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  FATHER COUGHLIN, HUEY LONG, & UPTON SINCLAIR; VOICES FOR THE DISAFFECTED IN 1930s AMERICA

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HUEY LONG

At age 21, Long wanted to hold public office in Louisiana, all with the hope of taking his ideas of distribution of wealth to a law-making level. However, he knew Louisiana law well-enough to know that he was not eligible to hold most public offices in his home state. However, he discovered that there was no age requirement for the position of Railroad Commissioner. He ran for that office in much the same way that he would run his future campaigns: he took to the road and headed to rural areas where he stumped, handed-out circulars, and posted flyers. Long knew that to win he would have to secure votes outside of the New Orleans party machine of corrupt politics, so while in the backwoods and swamps he would personally meet, greet, and woo the farmers, most of whom were often poor whites or even poorer blacks. Through his personalized stumping in the rural areas, he took the election by a landslide (Brinkley 17-18). 

As Railroad Commissioner, he had an eye on the little guy, the very people who voted him into office. He forced large oil companies, namely Standard Oil, to make their lines "common carrier" lines, so that smaller companies would have access and could compete on the market. Further, he demanded that railroads service the rural areas, as well as argued that big corporations should pay more of the tax burden (Brinkley 18). He continued this trend as chairman of the Public Services Commission, which he held beginning in 1921 (Spartacus 1).

Similar campaigning and his continued populist rhetoric led him to victory in the race for Governor of Louisiana, an office which he held from 1928 to 1932. Long was quick to keep his promises to the rural Huey Long signaturepoor, white and black alike, who were largely responsible for yet another landslide victory. As Governor, he signed off on the paving of 3,000 miles of Louisiana's roadsPDF File, mandated free textbooks to all of the state's children, and pushed through law that would ease the tax burden on the poor (Spartacus 1).

While he was a modern-day Robin Hood to the poor, his methods were under attack by politicians and criticsPDF File, who were largely behind various impeachments and indictments during each of his political offices.

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They often pointed to one of Long's often used dictatorial methods of getting his ideas into action: he would fire anyone with a state position if he or she were disloyal, or if a member of his or her family, or even a close friend, were disloyal. Long not only fired the individual in question, but his or her family members and friends as well. Long did not tolerate disloyalty, and he was all about helping those who helped him, and punishing those who thought or acted otherwise. Long's critics were largely stifled through this method, though many of the more powerful remained vocal and, thus, thorns in Long's side. Indeed, they tried to impeach him in 1929 for corruption and graft, but he avoided it by a mere two votes (Brinkley). Long's tentacles reached throughout Louisiana state government and he kept everyone in favors, and thus, in his back pocket.


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