Louisiana seems to like its politics like its rice, dirty. The political landscape of the state of Louisiana has long been characterized by corruption and colorful characters, all making for a colorful gumbo that is entertaining to outsiders and insiders alike even if the repercussions of those political shenanigans have held the state back and cast its governance in a negative light. The captivating political dysfunction of Louisiana has inspired storytellers, political scientists, filmmakers, novelists, and scholars to capture and document the rich and often unbelievable tales of the Bayou State’s leaders. These are the three best books about Louisiana politics, and after reading these political books, you will have a firm knowledge of the state’s political history, strong grasp of the environment that shaped it, and an insight into the issues currently facing the state of Louisiana.
“Cross to Bear” by John Maginnis
The 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial race was bizarre even by Louisiana standards. The voters of the Bayou State wound up having to choose between a crook and a Klansman….no, really. Edwin Edwards, long known for his dubious ethics, was running for a fourth-term as Governor but the one man who stood in his way happened to be David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Edwards’ supporters began a “vote for the crook, it’s important” campaign and he did indeed win a fourth-term as Governor of Louisiana. Edwin Edwards and David Duke both wound up serving time in federal prison. John Maginnis’ “Cross to Bear” is the most thorough account of this disturbing election and his narrative provides brilliant insight into the political landscape that allowed this situation to play out in Louisiana in 1991.
“Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics” by Wayne Parent
If John Maginnis’ “Cross to Bear” piques your interest in Louisiana politics, Wayne Parent’s “Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics” will provide you the proper lens to view the landscape through. The book examines the political, cultural, economic, social, legal, and religious factors at play in Louisiana and how those externalities have shaped the state’s political culture through the years. Parent’s book delves into migration patterns, the state’s flawed open-primary system, the cumbersome Napoleonic Code, and industrial history to provide perspective on Louisiana’s political occurrences. Wayne Parent goes to great effort to explain the distinction between the Catholic southern portions of the state and contrast those voters’ ideals with the Baptists in the northern half of the state. All of this history is provided with the accuracy you would expect from a political science textbook while retaining the entertaining presentation and anecdotes you would expect from a book with raised lettering on the dust jacket.
“The Kingfish and His Realm: The Life and Times of Huey P. Long” by William Ivy Hair
Huey Long is possibly the most legendary Louisiana political figure of all-time and that legend has been immortalized in countless films and in even more written accounts of his actions, beliefs, and background. William Ivy Hair provides one of the most thorough and accurate accounts ever presented of the Kingfish and the political backdrop that allowed him to reign over the state of Louisiana as he did for a brief period. This book dispels some of the most popular myths and misunderstandings about Huey Long and his always controversial “Share Our Wealth” programs, and the narrative explains how those initiatives shaped national politics at the time, as well.
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