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Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, & the Great Depression [Paperback]

Alan Brinkley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 12, 1983 0394716280 978-0394716282 1st Vintage Books ed
The study of two demagogues, whose vast popularity explains much about Depression-era America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

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

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: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A New View of Depression-era Demagogues January 15, 2001
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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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at dissident America, circa 1930s January 13, 2004
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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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Follies of Charismatic Leadership January 18, 2006
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener
My opinion of Father Coughlin has improved, I will have to say, I was wrong Coughlin was nothing like Limbaugh. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Glenn Gammell
4.0 out of 5 stars Skip the Theory
Read a narrative history, this is a terrific work on two fascinating individuals. I learned a lot about Coughlin and Long from Brinkley's pages. Read more
Published on November 22, 2011 by J. Smallridge
5.0 out of 5 stars 1930s Populism
The 1930s was one of the greatest periods of social change and economic dislocation. Presiding over this was FDR, unshakeable and always victorious, or at least that is the tale... Read more
Published on September 25, 2011 by M. A Newman
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful; 4.5 Stars
An unusually thoughtful and well written analysis of the 2 major dissident figures of the Great Depression; the Southern politician Huey Long and the Catholic broadcaster Father... Read more
Published on June 5, 2011 by R. Albin
4.0 out of 5 stars Voices of protest against FDR.
I found this book interesting for several reasons. My Dad lived through the Great Depression and thought highly of FDR. Read more
Published on May 11, 2011 by Kevin M Quigg
4.0 out of 5 stars authors improve
I've read other books by Brinkley, and his recent stuff (he's a professor at Columbia) is very well written, and has tons of wonderful detail. Read more
Published on April 13, 2011 by Dr. John A. C. Greppin
4.0 out of 5 stars Voices of Demagogues
Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression by Alan Brinkley describes the story of two well-known figures during the 1920's and 30's. Read more
Published on April 14, 2010 by Jason Tanner
5.0 out of 5 stars Rabble-rousers
Coughlin and the Kingfish were both public personalities who seized on the uncertainties and economic hardship of the depression to churn up the public (or at least certain... Read more
Published on December 1, 2007 by James D. Crabtree
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fair Assessment of Controversial Figures
One of the things I've found in reading American history, and especially in books written about the era of the Great Depression, is that President Roosevelt had the greatest smear... Read more
Published on July 24, 2007 by R. F. Mojica
5.0 out of 5 stars Dissident Movements in America - fascinating topic
Praise has been heaped on Alan Brinkley's book in the past, and after reading it, I fully concur with the accolades that past reviewers have granted to this book. Read more
Published on July 29, 2006 by Eric Hobart
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