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

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UPTON SINCLAIR

The agrarian and back-to-basics nature of the EPIC Plan captured the American nostalgia of returning back to the land, of producing what one would need for sustenance, and of bartering and trading one's product for other needed goods. And, more pragmatically, it put the jobless back to work with the by-product of feeding the hungry. The EPIC Plan perked the ears of Californians, and soon Sinclair had a loyal following that joined his EPIC Clubs. Designed to study the problems in California and how the EPIC plan could solve them, the EPIC Club membership gave him the lead in the August 1934 Democratic Primary with 54% of the votes, with 54.6 percent of the support coming from Los Angeles County, home of 179 cooperatives (Hackett 15). Sinclair, however, knew his support was regional and largely confined to the existing co-op areas. To win the election, he would need the support of leading Democrats, including FDR, before he could carry the entire state.

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Before the primary, Sinclair had indeed hoped to meet with FDR to secure his approval and support of the EPIC Plan. Getting the attention of New Dealers with agrarian production-for-use was not hard to do since New Dealers had experimented with it, with mixed success, and even implemented the ideas into the TVA plan. Sinclair did get an appointment with FDR and other New Dealers in Washington, but not until after his victory at the primary (Hackett 26-27).

When Sinclair met with FDR, he and most of the New Dealers were hesitant to publicly support Sinclair's EPIC Plan. The New Deal was already under harsh criticism for its seemingly socialist agenda, and for having FDR ruling the nation with near-wartime executive powers to implement his own vision of relief. FDR was also aware of Sinclair's wealthy and influential critics back home in California, who were spearheaded by Louis B. Mayer, the president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and William Randolph Hearst, the radio/tabloid/newspaper tycoon (I, Candidate 167). FDR neither supported nor dismissed the EPIC Plan, but rather let it simmer along without a wink or nod.

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I, Candiate FDR's cautious reserve paid off as the smear campaign against Sinclair by Mayer and Hearst moved ahead full-throttle. Throughout his book, I, Candidate For Governor and How I Got Licked, Sinclair shows how Hearst used his media empire to misquote and misrepresent Sinclair and the EPIC platform, as well as how Mayer used his influential connections to do the same. A public relations firm was hired on the recommendation of Mayer with the sole intent of discrediting Sinclair. Hearst, Mayer, other wealthy citizens, and some leading Republicans were fearful of the EPIC Plan's socialist-communist leanings, and of its production-for-use, instead of production-for-profit, and set out to do whatever possible to end Sinclair's campaign in California.


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