The Edmond Sun

Opinion

August 28, 2013

American ideas live long

EDMOND — Louisiana Senator Huey Long said “God don’t let me die, I have so much to do” in the early morning hours of Sept. 5, 1934, shortly before he passed away.

The night before, Long had been shot in the state capitol building in Baton Rouge, La. by Dr. Carl Weiss, who was the son-in-law of one of Long’s political enemies. Weiss was later shot dead by  Long’s bodyguards.    

Long, who had been elected to the U.S. Senate in 1928 after serving as Louisiana’s governor, had developed a national political following with his calls for “sharing the wealth” and was preparing to  run for president against Franklin Roosevelt whom he believed had not done enough to assist the less fortunate in American society. Long had initially been an ally of FDR and as detailed in “The Huey Long Murder Case” by Herman B. Deutsch, he had campaigned for Roosevelt in 1932 in the  Midwest.

 And as a result of Long’s efforts, some of the states in that region had voted Democratic in a Presidential election for the first time in a generation. Long had voted for much of the legislation in the U.S. Senate that created the New Deal, but he had concluded that more radical action had to be taken to address the affects of the Great Depression.

By 1934, FDR was privately describing Huey Long as “the most dangerous man in America.” The Louisianan advocated for a system in which the amount of money any individual could inherit would be $5 million and that estates larger than that would go to the U.S. Treasury. Those funds would be used to insure that all Americans had a guaranteed income of $2,500. He also advocated a 30-hour work week as a way to decrease unemployment. Long had founded the “Share the Wealth” club with that program and at the time of his death it had thousands of members across the country.

“Every man a king, but no man wears the crown” was a phrase first uttered by William Jennings Bryan that Long, who was a gifted orator, repeated as he spoke to enthusiastic crowds around the nation. And unlike most other southern politicians of that era, Long did not pander to the racial prejudice and he indicated that he wanted to improve the lives of African Americans as well as underprivileged whites .

Long, who was born in Winn Parish, La. in 1893, had been elected that state’s governor in 1925 on a platform that included raising the taxes of the oil companies in the state and building schools, roads, and hospitals.

As documented by Long’s biographer, T. Harry Williams, he had made good on those promises, but in doing so he rode roughshod over the other branches of Louisiana’s government and  ruthlessly silenced his critic.

A young professor of English at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Robert Penn Warren wrote a novel entitled “All the King’s Men” about a politician who uses his power to destroy those who oppose him that was based on Huey Long.   

As documented by Williams, Long had extensive ties to Oklahoma. His older brother, Julius Long was a dentist for a time in Shawnee who later moved to Tulsa and was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives from that community.

Huey Long attended Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee for a time, and later spent several semesters at OU Law School. While at OU, Long founded the “Young Democrats,” an organization that would later produce many of Oklahoma’s  political leaders.

After Long’s death, the “Share the Wealth” club gradually faded from the political landscape.

But it is possible that future historians may conclude that Long and his ideas as to what role the national government should play in providing for the less fortunate in American society were ahead of their times.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014

  • Tax deadline and no reform in sight

    The annual tax filing deadline, which comes next Tuesday, provides a good opportunity for tax reform advocates to decry the current law’s increasing complexity and inequities, and to urge enactment of a simpler, fairer system.

    April 10, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results