Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One Fish, Two Fish, Rod Fish, Kingfish

While working on my last post, I started thinking back on former Louisiana Governor and U.S. Senator Huey Long. And the more I thought about it, the more something struck me.

People have compared our present Governor to various past leaders, both local and national, but I think that the most apt comparison may well be to the Kingfish.

While there were some invocations of Long brought up by people following Gov. Blagojevich's class-dividing budget address last year, I'm not sure that anybody has really thought about the extent of the similarities. Or if they have, I may have missed it.

I'll let you judge to what extent the following items seem eerily similar. They are not all negative, by the way. In fact, some may well find the comparisons to be a reaffirmation, not a repudiation, of the current administration. I'll let you be the judge, I'm just throwing this out there for thought.

So here you go, from the background of Huey Long (all emphasis added):

Even during his days as a traveling salesman, Long confided to his wife that his planned career trajectory would begin with election to a minor state office, then governor, then senator, and ultimately election as President of the United States.

As governor, Long inherited a dysfunctional system of government tainted by influence peddling. Corporations often wrote the laws governing their practices and rewarded part-time legislators and other officials with jobs and bribes.

Long moved quickly to consolidate his power, firing hundreds of opponents in the state bureaucracy. Like previous governors, he filled the vacancies with patronage appointments from his own network of political supporters.

In 1929, Long called a special session of both houses of the legislature to enact a new corporate tax, in order to help fund his social programs. The bill met with a storm of opposition. (can you say GRT?)

Denying that his program was socialistic, Long stated that his ideological inspiration for the plan came from the Bible. (where have we heard this recently?)

Long became ruthless when dealing with his enemies, firing their relatives from state jobs and supporting candidates to defeat them in elections.

After impeachment, Long surrounded himself with armed bodyguards at all times. (Although I don't think they had SUV's back then.)

Long’s radical rhetoric and his aggressive tactics did little to endear him to his fellow senators. Not one of his proposed bills, resolutions or motions was passed during his three years in the Senate. During one debate, another senator told Long that “I do not believe you could get the Lord’s Prayer endorsed in this body.”

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not sure that there is any real point or relevance to the above, some of the aspects can readily be attributed to administrations around the country at various points in time, but I still found it to be somewhat interesting and thought-provoking.


At October 22, 2007 at 10:40 PM, Anonymous Enlightened said...

An interesting post indeed Rep. Nice work.

At October 23, 2007 at 8:07 AM, Anonymous DuPage Saint said...

Huey Long happended to be one of the most successful governors of la. I would suggest you read a good bio of him. He chased the corporate influences from La. Please read about the number of schools, school books, hospitals, the number of roads he built. How he worked for the poor people, how he turned LSU around including the football program etc. He has received a bum rap from both parties he should get better. Pls check out his High Populorum vs Low Populorum (sp?) speach and tell me it does not apply to you in Springfield!!!

At October 23, 2007 at 9:34 AM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

As I tried to convey, maybe unsuccessfully, my comparisons weren’t intended to be either negative or positive, but rather, I just thought that some of the parallels were pretty interesting.

As you point out, Long did a lot of things, and a lot of good things, at a critical juncture in Louisiana’s history.

He went to the mat to provide textbooks for kids, breathed new life into LSU, and seemed to be a sincere advocate for empowering those who didn’t enjoy ‘insider’ status.

How he accomplished many of those goals may not win him any statesmanship awards, but as you point out, at least he got them done.

At October 23, 2007 at 1:32 PM, Blogger Hugh said...

> my comparisons weren’t intended to be either negative or positive

You're not sure what you think of Huey Long?

Figures you would blog about one of the most corrupt politicians in American history and remind us of the GOOD things he did.

At October 23, 2007 at 3:07 PM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

Seriously Hugh?

I write a post for the sole purpose of pointing out some similarities between the two administrations, not as a study of the Long administration; I point it out as such; and in my subsequent comment I even clarify that I don't think much of his methodology, and yet you put up a comment like that. And still I post it.

Is there another legislative blog that is more to your approval than mine? Or are you going to be critical regardless of what I do?

At October 23, 2007 at 4:05 PM, Anonymous Forget about hugh said...


If you haven't learned by now, some people will try to find fault in anything. The rest of us enjoy your blog a lot and appreciate you doing it. And I actually thought that this was a very interesting post.

At October 23, 2007 at 4:12 PM, Anonymous hugh mistake said...

... and a great title, John. Very clever as always!


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