Buncombe Bob or Bunkum Trump?

| July 13, 2015

D. G. Martinby D. G. Martin, One on One, July 12, 2015.

Would North Carolinians ever vote to elect Donald Trump or somebody like him?

We did once.

When we did, we proved that North Carolinians, like voters across America, can be attracted to tough-talking candidates who challenge the establishment, bark out simple solutions to the most complicated problems, sometimes inexplicably, advocate programs far out of the mainstream, and generally be totally full of bunkum.

This North Carolinian “out-Trumped” Donald Trump and was so full of bunkum that it was part of his nickname, “Buncombe Bob.”

U.S. Senator Robert Rice Reynolds came from Buncombe County. An earlier legislator from that county talked so much about Buncombe it came to mean nonsense, and some changed the spelling to “bunkum.” Reynolds served in the Senate for 12 years beginning in 1933 and kept people all over the country entertained and shocked by:

  1. Planting a big kiss on Jean Harlow, the famous movie star, right on the Capitol steps.
  2. Getting married five times.
  3. Snubbing the King and Queen of Great Britain.
  4. Appearing in Lucky Strike cigarette advertising for a thousand-dollar payment.
  5. At 57, marrying a wealthy 20-year old Washington socialite who often wore the famous “Hope” diamond, owned by her mother.

He was also incredibly audacious in his political actions and viewpoints.

In the years before World War II, he gained the reputation as a number one defender of Hitler and Germany’s aggression in Europe and co-operated with German agents based in the U.S.

He published an anti-immigrant, anti-labor, anti-Jewish newsletter that was often sold at pro-Nazi rallies in this country.

He introduced legislation to demand that Great Britain cede Newfoundland, Bermuda, and its Caribbean possessions to the U.S. as a penalty for failing to pay its World War I debts.

When he was first elected to the U.S. Senate, he upset the incumbent Cameron Morrison, the powerful former governor, who had the support of the established political organizations in the state. Buncombe Bob ran on a platform calling for more government programs, more government spending, higher taxes on the wealthy, and pro-inflationary policies.

Like Trump, he was not afraid of the political fringes.

In fact, he ran as a liberal against the wealthy U.S. Senator, Cameron Morrison. He mocked Morrison’s living habits, asking the crowds of Depression-poor people at his political rallies, “What do you think he eats? He does not eat cabbage or turnips or ham, nor fatback like you and I do.  My friends, think of it, Senator Morrison eats caviar.”

Holding up a jar of caviar, he would continue, “This here ain’t a jar of squirrel shot; it’s fish eggs.  Friends, it pains me to tell you that Cam Morrison eats fish eggs–and Red Russian fish eggs at that and they cost two dollars.  Now let me ask you, do you want a senator who ain’t too high and mighty to eat good ole North Carolina hen eggs or don’t you?”

After his election, his “liberal” image had faded into a “pro-fascist” one, but he continued to swim outside the mainstream.

I learned about North Carolina’s Trump-like politician from “Buncombe Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Rice Reynolds,” by Julian Pleasants and published by UNC Press in 2000.

When I asked Pleasants to comment on the Buncombe Bob-Trump connection, he wrote that they are similar: Both showmen of the first order, with charisma and a love to be in the limelight, virulently opposed to immigration, especially alien immigrants.

However, Pleasants continued, “Bob Reynolds was quite different since he was a courteous man with a fine sense of humor. Trump is arrogant and aggressive. He seems to denounce and hate large groups and appears to be without a smidgen of a sense of humor. Both are demagogues who used unrest and fear, in this case immigrants, to improve their political chances.”

Buncombe Bob or Bunkum Trump.

Take your choice.

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

Comments (1)

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  1. Norm Kelly says:

    ‘virulently opposed to immigration, especially alien immigrants’. Have not yet heard any Republican candidate rail against immigrants or immigration.
    This includes Trump.
    What Republicans, mostly but not all and perhaps not only, object to is the wholesale violation of law that is happening. The desire to not just accept those illegal aliens already here, but to invite even more, register even more to vote, allow all to take advantage of tax-payer give-aways from the central planners. I hope there are a few demoncrats in the nation that oppose illegal aliens being here & getting benefits. None have presented themselves, but I’m guessing that has more to do with my penchant for ignoring TV and radio news than it does with their actual desire to enforce existing law. Though I expect if there were even 1 demon who opposed illegal immigrants from getting special treatment and government benefits, their name would be extremely well known – mostly because the rest of the socialists would berate this sole demon relentlessly!
    Sanctuary cities are a liberal idea. For some reason it’s accepted by central planner libs that individual cities choose to ignore federal law. Would the same thing happen if some city decided to ignore the new gay marriage decision from SCOTUS. After all, it’s common knowledge that SCOTUS ignored truth in order to arrive at their decision. Same as they ignored the word of the law when they made their most recent Obamacancer decision. So, libs, how about it? How would the current occupier react to Republican sanctuary cities where socialized medicine is rejected? How would Billary react to Republican sanctuary cities where central planner dictates are ignored? Think their media allies would let it slide by? Doubtful.
    And, just like most other times that libs and their media allies LIE about conservatives/Republicans, the lies about Republican sanctuary cities would be overwhelming and everywhere. Imagine NBCs take on Republican sanctuary cities. Not a word of truth in that story either!
    Kinda like this post about Trump. Don’t have to love the guy. He is a Republican after all, so media types are predisposed to ‘not like’ him. But at least try to be somewhat honest about him.
    I won’t hold my breath!