If Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) wins today's runoff election for governor of Louisiana, it will be the second time in a month that a Republican defied public polls to walk into a state house. But it would be the first time an election clearly turned on the issue of Syrian refugees being allowed into the United States -- and it would overcome the almost unheard-of factor of an incumbent governor apparently trying to sink his own party's nominee.
In Louisiana, it's an open secret that Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) concluded a years-long blood feud with Vitter by ending his presidential campaign on Tuesday.If you haven't read Harnett Kane's "Huey Long's Louisiana Hayride: The American Rehearsal for Dictatorship 1928-1940" I urge you to do so.
There are lots of lessons to be learned from Long's career, not least that ordinary people take democracy, if not exactly seriously, then to heart sometimes. Long was not at all a product of the famously baroque upper class politics of New Orleans.
He derived from the rednecks in Winn Parish -- locally known as the Free State of Winn -- up in the piney woods, geographically and spiritually closer to Arkansas and east Texas than to New Orleans -- and today, to the Tea Party. He was much like Donald Trump.
He is why I do not think Trump cannot get the Republican nomination. Franklin Roosevelt, whose political instincts were seldom wrong, was frightened of Long. The tendency of historians has been to think that Roosevelt overreacted, that Long would not have had staying power.
Maybe not, but barely six years after Long was shot to death Joe McCarthy -- who frightened Eisenhower -- tapped the same vein, and 12 years after McCarthy drank himself to death, Richard Nixon -- who frightened me -- tapping the same vein, was elected president.
There's a dark stratum in democracy. The men who operate most successfully in it are sociopaths with personally destructive tendencies, but we cannot count on their always imploding to save the republic.