The Atlantic

When Demagogic Populism Swings Left

During the Great Depression, a Trumpian figure established unprecedented political control in Louisiana and attracted criticism for his autocratic methods—while pursuing a radical progressive agenda.
Source: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock / AP / The Atlantic

Here are three things you should know about Huey Long: He served as first the governor and then a senator for Louisiana in the late 1920s and early 1930s. While in office, he pursued a populist agenda by aggressive means that many critics saw as autocratic and unlawful. And he held on to popular support, in spite of the critics, right up until one of them killed him.

In an Atlantic article written two months after Long was assassinated in 1935, George Sokolsky remembered having asked Long if he was a fascist. “Fine,” Long told him in a conversation that took place less than a year before he was killed. “I’m Mussolini and Hitler rolled into one. Mussolini [force-fed dissidents] castor oil; I’ll give them tabasco, and then they’ll like Louisiana.” Then he laughed.

The accusation of fascism was nothing new for Long. He was a controversial figure in American politics, attracting a passionate base of support on one hand for effectively pushing progressive legislation and widely condemned on the

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