Monday, January 23, 2006
I come from a place were politics is a way of life. I bet you're thinking that I mean D.C. ......no, I'm talking about Louisiana. Anyone who watched the constant coverage of the disaster of Hurricane Katrina knows by now that Louisiana has a cast of very colorful political characters. You don't know the half. First let me dispel a couple of myths. Despite what you have heard and recently seen, the state of Louisiana is NOT a swamp. We have swamps of-course, but the state itself is not a swamp. So take all of the "little man wearing a white suit" visions out of your head. Louisiana has one of the most sophisticated political environments in the United States. Of-course that cannot be discussed without mentioning the original little man in the white suit. His name was Governor (and later Senator) Huey "Kingfish" Long. This man was one of the most gifted politicians the world has ever seen. I can't mention a spin-master like Long and not tell at least one story, so here is my favorite:
Huey Long wanted Louisiana State University to have the largest football stadium in the U.S. But the state senate would not approve the money for the new stadium. The university was in need a few things and on the top of the funding docket were a new set of dorms. When the senate approved the financing for the new dorms Governor Long, brilliant politician that he was, commissioned those dorms to be made in the shape of a football field. Years later, when the construction was complete, he went back to the senate and simply asked them to close the stadium up. That lead to the beginning of one of the best football stadiums in the United States, "Death Valley" home of the LSU Tigers. Impressed? No? Well, I have more. In the 1950's, black nurses simply could not get hired in Louisiana hospitals. Naturally, this was a problem since Louisiana had two renowned historically black nursing programs (Southern University, and Grambling State University, respectively). When his constituents brought this problem to Governor Longs attention, it was a tall order to ask that black nurses be hired in the deep south. Louisiana wasn't without its own very *unique set of racism (*unique because of the cultural diversity of the state). Knowing that he couldn't simply go to the house or senate and ask for such a, then radical, change the brilliant politician included in a speech he delivered on the house floor, in a way that was just sort-of in passing, a story about the poor white nurses that were having to tend to big black men in the hospitals, day and night. The next day black nurses were being hired all over the state. He knew how to manipulate a situation to provide the greater good. Of course that kind of power of manipulation comes with downfalls but the man was brilliant. I saw flashes of that brillance in President Bill Clinton. But in alot of ways, Mr. Clinton was thwarted from letting his true political brilliance shine. Hindsight, has proven Mr. Clinton the best President of my time and history will have no choice but to be very kind to his political genious. That just doesn't grow on trees.
It was in studying "The Kingfish", in Louisiana history when I was in the eighth grade that, I discovered my second love, politics. In a lot of ways, that is why I have a political science degree and why I delight in my participation in the political process. I am currently working on two books about politics that stay true to my Louisiana political roots, watch for them...
Posted by A. Phoenix Richard at 1/23/2006 11:12:00 PM