Thursday, April 21st
THE KINGFISH, LOUISIANA, AND PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS!
Huey Long would have been right in the middle of the current
presidential election if he were still alive.
He began a legacy of a long list of Louisiana politicians who had
national aspirations. Later governors
John McKeithen, Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer and Bobby Jindal all fell by the
wayside in the quest for national office.
A primer for anyone studying Louisiana politics is Robert
Penn Warren’s book “All the King’s Men
,” a Pulitzer Prize wining
novel based on the life of Huey Long.
Warren was a close observer of the Long dynasty while teaching at LSU in
the 1940s. I re-read the novel recently
and noticed an eerie resemblance to much of the rhetoric emanating from both
the Trump and Sanders presidential campaigns today. Warren’s candidate is told:
“Just stir ‘em up, it doesn’t matter how or why, and they’ll
love you and come back for more. Pinch ’em in the soft place. They aren’t
alive, most of ‘em, and haven’t been for 20 years. It’s up to you to give ‘em
something to stir ‘em up and make ‘em feel alive again. Just for half an hour.
That’s what they come for. Tell ‘em anything. But for Sweet Jesus sake, don’t
try to improve their minds.”
The New York Times remembered Huey Long this week as a candidate
who had “no belt he was unwilling to hit below. He had a paranoid style of attack. Long relied on threats and insults. There was
an ozone stink of violence at his rallies; hecklers were dealt with severely.”
Is it fair to compare Long’s tactics to the campaign of
Donald Trump? Would Trump, if
successful, end up as a demagogue like Warren’s character, and like Huey Long
himself? Probably not. Trump has build a
successful movement on running against the establishment, and the Trump
campaign apparently feels that the incendiary means being used as a electioneering
tactic justifies the end to a Trump presidency.
Louisiana’s musical poet laureate Randy Newman (“Louisiana-They’re goanna’ wash us away”)
wrote about Long in his song
“Kingfish,” that certainly has a broad appeal to democratic presidential
candidate Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
Loosen up your suspenders
Hunker down on the ground
But don’t I take good care of you.
Sanders has surprised political pundits by running as an angry populist who
has strong appeal with
white, young liberals. And let’s call it
like it is. He has the backing of many
democrats who just don’t like Hillary Clinton.
Author Dwight Garner reminds us that the title of “All the
King’s Men” comes from the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty.” Political campaigns in Louisiana and across
the country too often are based on attacks and attempts to tear down the
present way we govern. But it’s not
difficult to posture and pontificate on what’s wrong with the current system.
It’s easy to break things.
The challenge is how you put them back together again. Humpty Dumpty
couldn’t do it. I wonder if any of the
current presidential candidates can?
“The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to
admit that each political party is worse than the other.”
Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout
the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns
and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com
. You can also hear Jim’s
nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am
Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.