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base constituencies. But Carter's purpose in this book is not only to review turning points and defining moments. It is also to spotlight and analyze the "subde shifts in the public rhetoric about race within the context of a more general debasement of the culture ofAmerican politics." He adds his strong voice, a blend of reason and passion, to the cry against incivility, shallowness, and carelessness with truth that afflict American discourse. "Creating a bipolar political system of good and evil, right and wrong, inevitably invites higher levels ofvoter frustration and anger," he writes, "for such imperatives place upon the political system impossible demands." Debate, ifyou will, with Carter over whether Wallace formed or reflected a dramatic political shift, but give this historian credit for clanging an alarm about today's political ill-temper. Louisiana, Yesterday and Today A Historical Guide to the State ByJohn Wilds, Charles L. Dufour, and Walter G. Cowan Louisiana State University Press, 1 996 304 pp. Cloth, $24.95; paper, $12.95 Reviewed by George 8. Lenslng, professor of English at the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of essays on southern poets Randall Jarrell,James Dickey, andJames Applewhite. When I was a teenager growing up in Lake Providence, Louisiana, the biggest event of the year was the Miss Louisiana Beauty Pageant that took place in the local baseball stadium during the Fourth ofJuly weekend. In 1959, however, Miss New Orleans and Miss Monroe and the others had to make way for the unannounced appearance of Governor Earl K. Long, brother ofHuey who had been assassinated a quarter century earlier. Then in the twilight of his career, Earl was seeking his third term as governor. Just released from two mental institutions to which he had been committed by his wife following a breakdown on the floor of the legislature five weeks earlier, Earl was in a fighting mood. As he stood on the platform with his sleeves rolled up, thumbs tucked in his suspenders, and the sweat pouring from his face in the thick humidity and heat ofa summer night, he blasted his enemies in a spontaneous harangue. "I just wanted you to judge for 100 Reviews yourselfwhat a nutty man looks like," he bellowed in his gravelly voice. The case would probably not have been setded in his favor on that occasion, but the crowd loved the performance all the same. After all, what were a couple of dozen curvaceous beauty queens in comparison with yet another bombast from one ofthe Longs? Any Louisianian of the twentieth century will tell you that the state's favorite pastime is not watching the football fortunes of the New Orleans Saints (especially with their dismal, heartbreaking record) or even the occasionally successful LSU Tigers on Saturday night in Baton Rouge's Tiger Stadium. It's not eating crawfish étouffé or oysters-on-the-half-shell with a botde ofDixie at hand, nor, in north Louisiana, fried catfish and hushpuppies with sweet iced-tea. It's not fishing in the bayous of south Louisiana or deer-hunting in north Louisiana. No, it's the unpredictable but always flamboyant entertainment provided by state politics —especially as enacted by the governor himself. John Wilds, Charles L. Dufour , and Walter G. Cowan acknowledge this truism in Louisiana, Yesterday and Today: A Historical Guide to the State, their diverse and eclectic introduction to the history of the state and its culture, although the work is a litde too academic to capture the fever of Louisiana populist politics. Louisiana politics in the twentieth century has of course been dominated by the Kingfish, Huey Long, governor and United States senator for only a litde more than seven years. But Huey and the political machine that he installed transformed the state and its political culture before he was felled by an assassin's bullet in 1935. (He defeated my godfather from Lake Providence, three-term Senator Joseph E. Ransdell, for the U.S. Senate in 1931.) Virtually a dictator in the state, he took on corporate powers like Standard Oil Company to enact his populist program ofpaved roads, free school lunches and schoolbooks, better hospitals , homestead exemptions, and improved higher education. But...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 100-103
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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