On October, 7, 1780, Brigadier General Isaac Gregory led a bayonet charge into a numerically superior Loyalist militia in the Battle of Kings Mountain. After a string of humiliating defeats by the British, the battle boosted the morale of Patriot militias, being noted by Thomas Jefferson as the turning point in the Revolution.
In describing Gregory, Historian J.F. Pugh wrote, “if his painstaking habits and ponderous actions tended to add to the impressiveness of his personality, by the same token they also helped to make of him a controversial individual.”
Almost 240 years later, Jeff Gregory, a direct descendant of Isaac and a resident of the battle’s namesake town in North Carolina, is running as the Constitution Party candidate for North Carolina’s 5th congressional district against incumbent, Virginia Foxx.
While North Carolina’s creative history drawing congressional maps has put Gregory’s hometown of Kings Mountain in two different districts over the years, the region has voted reliably Republican for decades, so Gregory’s candidacy follows in the family tradition of fighting an enemy greater in numbers.
It could also be argued that Gregory is entering this battle after the region has suffered its own string of defeats. Once a mill town where people could earn a decent wage at the local textile plant, Kings Mountain is among the many rural communities whose economies have been gradually gutted by globalization, with good paying manufacturing jobs moving to countries where labor is cheaper and environmental regulations more lax, only to be replaced by people moving in from the Northeast seeking warmer weather an a lower cost of living.
It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Gregory was an early fan of Donald Trump. While the Republican establishment aligned with the voters of Kings Mountain on social issues, their laissez-faire approach to trade accelerated the decay of industrial communities across America. The Democrats, on the other hand, gradually walked away from their working class in favor of more liberal trade agreements, leaving residents of Kings Mountain with a party that represented their church but not their wallets, and another that represented neither.
Not so controversial
Gregory’s platform is in lock step with the president’s - with a huge focus on leveling the playing field when it comes to trade agreements. In this sense, this is where Gregory’s (and Trump’s) views align most with voters on the left. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine Bernie Sanders or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez voting in favor of a trade agreement that required fair pay, safe working conditions, and stricter environmental standards for any country looking to replace American industry.
What I heard in my conversation with Gregory was a man who saw decades of policy rob people in his community of their livelihood, their purpose, and their dignity, who wanted to give the next generation the Kings Mountain he grew up in. Again, while those on the left might disagree with what some of that means, I’d be hard pressed to imagine they wouldn’t be able to understand how he arrived at his positions.
For better or for worse, much of the dialogue right now is focused on the areas where the two differ, such as Gregory’s hardline stance on immigration, as we don’t have a system where candidates are rewarded more for their unwillingness to find common ground than their ability to build consensus.
Until this changes, like his ancestor Isaac, Gregory will also follow the family tradition of being a controversial individual.