Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Kingfish Government

I've been reading Kingfish: The Reign of Huey Long by Richard White.

One of the striking things about the book and Huey's real-life story is how it makes his
fictional counterpart in All the King's Men seem almost positively benign.

The other striking thing is how similar the real Kingfish's politics resemble that of the current Republican regime ruling in Washington.

Both were obsessed with obtaining and maintaining absolute power. Like the Cheney Administration's
unitary executive theories, 750 signing statements, and FISA-busting NSA wiretaps, the Kingfish believed he was a law unto himself. Like the Cheney Administration's disregard for Congress (even when controlled by its own party), the Kingfish was known for his direct intervention in the legislative process, even going so far as to patrol the floors of the Louisiana state legislature, threating and cajoling the people's representatives to vote for his bills. Like the Cheney Administration's promotion of loyalty over competence and legality, the Kingfish used patronage to reward his friends and contributors and punish his enemies. Like the Cheney Administration's retribution against opponents, Huey Long would employ "any means necessary" to enact his policies and control the state. Like the Cheney Administration, Huey cast himself as a representative of the Common Man and sprinkled his speeches with and based his policies and political manueverings on stories and quotes from the Bible (while failing to uphold that Book's ethical injunctions). Like the Cheney Administration, the Kingfish viewed himself as superior to his opponents and those he ruled, never admitting mistakes but instead blaming others for his failures.

Of course, today's Republican Party and ruling elite don't mirror the Kingfish in every way. Huey Long constructed roads (albeit shabby ones at inflated contractor rates) across the state, builty up Louisiana State University (while intervening insufferably in the institution's sport's and academic life) into one of the country's most well-known and well-funded universities, distributed free texbooks for school children across the state, alienating richer districts that didn't want to be "tainted" with the appearance of charity or unfavorably linked with poorer areas of the state, and called for raising taxes to pay for it (once the state's ability to borrow had been exhausted).

In short, the Bush Restoration, together with its Gingrich-Delay K Street Project forebearer, has given us the worst of the Kingfish's autocratic excesses but little or none of its generosity.

1 comment:

Cyberotter said...

Very interesting reading !

Some of us have posted on this topic as well.