to lower-class Americans. He then briefly evaluates Trump's successes and failures in the Oval Office so far.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Chris Christie; Hillary Clinton; Jeb Bush; Marco Rubio; Neil Gorsuch; Presidential Cabinet; Republican Party; Secretary of Agriculture; Secretary of Health and Human Services; Sixth Congressional District 2017 special election; Sonny Perdue; Ted Cruz; Tom Price; Trump campaign; media influence

01:22:27 - Predictions for 2017 Atlanta mayoral race and 2018 gubernatorial race

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Looking ahead to 2018- actually, let's talk about 2017, there's going to be a mayor's race here in Atlanta.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper gives his predictions on the then-upcoming (December 5, 2017) Atlanta mayoral race, in which he believes Mary Norwood would not ultimately win, in part because Atlanta wants to continue its trend of African-American mayors. Cooper then says he is unable to give an accurate prediction of the gubernatorial primary because anything could happen to change up the game, comparing it to the 2002 general election race.

Keywords: African-American community; Brian Kemp; Casey Cagle; Civil Rights Movement; George W. Bush; Hunter Hill; Karl Rove; Kasim Reed; Mary Norwood; Mike Williams; Saxby Chambliss; Sonny Perdue; city council; name recognition; polling; technology

01:34:08 - 2010 Gubernatorial Primary

Play segment

Partial Transcript: In 2010, there was another relatively unexpected result from the Republican primary.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recalls the heated 2010 gubernatorial primary race, which Cooper was involved in by chairing Karen Handel's campaign. He then briefly describes the Republican Party's strategy in the 2014 Senatorial primary.

Keywords: David Perdue; Eric Johnson; Eric Tannenblatt; Insurance Commissioner; John Oxendine; Michelle Nunn; Sam Nunn; campaign spending; candidate gender; party split; religious right; runoff election

01:40:44 - Future of the political parties

Play segment

Segment Synopsis: Cooper states that he can't accurately predict who will eventually take the reigns of the Republican Party, since leaders like Newt Gingrich and Mack Mattingly were completely unexpected. Cooper then contemplates the future role of political parties, ultimately concluding that they will still have a role in organizing and funding campaigns.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Donald Trump; Georgia General Assembly; Obamacare repeal; Twitter; Warren G. Harding; central values; compromise; conference committee; gridlock; party realignment; social media; super PACs; tax reform