It’s the early 1930s and the United States, as well as the rest of the planet, is mired in the greatest economic downturn the world has ever seen. In the U.S., the unemployment rate soars to over 25%, businesses begin shuttering at an alarming rate, banks are locking their doors, and people who thought that they would live out their lives with a comfortable middle class existence, now find themselves broke and homeless. The mournful despair and desperation of those times is, perhaps, best caught-up by a popular song back then called “One Meat Ball” which you can still listen to on YouTube, if so interested. In this song, a poor, down-and-out man goes into a restaurant and orders one meat ball for about 15 cents, which is all he can afford. He’s hoping to get the bread basket that comes when someone orders a regular meal. But the angry waiter sings out-“You gets no bread with one meat ball.” Such was the new norm of those times.
With rage and despair covering the country like a giant, thick blanket, Franklin Roosevelt is elected President by a landslide in 1932, and starts the New Deal upon taking office in 1933. But also elected to high office during those desperate days was a man who would be king. His name was Huey Long, and he was first elected as Governor of Louisiana in 1928, and then Senator from that state in 1930. Long was a rarity for a Southern politician in those days, in that he didn’t display the usual racial bigotry and segregation advocacy that was common amongst most white Southerners of that era. In fact he generally advocated for the poor, black or white. As Governor, he was responsible for the construction of many new roads, schools and infrastructure throughout the state as he attempted to bring Louisiana out of the dark ages. But there was also a very dark side to Huey Long. He was the ultimate power-hungry politician who would ruthlessly destroy anyone that dared to oppose him. He reveled in the acquisition of power, the more the better, as illustrated by his fondness for being called the Kingfish.
Although Huey Long supported Roosevelt’s candidacy in 1932, shortly after the Kingfish was elected to the Senate, he stated that he would oppose FDR, and run for the Presidency himself in 1936. So sure was he of winning that next election, that while running, he announced who his cabinet officers would be when he took office. Most political analysts and commentators of the day wrote that there was little doubt that once the Kingfish entered the oval office, he would quickly establish a total dictatorship. Crushing any and all opposition was Huey Long’s specialty. It was claimed by political insiders that Roosevelt, himself, feared for his re-election prospects should the Kingfish run against him. Of course, none of that materialized because Huey Long was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet in 1935. An excellent fictionalized version of the life and times of Huey Long can be found in the American classic novel, “All The King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren.
Now let’s fast-forward to the upcoming election in 2016, and the new Kingfish of our times . Today is known as Super Tuesday because a bunch of states will be holding their Presidential primaries. If the prognosticators are correct, Donald Trump stands to win almost all of these elections, which will likely give him a lock on achieving the Republican nomination. Yes, the same Trump that does the Texas-Two-Step as he waltzes around the issue of releasing his tax returns for public observation. What damaging stuff those returns must contain. The same fearless Trump that wouldn’t participate in a Fox News debate because Megan Kelly would be one of the hosts, and she might have been “mean” to him. All 110 pounds of her. The same Trump that advocates for the use of torture when dealing with our supposed enemies. Or at least “something much worse than water boarding.” And, the same Trump, who with the greatest reluctance, finally “disavowed” a ringing endorsement given him by the former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. That fine human specimen is named David Duke, and he publicly announced that any white person that didn’t wholeheartedly support Donald Trump would be “a traitor to his race.” Trump danced around that issue for 2 days, feigning mental amnesia about who white supremacists are, before finally choking out the words-“I disavow.” Welcome to America’s new Kingfish.
What’s fascinating and disturbing at the same time is the number of people out there gleefully supporting this neo-fascist demagogue. Willing to destroy the Constitution and its inherent civil liberties that have been around since George Washington. Over some delusional fantasy that Trump will stick it to the Mexicans, the Chinese, and the Moslems. That vengeance will rule the day. In the end we do it to ourselves. As Pogo said-we have met the enemy and he is us.