All those categories, still one topic. Go figure.
As you can tell by the "currently reading" bar sort of directly to the right of this post--probably a scroll or two down as well--I'm "currently reading" T.H. Williams' biography of Louisiana politician extradorinaire Huey Long. A couple of years ago, I taught Sinclair Lewis' novel It Can't Happen Here, a roman a clef of Huey's life. What I failed to realize is how poor a roman a clef it was. It transformed Huey into a dictator of the fascist sort, when he barely resembled the European socialists-in-name-alone-dictators with whom Sinclair compared him. Wish I could admit to being a homer here, but I'm not: Long was a political enigma, but he was no more a fascist than Gandhi...both genuinely wanted to help as many people as possible...except to do so in America requires a sort of pragmatic dictatorial streak. Huey had it. Gandhi didn't. Should we hold that against the Kingfish? Since I'm only about 443 pages into the book, maybe I shouldn't make such bold proclamations, but I will anyway. I'm not afraid of being as wrong as genocide.
So here's a statement typical of the aristocrats Huey opposed:
"The two worst things that ever happened are universal suffrage and universal education."
Huey opposed this. What a fascist. Now, for some of the Kingfish's greatest hits:
When told that nepotism marred his administration--that far too many of his kinfolk were living on the dole--Huey replied that that's only true if you count "ninth cousins, the in-laws and cousins of in-laws," and hinted that his critics were probably correct, but needed some proof. He suggested they "investigate the rosters of the state penitentiary," where they'd find "plenty of his kin doling from the pen."
When his oppoents complained about Huey's entirely legal but non-traditional appointment of delegates to the Democratic National Convention, Huey replied: "No music ever sounded one-half so refreshing as the whines and groans of pie-eating politicians. They say that they were steam-rollered. I think that is true. The only reason that the roller didn't pass over more of them was because there were no more in the way."
After a particularly heated battle won by Huey, but thought, in the heat of the moment, to have been won by his opponents, the Kingfish declared: "That was a great contest. Give 'em rope."
One of the man's favored stock phrases: "bosses and bosslets." I know one of those isn't a word, but fuck me if it oughtn't be.
I could continue, but you ought to read this book. Especially if you're Some Canadian Guy, since Huey is widely acknowledged as being the first U.S. politician to put expertise above political commitment...because the non-political experts in whom he put his faith respected his ability to defer to their expertise. Brilliant.
[Edit: Another 300 pages into the biography, and I can't help but think that Lewis might not've been as wrong as I initially thought. Huey might've been a colorful and egalitarian dictator, but I'm becoming convinced that he was one. More on these pressing developments later. I know you're waiting with baited breath.]