For a few short years under Huey Long, Louisiana politics seemed to resemble Latin American politics to a certain extent. Tax hikes in the middle of economic collapses, family-based politics with wholesale firings of state employees who might in any way be related to his enemies. Surrounded by bodyguards, his infamous assassination in September of 1935 had been preceded by conflicts with armed opposition groups like The Square Deal Association. His Share Our Wealth program had, in Long’s own view of it, nothing to do with socialism, but was rather a re-ordering of capitalism, with progressive taxes, free education, assistance to farmers, public works projects, and further subsidies. He was sent by God to save the people, and if he had to blur the lines between state and federal powers by running Louisiana from his senate office in Washington, in the years after he was governor, why it was merely divine right.

No one has to guess what party the man who railed against Wall Street and the Fed was from. And doubt whether he supported Roosevelt and his New Deal. At the City of New Orleans’ – the Amtrak train of course – final stop in Chicago civics could also get interesting in those years, and in years to come. But lessons since learned mean that a Huey Long in 2015 would be impossible, and has been impossible for decades, if not generations.

So maybe Josh Earnest realized it was easier to compare Obama with Pope Francis – who never was a full-blooded real riot-causing, union-thug, populist Peronista – than with people like Huey Long. And Long’s tax schemes were nowhere near what Bernie Sanders, the real socialist, would do if he won the presidency. Would try to do and would fail, that is. Unless a Sanderista party rose up around the land to replace the Dems and GOP and he somehow won control of Congress. Obama couldn’t be a Huey Long if he wanted to, but his contempt for the separation of powers sometimes leaks through when he feels he has to get his agenda done before it’s too late. As in executive action on amnesty. And while taxes are not what they would be under Sanders, Obama has managed to get them a good deal of the way there. Would Obama say that some of Long’s causes and methods were just if pressed, or would he know he had to duck the question? Maybe Obama could show the Pope the Kingfish’s website when they chat. But the Holy Father doesn’t need the ghosts of American populism to guide him, he has his own roadmap.

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