By Dick Eastman
Populists Senator Huey P. Long and Reverend Charles E. Coughlin, the "Radio Priest," supported Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first years in office. By 1935, however, disillusioned Long had broken with the Bernard Baruch-controlled and merely-FDR-fronted "New Deal" and Coughlin was in the process of doing so.
By Spring of 1935 Huey Long was threatening to run against FDR in the Democratic primaries unless Roosevelt broke with Bernard Baruch and his hand-picked Huey's "Share Our Wealth" program had captured the public imagination. Coughlin, whose powerful and surprisingly headed the growing the National Union for Social Justice, which he founded.
Baruch responded to these attacks on the wrong turn the New Deal had taken, populist attacks often made against Baruch personally (see especially Coughlin's speech, below), by assigning his own loyal lieutenant and folksy mouthpiece, General Hugh S. Johnson, former head of the failed National Recovery Administration, to deliver a national radio address denouncing both Long and Coughlin. It was Hugh Johnson's job to save the New Deal for Bernard Baruch and his super rich affiliates.
Hugh Johnson attacked Long and Coughlin as "Pied Pipers," and he blamed them for the failure of the National Recovery Administration and other New Deal programs. Long and Coughlin, Johnson insisted, had "planted doubts" about the New Deal which robbed Roosevelt of the undoubting "spontaneous cooperation" it needed to succeed. Heaping plenty of personal invective Johnson accused Coughlin of "using the cloak of religion to seek political power" and Long of being, in Louisiana, a "dictator by force of arms and Adolph Hitler has nothing on him any way you care to look at them both." Since the radio networks carried Johnson''s speech, Long and Coughlin sought the opportunity to reply and to present their plans for economic revival in some detail.
Here are their replies -- the greatest populist speeches I know of -- each, potentially, a beacon for humanity''s economic and political salvation.
It is important to note that a few months after these speeches were delivered, Senator Long was shot dead and Coughlin's challenge was responded to by the Roosevelt's "Second New Deal" legislation which stole some of the populist thunder, or so it appeared at the time, and won him the election while maintaining Bernard Baruch as the effective master architect of Administration. For example, in 1944, Baruch kept an invalid Roosevelt at his South Carolina Plantation, Hobcaw Barony, for an entire month, in a house without a telephone and the nearest phone 8 miles away!)
As you read this bear in mind that in 1935 average income (population divided by the total of all income big and small) was only $1,785; that the price of an new Ford sedan was $495, of a 3-bedroom house was $6,296, of a gallon of gas, 18 cents, of a 1 lb. Steak 36 cents, of a pound of coffee, 25 cents, of a Sears dress, $2.95., and of a Budweiser 5 pack, 50 cents. You must view Long''s "Share Our Wealth" proposal of leaving the many-fold-millionaires and handful of billionaires with a a few million each in that light.)
Speeches by Huey P. Long and Father Edward Coughlin 1935