Leah Kuenzi's Blog

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Reading Reflection: Voices of Protest February 18, 2010

Filed under: Reading Journals — lkuenzi @ 6:01 am

In his comparative biography, Brinkley chronicles the lives, power roles, and circumstances for achieving greatness of Huey Long and Father Coughlin. Though he seems to emphasize the chance of circumstances in which both men rose to such immense power, credit can no doubt also be attributed to the enigmatic and contagious personalities of the “Kingfish” and the “Radio Priest.” In the case of Huey Long, who called for a redistribution of wealth through the “Share Our Weatlh” Program and supported a federally-regulated banking system , Brinkley focuses on Long’s ability to command an audience and appear relatable to the masses: though he was a politician, he worked hard to be seen by his constituents as a friend and a community-member. Father Coughlin, though his popularity came through his success as a radio broadcaster whose voice reached millions of American homes, also called for drastic economic reform (including bimetallism) and frequently lashed out at Roosevelt’s New Deal because it believed it was not sufficiently radical, and could not pull the Nation’s people out of the Great Depression.

Long and Coughlin experienced unparalleled personal and political popularity throughout their time in the limelight, but what most intrigued me about their stories were how they both met their ends: they were both great, but they allowed success to ultimately destroy them.  Long was a deeply corrupt politician who, “dynamited” people out of the way who disagreed with him. After finally agitating the wrong person, he was gunned during a low-point in his popularity, during the downswing of his career. Coughlin did not meet such a poetic end. After developing wildly unpopular anti-Semitic broadcasts, breaking formally with the Roosevelt administration and condemning U.S. entrance into World War II, he was forced off the air and vanished from the forefront of American interest and support. The power that these two men had could not be maintained, and their unsavory (to some) personalities and beliefs ultimately caused their demise.

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