Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship, 1928-1940

Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship, 1928-1940

Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship, 1928-1940

Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship, 1928-1940

Excerpt

Louisiana has swept America's first dictatorship into history. Twelve years ago its people went on a spree--a Louisiana hayride for two million men, women and children. They jolted, they jerked, they rolled happily in the straw, over a bumpy but exciting road. They paid their fare; they knew, most of them, what they were getting; they liked it while they were getting it. They had little to say about their destination, but they did not mind that much. They giggled, they gasped, they held their breaths; and the show went on, around them, among them, for them.

And word spread that there was room aboard for others, and these came running. From other states, from other regions, this bayou folks' bacchanale drew new audiences, new participants. There were those, in time, who saw it change its character; saw the hayride emerge as the vehicle of a national juggernaut--its potential victim, America.

A gun spat, and the first driver toppled. But he had hitched his vehicle to a force that took it onward. The self-designated Kingfish, Huey P. Long, was dead. Long live the Kingfish! Other Kingfishes grabbed the reins and held them for the years that followed. The pace slackened. The riders calmed a bit. But the wagon still rolled, and the drivers still collected their tariff at intervals. Then, in 1940, came wreckage.

Soberly, the people of Louisiana are looking backward today, some of them convinced that they were passengers on a test trip, a political tryout in advance of others that might . . .

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