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Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, & the Great Depression 1st Vintage Books ed Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0394716282
ISBN-10: 0394716280
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The study of two demagogues, whose vast popularity explains much about Depression-era America.

From the Back Cover

This is a book about two remarkable men-Huey P. Long, a first-term United States Senator from the red-clay, piney woods country of northern Louisiana; and Charles E. Coughlin, a Catholic priest from an industrial suburb near Detroit. From modest origins, they rose together in the early years of the Great Depression to become the two most successful leaders of national political dissidence of their era.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (August 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394716280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394716282
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By charles falk VINE VOICE on January 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Alan Brinkley's book is a valuable addition to the history of the Great Depression. He has broadened and altered my perceptions of Huey Long and Father Coughlin dramatically. In addition to being populist demagogues, they both proposed radical economic reforms that put the New Deal to shame.
Long was not just a Louisiana or southern phenomenon. In 1936, when he was shot, he had created a national organization with the apparent intention of running for President. Brinkley has unearthed a poll commissioned by the Democratic National Committee that year that showed Long drawing as large a percentage of the vote as George Wallace or Ross Perot did in more recent elections. And the support was not limited to southern states. In Massachusetts, the DNC poll showed Long getting more than 13% of the vote.
Coughlin turned to fascism and overt anti-semetism only after his popularity began to wane when he split openly with Roosevelt. In his heyday he sounded like a socialist, proposing to replace the federal reserve with a true central bank and the nationalizing of the energy industry.
Brinkley thinks that Long, Coughlin and the California radical, Dr Townsend, pushed Roosevelt and the Congress into enacting a more comprehensive Social Security law than they would have otherwise.
Brinkley doesn't try to gloss over the dark side of Long's totalitarian rule in Louisiana or Father Coughlin's bloated ego and slide into ugly racism. But he does present a economic reformist aspect to their movements that is no longer known -- even among historians. It is more fashionable now to talk about the reform movements headed LaFollette and Norman Thomas as the sources of New Deal economic reform. While those may have been more highminded reformers, they never approached Long and Coughlin in mass appeal or in their power to frighten a President.
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Format: Paperback
In many ways the Great Depression marked a turning point for American society. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies significantly altered the scope and function of the federal government through a host of social programs engineered to revive the ailing economy. A restructuring of the banking system, restrictions on the stock markets, an increase in the size of the bureaucracy, and the development of Social Security were just a few of the changes wrought by the administration. Despite the various panaceas proposed and enacted by Roosevelt's government, the economic slump doggedly persisted year after year until World War II provided jobs for millions of out of work Americans. Roosevelt and his advisors were not the only people trying to cure the country of its economic ills, however. During the early and mid 1930s, several dissident social movements exploded onto the American scene promising an end to the Depression. Historian Alan Brinkley examines two of the biggest of these movements in "Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression."
The first 142 pages of "Voices of Protest" summarizes the life, rise, and various activities of Louisiana politician Huey Long and Catholic priest and radio personality Charles Coughlin. If you know a great deal about these two fascinating figures, you could probably skip these sections and not miss out on a great deal. Brinkley discusses Long's early life in Winn Parish, a Louisiana county with a long history of radical dissent dating back to the era of Populism. Arguing that this background imbued Long with a fondness for the common man, Brinkley outlines Huey's rise to power through the governorship of Louisiana and his eventual move into the United States Senate.
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Format: Paperback
On the eve of the Great Depression the great Spanish existential and political philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset published The Revolt of the Masses. In it he predicted the rise of mass man -- undifferentiated, unanchored and unthinking citizens of modern, western societies attached to none of the traditional sources of community, which were being destroyed by capitalism anyway. For Ortega y Gasset, these folks all too easily moved to charismatic, emotional leadership to give meaning in their political lives. Twentieth century thinkers like Dwight MacDonald and Hannah Arendt have explored some of the implications of Ortega y Gasset's work, noting its eerie forershadowing of Nazism, Fascism and Stalinism. American historians such as Richard Hofstadter, meatime, found in American radicalism the same linkages between charismatic leadership and mass man. In Hofstadter's telling this phenomenon folded within the tradition of radical critiques of American capitalism.

Hofstadter's works, most notably The Age of Reform, were pretty critical of the causes of the American attraction to radical politics, such as it was -- that attraction was fostered by emotional anxieties that all too often morphed into nostalgic, irresponsible, politically conservative, anti-Semitic, racist movements.

Alan Brinkley clearly relies of Hofstadter quite a bit, but with a much more sympathetic treatment of American mass politics and its causes. For him, the anxieties were fully justified. He focuses on the alternative visions offered by Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s to President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Brinkley argues both men attracted large followings accross the nation by the use of the radio and mass-circulation print publications.
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