POLITICAL NOTE: Share-the-Wealth Wave

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(See front cover)

Economic theories for the immediate salvation of the U. S. come & go like the waves of the sea, pounding loudly for a little while on the beach of public attention and then receding to the silent depths of history. The Utopian movement, whipped up into big breakers by the 1934 campaign, spent itself in the defeat of California's Upton Sinclair and his EPIC. Its successor, the Townsend Plan, touched its high watermark just before Chairman Doughton of the House Ways & Means Committee put the old country doctor on the witness stand and made a monkey out of him (TIME, Feb. 18). As of All Fools Day, 1935, the largest political splash was being made by Huey Pierce Long's Share- the-Wealth movement.

Most of last week Senator Long spent on business in Louisiana with the result that: 1) the Senate galleries were all but empty; 2) the Senate itself suddenly began to make progress on its legislative program. This positive popularity with spectators, this negative power with Senators, did not pass Washington unnoticed. To wiseacres there it was just one more significant proof of the important change, personal and political, Huey Long has undergone in the last few weeks.

Change to Charm. The outward signs of that change are marked. The Senator was loud, rough, profane. He still is, by nature, but nowadays as he passes through the corridors of the Senate Office Building, he tries to be charming and affable to all comers. He used to run around to his quota of parties, but nowadays he has little time for such gay amusement. Though he has not yet become a teetotaler, he is no longer the Huey Long of the Sands Point washroom. This change is not reform; it is ambition, guided by a keen sense of self-advantage. Senator Long may have his faults and flaws but he does not neglect his business, which is politics.

Huey Long has been at work on that business since he got himself admitted to the Louisiana Bar at 21. At 25 he was a member of the Railroad Commission of Louisiana. At 27 he got on the State Public Service Commission. At 34 he was Governor. At 38 he was U. S. Senator and political master of Louisiana in a literal sense that non-Louisianians cannot understand. In six years he ran the State debt up from $46,000,000 to $143,000,000 and doubled its annual operating expenses but today no responsible person in Louisiana dares challenge his power. The Governor is his puppet. He curses his State Legislature to its face and then boldly boasts that "they are the finest collection of lawmakers money can buy." The State judiciary is so packed with Longsters that a legal test of the Senator's autocracy is out of the question. The State guard is, in effect, a private political army to put down any and all anti-Long squawkers. The State's election machinery is so rigged that an outsider can never win. Political scientists may deplore such a perversion of democratic government but they cannot help admiring the shrewd inventiveness of the politician who devised such a state organization.

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