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Interview with John Linder, October 9, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:30 - Life before political office

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Partial Transcript: Just to begin with, tell me a little about your childhood, your upbringing, up in Minnesota.

Segment Synopsis: Linder remembers his early life, including being raised by Republican parents in a heavily Democrat area of Minnesota. He also tells of moving to Georgia to practice dentistry, as well as his helping the city of Dunwoody develop and expand.

Keywords: 1952 Presidential election; Atlanta, Georgia; DeKalb County, Georgia; Doraville, Georgia; Robert Taft; San Antonio, Texas; Sandy Springs, Georgia; United States Air Force; dentistry; labor unions

00:06:17 - Joining the Republican Party

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Partial Transcript: Describe for me, if you will--DeKalb County was really the heartland of Republicanism in Georgia at that time.

Segment Synopsis: Linder discusses grouping together with other prominent Georgia Republicans in the late 1970s to grow the Georgia Republican Party. Linder focuses on his efforts to establish a statewide party organization and to create a coherent party platform.

Keywords: Barry Goldwater; Bob Irvin; Leo Frank; Mack Mattingly; Newt Gingrich; Paul Coverdell; Republican Women's Club; Savannah, Georgia; migrants; state convention; statewide campaigns

00:12:05 - Campaigning for Ronald Reagan

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Partial Transcript: 1976, we had some great contention because I was a Reagan guy in Georgia and Paul Coverdell was the Ford guy.

Segment Synopsis: Linder explains why he supported Ronald Reagan in both the 1976 and 1980 Presidential primaries, much to the chagrin of Paul Coverdell. Linder emphasizes that Reagan's principles and sense of ideology made him popular to both himself and the average citizen.

Keywords: 1976 Presidential election; Bradley-Gephardt bill; George H.W. Bush; Gerald Ford; Ronald Reagan; Sam Tate; grassroots organization; political ideology; tax reform

00:17:44 - Georgia House of Representatives

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Partial Transcript: I want to talk about some subsequent changes to the Party as well, but a little bit more about your time in the legislature.

Segment Synopsis: Linder describes some of the efforts for government reform he proposed in the Georgia House of Representatives. He also talks about building up the Republican Party in the legislature through "Operation Breakthrough", an initiative by Nolan Murrah to recruit viable candidates for the state legislature and to fund their campaigns.

Keywords: 1976 election; Atlanta business community; Bob Irvin; Frank Elbert; Fred Cooper; George Williamson; Jack Kingston; Jimmy Blanchard; Jimmy Carter; Joe Frank Harris; John Savage; Paul Coverdell; Saxby Chambliss; Tom Murphy; Warren Evans; Zell Miller; campaign funding; candidate recruitment; conservatism; insurance commissioner; one-party system

00:25:03 - Donors / Running for Congress

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Partial Transcript: How were Republicans able to sway large-dollar donors when they didn't really have any power, so to speak, in the state?

Segment Synopsis: Linder shares the tactics Republicans used in the 1970s and 1980s to convince donors to contribute to the Republican Party, despite their weak track record. He then recalls his two unsuccessful attempts to run for Congress, as well as his third, successful election in 1992.

Keywords: 1988 election; 1990 election; American Dental Association; Ben Jones; Bill Clinton; Cathey Steinberg; Don Johnson; Pat Swindall; Paul Coverdell; Roy Barnes; Sonny Perdue; abortion; ideology; incumbents; lobbying; political access; redistricting

00:32:11 - Republican Party in the 1990s

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Partial Transcript: During the '90s- we've been talking about the 1970s and the 1980s, periods of change within the Republican Party.

Segment Synopsis: Linder comments on the increasing momentum Republicans were obtaining in the Georgia General Assembly as the 1990s progressed. Linder then elaborates on the initiatives Republicans in Congress took in 1993 and 1994, which he believes led to Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives in the 1994 election.

Keywords: 1993 Crime bill; Blue Dog Democrats; Bob Barr; Bob Bartley; Bob Dole; Contract with America; Eric Johnson; Jack Kingston; Mack Collins; Nathan Deal; Newt Gingrich; Paul Coverdell; Saxby Chambliss; abortion; candidate recruitment; climate change; party switching; state legislature

00:38:55 - Newt Gingrich / FairTax

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about Newt Gingrich, your interactions with him, your relationship with the Speaker through the years.

Segment Synopsis: Linder evaluates Newt Gingrich's effectiveness as Speaker of the House as well as a leader in the Georgia Republican Party. Linder then details the FairTax system of tax reform, for which he advocated throughout his career in Congress.

Keywords: Bill Archer; Bob Irvin; Dick Armey; George W. Bush; House leadership; Internal Revenue Service; Paul Coverdell; Rob Woodall; Tom Murphy; Warner Robins Air Force Base; campaigning; history; income tax; minority whip; sales tax

00:47:14 - Affordable Care Act / 1998 elections

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Partial Transcript: In 2010, you voted against the Affordable Care Act- Obamacare.

Segment Synopsis: Linder defends his decision in voting against the Affordable Care Act, among numerous other government benefit programs, while he was in Congress. He then lists the factors that contributed to the lackluster support for Republican candidates in 1998.

Keywords: Bill O'Reilly; Harvey Weinstein; John Boehner; National Republican Congressional Committee; Newt Gingrich; Steve King; crime; education; healthcare; impeachment of Bill Clinton; income tax credits; media; timidity

00:52:48 - 2002 election / 1996 Senate election

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Partial Transcript: So you remain in Congress.

Segment Synopsis: Linder remembers his race against his colleague Bob Barr in 2002 after the two were redistricted into the same Congressional district, noting that his office's casework for constituents is what ultimately gave him the edge over Barr. He then explains his rationale for remaining in the House of Representatives in 1996 instead of running for Sam Nunn's Senate seat.

Keywords: 1996 Senate election; Bob Barr; Clint Day; Guy Millner; Jack Kingston; Newt Gingrich; Roy Barnes; Sam Nunn; Saxby Chambliss; United States Senate; casework; leadership

00:56:56 - Democratic Party of Georgia

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Partial Transcript: So thinking back here in Georgia, in the South, how were the Democrats able to hold on to power so long?

Segment Synopsis: Linder describes how the Democratic Party retained power in Georgia, specifying that citizens began leaving the party for the Republicans when they noticed how the party, even on the state level, was liberalizing. He stresses that Georgia citizens have always leaned conservative, and it was only through increased media exposure that they began to notice Democratic candidates' liberal tendencies.

Keywords: C-SPAN; Chamber of Commerce; George Busbee; Internet; Joe Frank Harris; Maxine Waters; Nathan Deal; Rotary Club; Roy Barnes; Sonny Perdue; Wyche Fowler; campaign funding; candidate recruitment; donations; gay marriage; local elections; national Democratic Party; party polarization; state budget

01:04:35 - Education and healthcare

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Partial Transcript: How would you define the Republicans--you're talking about big ideas, big policies, or just policies in general--what are the priorities of the Georgia Republican Party today?

Segment Synopsis: Linder discusses the divide among state Republicans over education, specifically over local control or state control of failing schools [known formally as the Opportunity School District Amendment, which failed to be ratified in the 2016 state election]. He next expounds on the healthcare debate in the United States, noting how it displays the increasing polarization in American politics.

Keywords: Affordable Care Act; Donald Trump; Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan; Harry Reid; Lisa Murkowski; Medicare; Mitch McConnell; Susan Collins; Tom Price; filibuster; health insurance; public education; tax reform

01:17:51 - Donald Trump and immigration

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Partial Transcript: We've talked a lot about timidity.

Segment Synopsis: Linder elaborates why immigration was such a major issue among Donald Trump's constituents in 2016. He then predicts what the long-term effects of Donald Trump's presidency may be.

Keywords: Chamber of Commerce; Chris Christie; Democratic Party; Donald Trump-Access Hollywood tape; Gang of Eight; Jeb Bush; Marco Rubio; Saxby Chambliss; Ted Cruz; border security; nationalism; primary elections; real estate; reality TV

01:26:50 - Demographic shifts in 2016 and 2017 elections

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Partial Transcript: Here in Georgia, if you tuned in election night and looked at the map, and all you saw was metro-Atlanta, Hillary Clinton winning Henry County, Gwinnett County, Cobb County, you would assume that a Democrat was going to carry the state, winning those counties.

Segment Synopsis: Linder ponders why Hillary Clinton was able to win key counties in the 2016 Presidential election, but still ultimately lost the election in Georgia and overall. He concludes that both Clinton's and Jon Ossoff's near-victories in the metro-Atlanta area were due to demographic changes in those locations.

Keywords: 2017 6th Congressional District special election; 7th Congressional District; DeKalb County, Georgia; Donald Trump; Dunwoody, Georgia; Jim Tysinger; Karen Handel; Manuel Maloof; No Child Left Behind; Rob Woodall; Walt Russell; fundraising; housewives; redistricting; suburbia; television

01:33:01 - Threats to Republicans

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Partial Transcript: What do you think the greatest threat to the Republican majority in Georgia is?

Segment Synopsis: Linder talks about how Republicans' complacency in their recent victories may lead to their downfall, using an anecdote about the 1978 gubernatorial election to illustrate his point. He then stresses that despite increasing polarization in racial politics, Republicans need to capitalize on a growing conservative movement among racial minorities.

Keywords: Bob Irvin; George Busbee; Gerald Ford; Herman Cain; Julian Bond; Paul Coverdell; Rodney Cook; Ronald Reagan; Ronnie Thompson; Sam Caldwell; agriculture commissioner; incumbency; insurance commissioner; labor secretary; minority vote; state party chairman

01:40:40 - 2018 gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: Big election coming up in 2018 for governor.

Segment Synopsis: Linder predicts that the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2018 will be along racial lines, which he believes will harm their nominee in the general election. Linder analyzes the Republican field of candidates and stresses that whoever proposes a set of ideas that appeals to voters will emerge victorious.

Keywords: Brian Kemp; Casey Cagle; Clay Tippins; Democratic Party; Guy Davis; Hunter Hill; Joe Frank Harris; Mack Mattingly; Mike Williams; Paul Coverdell; Stacey Abrams; Stacey Evans; Wyche Fowler; party polarization; racial politics