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Agitation: The Essence of Democracy

Posted: 2006-05-22

You can hear Jim deliver this speech by buying a disc, cassette, or download from Alternative Radio, an outfit that definitely deserves to be supported.

Read this/listen to this and ask yourself, "Why/how have we become so inert?"

by Jim Hightower, Grand Junction, CO

October 8, 2005

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He is noted for his biting wit. He broadcasts daily radio

commentaries that are carried on more than 100 stations. His award-winning newsletter, "The Hightower Lowdown," is the fastest

growing political publication in America. Author of numerous books, his latest is Thieves in High Places.

Agitation is what America is all about. Were it not for agitators,

we would be here today wearing white powdered wigs singing

?God Hail the Queen.? Agitation built America. And I'm not

merely talking about the founders. At some level they were the

least of it. The founders made possible levels of agitation and

made possible democracy, but they didn't create much

democracy. In fact, in the first presidential election, that chose

George Washington, only 4% of the people were even eligible

to vote. You could not vote if you were a woman, of course.

Certainly not if you were an African American. You were a

slave. You could not vote if you were a Native American. You

were heathens. You could not vote if you did not own land

because you were riff-raff. So only 4% of the people were even

allowed to vote in that first presidential election.

So it's not the founders and the writers of our documents of

democracy?the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the Declaration

of Independence?that we celebrate. Rather, it is ordinary folks

like you right here in Grand Junction and all the areas of the

Western Slope that have dared to challenge authority, to

challenge injustice over the years, and make possible greater

levels of democracy. I'm talking about the pamphleteers and the

Sons of Liberty, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, the

abolitionists and the suffragists, Henry David Thoreau and John

Muir, the populists, the labor movement, Mother Jones and

Woody Guthrie, Rachel Carson and Karen Silkwood, Martin

Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. And now it's down to us

again to be the agitators. And when the powers that be come at

you and say, ?You're just an agitator,? you say right back to

them, ?That's right. The agitator is that center post in the

washing machine that gets the dirt out.? We could use a whole

lot more of that, couldn't we?

It's never easy, of course, to confront power in any form.

You get to feeling somewhat sometimes like that guy B.B. King

sings about in the song that says, ?Nobody likes you but your

mama, and she might be jivin' you too.? It's not easy but it is

essential to have people constantly confronting power. G?nter

Grass, the Nobel Prize winner, once said, ?The first job of a

citizen is to keep your mouth open.? It helps, of course, if that

mouth is attached to a brain. And that's the importance of you in

this organization, in reaching out to people, in giving them the

information and the training and the skills that they need to be

the brain to attach to the agitation, putting organization to

agitation. Agitation without organization is just frustration. But

with organization, agitation becomes success. We need your

agitating spirit more than ever before, pushing harder than ever


George Bernard Shaw about a hundred years ago said,

?You don't make progress by standing on guard but by attacking

and getting well hammered yourself.? The fact that I used to be

6 foot 5 will give you some idea of some of the fights that I've

been in. But my message here is that it is not enough for us

these days, these particular days, 2005, 2006, and on in the next

few years, to be progressive. We have been passively

progressive for a long time. We've got to become aggressive

again, because the powers that be are now radically regressive,

running roughshod over working families and family farmers,

running roughshod over old folks as well as children, roughshod

over our air, our water, our food, roughshod over our very

sovereignty, our right to be a self-governing people.

Think back, if you will, to 1980, the founding of the

Western Colorado Congress. We had just come through the

Nixon years. We were then at the cusp of the Reagan years,

James Watt in charge of our environmental policy. And you

might remember back then thinking, Well, at least it can't get

any worse than this. So here we are, gathered in Grand Junction

in open defiance of King George the W and his autocratic,

plutocratic, corporacratic regime of thieves. These are people

who never met a natural resource that they would not clear-cut,

stripe-mine, drill in, or piss on.

Think about it. In only four years in office they have

looted our public treasury of hundreds of billions of dollars for

no more noble purpose than to give it away to their wealthiest

campaign contributors. They have defoliated our environmental

and safety protections in this country, they've shredded our

Constitution and Bill of Rights, they're out to castrate labor

unions, they're seeking to privatize everything from Social

Security to the military. And now we're in a maniacal,

messianic, testosterone-driven global war to make the world

safe for Halliburton. Four years. They say that in sex using a

feather is erotic, but using the whole chicken, that's kinky.

These people are using the whole chicken. They have been

intently, audaciously, voraciously, and gleefully pushing

America down a deep, dark, dangerous hole of right-wing

ideological extremism.

I've been watching these folks for nine years now, five as

our governor in the state of Texas and then, of course, in the

White House, and I've come to this scientific and academic

conclusion: These people are nuts, just absolutely bull-goose,

loopy zealots. Their attitude could be summed up?I use this in

my latest book. It's a story about a small island out in the

Pacific, and the U.S. Navy wanted to use this small island for

target practice. It was uninhabited by human beings but was a

habitat for various migratory birds, indeed protected by the

Migratory Bird Treaty. Yet Navy lawyers representing the Bush

administration argued before a federal judge, that although the

shelling of this island would certainly kill the bulk of these

birds, it would not totally eliminate these species. And this

might be a better thing, because ?in some respects bird watchers

get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a

common one.? You can't make stuff like this up. My friend Bill

Moyers said it well. He said, ?The delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe to sit at the seat of


Something fundamental is going on these days. I had a guy

come up to me in Austin, Texas, where I live. I was at an art

gallery thing, and some of his stuff was on display. He

recognized me and came over, and he said, ?They're changing

America, aren't they?? I said, ?Yes, they are. They're changing

America.? What's at work in this cabal of ignorance and

arrogance between the White House and Wall Street is the

undoing of something that is essential to America, essential to

our society, and that is the notion of the common good, the idea

that we're all in this together. This is the glue that holds this big,

brawling, sprawling, diverse, dispersed bunch of people, 280

million of us, together, the idea that we're all in this together.

I wrote about it in an earlier book. I had a chapter called

?Daddy's Philosophy.? You have to beware of Texans telling

daddy stories, but I had a pretty good one. My old daddy in

Denison, Texas, came out of the Depression, off a hard-scrabble

farm, a tenant farm. His mother told him, ?Get off the farm, boy.

There is nothing here for you.? He managed to find his way to

Denison and to work and start a small business with my mother

there that supported my family, my two brothers and myself, in

a very wonderful upbringing in that town. But he never felt he

did that by himself. He knew that there was a larger community

that he was a part of, and he knew about the New Deal that

made it possible for ordinary people to have a middle-class

opportunity to rise up.

And he expressed his philosophy to me. He did not know

he had a philosophy. He would have been embarrassed to have

been told he did have one. But it's about as good a one as I've

ever heard in all my travels. His philosophy was expressed to

me at various times in these words. He said, ?Jim, everybody

does better when everybody does better.? That's what passes for

a philosophy in Denison, Texas. And I think it works for us


But they, the Bushites and the Wall Street powers, are

displacing this uniting, egalitarian ethic with a new, pernicious

ethic of greed that says, I got mine, you get yours; never give a

sucker an even break; caveat emptor; I'm rich and you're not;

adios, chump. That?s pretty much what they're saying to us. So I

think it's time that we, the broad, progressive, independent

community in this country, the majority, face a reality, and that

is, we are in a war not in Iraq but here at home - a war between

the moneyed elites and the rest of us. It's not merely a fight over

environmental exploitation, wealth distribution, any of the other

myriad issues that we all care a lot about and are involved in.

Those issues absorb us, but there is something enveloping about

all of what's happening to us, and that's a historic war over

America's values. We?re in a battle over what kind of a country

we're going to be, what kind of a society, what kind of a

civilization we're going to have. Will it be one focused on the

pursuit of egalitarianism, which began with the founders, or one

dedicated to the pursuit of individual greed? All of our issues

come down to this war of values.

And you express it well in this annual meeting here with

your theme of challenging injustice, because that's what

America's founding was really about, the founders' vision of the

general welfare, the common good, the pursuit of happiness.

Benjamin Franklin wrote about it. He said, ?America's destiny is

not power but light.? Light. And the light he was talking about

were the founding values of economic fairness, social justice,

equal opportunity for all people. They didn't practice it then

and we haven't reached it yet. But we've been striving for that

light for 225-odd years. That's what makes America important,

those values. Of course, I think our problem now is we've got

too many 5-watt bulbs sitting in 100-watt sockets in terms of

leaders. And as a result of their dimness, we've got a darkness

descending across our land.

Challenge injustice. You want injustice? You encounter it

every day in environmental policy. Pollution, after all, tends to

be a class issue. Follow the toxic fumes. If it spews, burbles,

oozes, blasts, emits, gushes, radiates, or otherwise does

something unpleasant, dangerous, or deadly, chances are it's

located in a working-class, rural, minority, or low-income

neighborhood or all of the above. If you're poor, your chances of

living next door to Mr. Toxic are quite good. If you're rich, your

chances are zero.

I've been around the country over the last few years trying

to get a simple rule adopted. I don't think we need all of our

environmental laws and regulations, etc. I think if we had one

rule?I call it the 100-Yard Rule?that we would be okay. And

that rule would be that any corporation can establish any sort of

polluting facility, toxic waste dump, anything they want, as long

as their executives and boards of directors live within 100 yards

of that particular facility. I believe they would clean it up.

You want injustice? Oil corporations are wallowing in

unprecedented windfall profits right now, and the CEOs of those

corporations are porking up on multimillion pay packages with

bonuses and stock options and platinum retirement plans. At the

same time, they're trying to take back the health care benefits,

knock down the wages, and bust the unions of their workers.

Some of these CEOs are getting so rich they can afford to aircondition

hell. And I'll tell you what, they'd better be setting

some money aside for that project, I think.

You want injustice? Look at America's minimum wage.

$5.15 an hour. This is our income floor. This is what we

established as an ethical barrier: we say we will not allow

American workers to be paid less than $5.15 an hour. It's been

stuck there since 1997. That's $10,500 a year gross, in both

meanings of that term. Yet Congress and the White House

continue to refuse even to discuss raising it. In fact, they said no

to it again this February.

But our Congress critters have given a big raise to one

important group of workers?themselves. In July of this year,

for the seventh time in seven years, Congress raised its own pay

again, to a total of $165,000 a year. Luckily, we had Tom

DeLay to explain this to us. The indicted majority leader of the

Congress said, ?It's not a pay raise, it's an adjustment.? The total

adjustment in the last seven years has been $32,000. That's three

times what a minimum wage worker would get working fulltime.

They've adjusted their pay. But DeLay says it's needed

because members of Congress should not lose their purchasing

power. And then he said, ?I challenge anyone to live on my

salary.? You look at a guy like DeLay and you think, 100,000

sperm, and you were the fastest? It really does not seem


You want injustice? Look at New Orleans and the Gulf

Coast. If you want to know what George W.'s grandiose,

laissez-faire, neocon, ownership society is going to look like,

there it was. The theory of the ownership society is that

everything public must be privatized, freeing people to get rich.

Everyone owns their own fate, don't you see? Everyone is on

their own. And in New Orleans they were. Step right up if you

want to own a casket, seems to be their message.

You want injustice? George W. is darting around the

country like a sand flea on steroids telling us that his Iraq attack

is a noble cause, that continuing the war is essential to

America's national security, and that it is worth the sacrifice that

we are making. Do we look like we have sucker wrappers

around our heads? We? Note that the Bush twins, Jenna and

Barbara, who are of primo enlistment age, are making no

sacrifice whatever. If the cause is so noble and so essential, why

are they not in daddy's war? And notice, too, that the eight

nieces and nephews of George W., who are of prime enlistment

age, instead of going to Baghdad and Basra, are going to bars

and ballgames. They're making no sacrifice. The Pentagon says

it's having a hard time recruiting new soldiers. Well, I just

named ten members of Bush's immediate family who would

make damned good prospects, it seems to me. Why don't they

go knock at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if they're really looking

for recruits?

Some say we've got to have a national draft, that that's the

only way for fairness. I think we need another of those rules.

This one I call the Leaders First Rule. All politicians who

support a shooting war will automatically have their family

drafted to be first in the line of fire. Is that fair?

There is a technical term for what Washington and Wall

Street are doing to us. The economists use this term. It's called

stealing. Faster than a hog eats supper they're stealing from us.

Remember that song that Woody Guthrie had back during the

Depression, about Pretty Boy Floyd, the outlaw, a story over

here in Oklahoma. There is a verse in it that says, ?Through this

world I travel/I see lots of funny men./Some will rob you with a

six-gun,/and some with a fountain pen.? It's the fountain pens

who are doing the serious stealing in our society today. Yet

these are the people who say that they represent the moral

values in politics. They loudly shout their Christian faith.

George W. bears his Christianity like a radiant cloak,

particularly at election time. Wait a minute, now. George W.

says he's a Methodist. I grew up in a Methodist church, the

Waples Memorial Methodist Church in Dennison, Texas, and I

never heard a preacher say a word about gay marriage in that

church. But I do recall Jesus's words in Matthew 19:24: ?It is

easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a

rich man to enter the kingdom of God.? I recall that the greatest

sin of them all, according to the Apostle Paul, the root of all

evil, is the love of money. I recall Sunday school teachers as

well as preachers telling again and again the story of the time

that Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. They

were charging a whole lot less interest, by the way, than we're

now charged on our MasterCard and Visa.

I recall Mary's psalm in Luke 1:52: ?He hath put down the

mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree. He hath

filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent

empty away.? I recall, too, that Jesus fed all the masses that day

at the Sea of Galilee, not just those who drove up in Hummers

and had Platinum cards. He fed everybody that day. I recall the

rich man who would not give even the crumbs off of his table to

the beggar Lazarus. And I recall that Jesus flatly said, ?You

cannot serve both God and Mammon.? And, in fact, in the Good

Book Jesus talks more about economic justice than any other

single topic. The most important ethical, religious test in the

Judeo-Christian experience is how we treat the least wealthy,

the least important among us. That's Christianity.

And if the right-wing Bible thumpers want to really find a

conundrum, how about this? If you take the word Presbyterians

and rearrange the letters, it spells Britney Spears. What are we

to do? Yet they use Christianity, they use the war, they use

terrorism to shout down, intimidate, hush up anyone who

dissents. Here's a little tidbit. The founder of the International

Hummer Owners? Group?any members here tonight??said,

?Those who deface a Hummer in words or deed deface the

American flag and what it stands for.?

It's all an unprincipled effort to trivialize protest, to

minimize opposition, to say to dissenters, Be quiet. Be quiet?

Holy Thomas Paine Since when do freedom-fighting Americans

cower in quietude? If you don't speak out when it matters, when

would it ever matter that you would speak out? This is the time.

Mark Twain said it well. ?Loyalty to the country always.

Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.? A very different

thing. Be quiet? We have no right to be quiet. Too many

democracy fighters before you and me fought, bled, and died to

make it possible for us to be quite noisy. If we stay quiet,

freedom and justice lose, plutocracy and autocracy win. The

opposite of courage is not cowardice. The opposite of courage is

conformity, just going along. Even a dead fish can go with the

flow, right?

Now for the good news. People all across this country, red

states as well as blue states, are on to the powers that be. People

know that things are going wrong. The latest poll just came out.

The number of people thinking that America is headed in the

right direction is now 29%, the lowest it has been in memory,

29%. I saw a bumper sticker in Austin a couple of years ago on

the back of an old, beat-up pickup truck, which is actually kind

of redundant, beat-up pickup truck. This bumper sticker said,

?Where are we going and what am I doing in this handbasket??

People know. They've got a sense of it. They don't know the

details of it, they don't necessarily know what to do about it, but

they know that we've been led down some rabbit trail off of

America's true path, which is that path toward egalitarianism:

we're all in this together, the common good matters.

I'm a lucky duck in that I travel a whole lot. I've been just

about every place that's got a ZIP code. And I can tell you that

in every one of those places there is somebody or some group of

somebodies or some coalition of groups of somebodies who are

fighting back against this economic and political exclusion that

they're trying to hang around our necks. The people of this

country are revolting, in the very best sense of that term. They're

lighting little prairie fires of rebellion. People are not sitting

around waiting on Tom DeLay to pass a minimum wage.

They're passing living wage ordinances. More than

communities in America have already passed this, big cities and

a few states have done the same?7.50, 9.50, 11.50 an hour with

health care benefits, indexed to inflation in some cases?saying,

We're not going to let our wage floor be sunk down to a poverty

level. We're going to create one that lifts people up into the

middle class, gives them real opportunity.

I see communities all across America taking on the Beast

of Bentonville, Wal-Mart. It comes into our towns, knocks out

small business, and pays an average of less than $15,000-a-year

wage, no health care benefits for two-thirds of their employees,

50% turnover a year in Wal-Mart, all of Wal-Mart, 50%

turnover in staff. The largest class-action suit ever filed for

sexual discrimination in the history of the United States is filed

now against Wal-Mart. More than a million women are part of

that suit. Yet the people say, ?But you can't beat Wal-Mart. It's

too powerful, too politically connected. We can't beat Wal-Mart.?

I've got a two-page spread in my Thieves in High Places

book of the 180 communities that have not just confronted Wal-

Mart but defeated Wal-Mart, prevented it from coming into their

towns because they're saying, We're not going to have our town

taken over. They're asking the exact right question: Whose town

is it? Does it belong to us or some billionaires out of

Bentonville, Arkansas? Who the hell elected them? We get to

decide what kind of town it's going to be. I see folks taking on

the corrupt corporate money in politics to prevent public

financing of their elections. Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont,

Arizona, they've already passed it. Two other states have done it

partially: New Mexico for public utility elections and North

Carolina for their judicial elections.

The result is more people participating in politics, more

incumbents being defeated, more contested races. In Maine,

they've now had two cycles with their public financing program,

and the result is one-half of their house of representatives and

two-thirds of their state senate have been elected without taking

a dime in corporate money. It completely changes politics when

that kind of change takes place. By the way, this is something

you can do. You do not have to wait for Washington to pass

campaign finance reform, you do not have to wait for your state

to do it. You can do it right here in Grand Junction. You can do

it in the county, the school district, you can do it wherever you

want to do it. You have the power to impose a public-financing

alternative to the receiving of corporate money. It works.

I see people taking on the war, Cindy Sheehan standing up,

one person making a stand at the Crawford ranchette down there

this summer and inspiring the peace movement. I was there

about two or three weeks ago in Washington when we had a

huge rally. It didn't get any media, but 300,000 people were on

the streets that day. Labor unions with kids and old folks

together. It was a terrific, terrific rally. It's on the move. It can't

be stopped. It's building. Many of you, as I, went through the

Vietnam War experience. We're so far ahead of the peace

movement today than we were back then in that war. We're

building. We have power, we have strength. And what I find is

that people want bold ideas, truly bold ideas that are grounded

in those values of fairness, justice, and opportunity.

For example, what an opportunity we were given on 9/11

and what an opportunity we were now given more recently with

Katrina to push a program for energy independence for

America. We could have said to the people, if we had a

Democratic Party willing to stand up and say something?I

come to you as a Democrat?we could have said to the people,

We're going to launch a ten-year moonshot-style program for

energy independence in America. We're going to take those

machinists that Boeing Aircraft says it doesn't need because it's

going to go to China to make its airplanes, and we'll have them

build a high-speed train system all across the country linking

our population centers. And we will take all of the backyard

inventors and all of the entrepreneurs, and we will turn them

loose. And all of the sheetmetal workers, etc. to retrofit every

building in America for conservation purposes. Every building.

This building, your home, your offices, your factories, schools.

Every building in America retrofitted for conservation purposes,

training people, millions of people, local people for new jobs,

good wages in the process. Then we will take our very best

scientists and lock them in a room and not let them out until

they solve the few remaining technological problems with solar

energy and when and all that to make mass production feasible.

And at the end of that ten-year period we will not need a

drop of Iraqi oil or Saudi oil or Kuwaiti oil or Alaskan Wildlife

Refuge oil or coastal water oil. We will not need a drop of any

oil. Moreover, we will never send our children to fight an oil

war anywhere in the world again. That would be a powerful


What an exciting thing that would be. That would have

enlisted the American people. Better than a moonshot. We just

watched that thing go off. Some people say it never happened; it

was just a set in Arkansas, that's all it was. This, we would be a

part of it, all of our communities would be involved in it, and it

would generate long-term jobs, economic growth at the grass

roots level. There is a group proposing this now called the

Apollo Alliance, modeled on the Apollo moonshot program.

The Apollo Alliance, ApolloAlliance.org. Check it out. A

terrific group.

We had another opportunity with Katrina. Not with the

hurricane, not with Bush's inept and callous nonresponse, but

the recovery. There were really three Katrinas: the storm, the

nonresponse, and the so-called recovery. The recovery may be

the greatest disaster of them all, because they're out to turn The

Big Easy into the big ersatz, build a sort of Disneyfied, upscale,

corporatized theme park there in which there will be no room

for the people who actually make New Orleans an interesting

place to be. Instead of that, what a Rooseveltian opportunity, to

come in there and invest in local people, saying, ?Come home.

We've got jobs, we?re going to organize all the unions here, that

are going to train you to do what's got to be done, to do the

heavy lifting, and not only clean this place up but indeed make it

better than other. But, more importantly, you're going to design

what the better than ever is. We're going to form a community

council and you're going to direct your own recovery here.?

How dramatic. That would enlist young people as well into it,

plus, of course, the environmental opportunity not only to

restore and protect what few wetlands there are but to restore the

ones that have been destroyed through stupid development

policies, and institute policies of using less toxics and cleaning

up the storage facilities that are down there in that toxic

cesspool of an area, that is beneath sea level, as we know.

There is a massive grass roots movement?that's what I'm

here to tell you?that is steadily building. You're a part of it. It's

thoroughly progressive and it's aggressive. People are ready for

a new politics?fairness, justice, opportunity for everybody.

And I know some of you are looking at me and saying,

?Really, Hightower, are you just dumber than a dust bunny? Did

you not notice that unpleasantness of last November? Did the

people not choose George W.? Is he not now strutting around

with a Viagra-sized smirk on his face saying, ?I've got a

mandate??? Well, I did come out of that election with mixed

emotions. They say mixed emotions are when you see your 16-

year-old daughter come home from the prom with a Gideon

Bible under her arm.

But let's look at that election. First of all, we did not lose,

John Kerry lost. But he was always the least of it. Let's admit it,

he's heavy lifting. I worked hard in that campaign. He could not

connect with working people if we put him on a street corner

handing out free Budweiser and Slim Jims. But despite that we

got 55 million people to vote for him, more people than had ever

voted for a presidential candidate in the history of the United

States, with the exception of George W. Bush, who got a few

votes more. We increased our totals dramatically, particularly

among young people. A twenty-five percent increase in the

turnout of young people in that election. That was not done

because of the Kerry campaign or the Democratic Party or TV

ads. It was done because the young people organized

themselves. And those 55 million votes were all generated not

from the establishment but from grass roots actions,

MoveOn.org,, True Majority, Progressive Majority, The League

of Conservation Voters, The League of Women Voters, the

League of Pissed Off Voters. I don?t know if you?ve ever heard

about that one. That's a group of young people. They actually

exist. Eighteen- to 24-year-olds were in charge of it, and they

ran this program. They ran themselves for local offices, for

water boards and school boards, that sort of thing, and elected

about a third of them that ran in that election. None of this is

going away. Everybody is still out there, still pushing, still

organizing. We gained skills, we gained talent, we gained votes,

we gained new candidates. We're on the move. It's only going to

get better for us.

But, secondly, Bush did not win in the sense of getting any

kind of a mandate for sure. His actual vote total, he got 31% of

the eligible voters in America. That's who voted for him, 31%.

Kerry got 29%. Forty percent of the eligible voters still did not

vote. They didn't hear a message from either candidate that

appealed to them. Thirty-one percent is to a mandate what near

beer is to beer, only maybe not so close, as Bush has now found

out, because since that election, with his war proving to be

disastrous, with his Social Security privatization tour, and now

with Katrina, Bush's numbers are in the ditch. He's below what

Richard Nixon was during Watergate. If he drops one more

percentage point, he's going to be beneath mad cow disease in

voter approval.

So my point here is that it is not a question of what the

Bushites are going to do. We know what they're going to do.

They'll do what they've always done. George W. is an absolute

corporate wet dream. Any fantasy that a CEO has can come true

by putting money into his campaign coffers. I know he struts

around like he's supposed to be the cowboy president. That's

what the White House puts out. He's got that ranch over there in

Crawford. He's got 1600 scrub acres over there in an area that's

farm country, it's not ranch country at all. But nonetheless he's

got 1600 acres. He's got a 2500-square-feet ranch sort of

looking house and he's got those cattle in the background. But

wait a minute. Those aren't his cattle. He owns no cattle. George

W. declares no income or loss on his income taxes from any

agricultural operation. The cattle belong to the family that sold

the ranch to him in 1999, when he and Karl Rove decided he

needed a rancher image to be able to run for president. He owns

no cattle whatsoever. He does strut around in that hat. It's got to

be a $1,000 hat. He probably bought it at Nieman Marcus. But

there is a $1,000 hat on a 10-cent head if I ever saw one. This

guy is no rancher at all. He is what he is: he's a corporate wet


So the issue is not who they're going to be, it's what we're

going to be, what are we going to do. And too many on our

side?I'm not talking about the people in this room, but you

know them?too many on our side get to be defeatist. ?Well, we

lost the election.? And they drown their sorrows in a glass of

wine. ?Oh, woe is us. We cannot possibly win. They've got all

the money. The media loves them. We can't win.? Get a grip.

That's not us. We're actually on the move. This is a big time in

America. That's really what I'm saying to you, back to that

original point. It's a big time for us. It's about the values, what

kind of country we're going to have.

I was up in Vermont a couple of years ago now and a guy

came up wearing a political button. It was the best one I've ever

seen. It said, ?Wearing a Button Is Not Enough.? It's not going

to get it done. We cannot be a nation of button wearers. I believe

we're in another of those when-in-the-course-of- human-events

moments that Thomas Jefferson wrote about. They're stealing

our country from us. They're stealing what makes America

America from us, displacing our democracy with their

plutocracy. Sam Adams said it well. Sam Adams said, ?If ever a

time should come when vain and aspiring men shall possess the

highest seats of government, our country will stand in need of

its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.? That's us, that's

today. We're in that moment.

So, first of all, I say to you, just recognize your power that

you've organized so efficiently through this organization.

Extend it, extend it and reach out, forge coalitions. The powers

that be, of course, try to divide us. Oh, farmers don't be talking

to labor. Oh, labor, don't be talking to environmentalists.

Environmentalists, don't be talking to poor people. Right on

down the line. Jesse Jackson said it well, ?We might not all have

come over on the same boat, but we're in the same boat now.?

That's a powerful political reality. We are natural allies, and

we've got to have not just the bean-sprout eaters but those snuff

dippers who are out there, too. And more often than not they're

on our side. And to that point let me just say, do not discredit

the Evangelicals in this country. Four out of five of them who

voted in the last election, purportedly voted, for George W. Yet

the Evangelicals cannot be taken for granted by the

Republicans. They have earlier this year issued an Evangelical

Call to Civic Responsibility, calling for Evangelicals to address

racial injustice, poverty, human rights, environmentalism, and

peace. ?Evangelicals have sometimes been accused of having a

one- or two-item political agenda,? said one of the organizers.

He's president of the Evangelicals for Social Action. ?This

document makes it very clear that a vast body of Evangelicals

today reject a one-issue approach.? ?The litmus test is the

Gospel,? said another leader, ?the whole of it.? And that's the

Gospel I was talking about a while ago, with Jesus talking.

They take on environmentalism. Indeed, they formed the

Evangelical Environmental Network. They don't like to call it

environmentalism; they call it creation care. Why do we care

what they call it? It is same thing. ?The environment is a values

issue,? said the Reverend Ted Haggard. He is president of the

National Association of Evangelicals, 30 million members in

that organization. He was an originator of this Call to Civic

Responsibility, emphasizing that it is every Christian's duty to

care for the planet and the role of government in safeguarding a

sustainable environment. This was signed by James Dobson,

Chuck Colson, people like this. They say of global warming,

Christians should make it clear to governments and businesses

that we are willing to adapt our lifestyles and support steps

toward changes that protect our environment. Another one of

the organizers says, I don't think God is going to ask us how he

created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he


We've got allies in places we might not be looking. We

don't have to go to church with them, but we might want to be at

the caf? when they come out of that church and sit with them

and talk about what it is we have in common. I know a lot of

people say, ?The progressives are too many diverse people. We

can't get us get us all together. It's kind of like trying to herd cats

to get the movement going.? Anyone who says you cannot herd

cats never heard of a can opener. You can bring them to you.

They will come. And our can opener is those values of fairness,

justice, opportunity for all people.

The final thing I would say is, do what you're doing and

spread this to the other organizations that you're a part of. That

is, commit to the long haul. This is a long-term battle. We're not

going to win the first time out. Some of you gray heads, along

with me, we might not even get there. Most movements didn't,

the leaders. The suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton

and the ones that organized that, none of them ever lived to

vote, but they created that possibility, they made it possible. My

friend Willy Nelson said it to me like this: he said, ?Hightower,

the early bird might get the worm, but it's the second mouse that

gets the cheese.? So take that long-term approach. Your boldest

ideas. Forge those coalitions, reach out there, and keep on doing

what you're doing. Mainly, trust the people. We live in a

remarkably progressive country, but it's got to be tapped into.

They're not given much opportunity to act on their progressive

impulses. Thank you very much. Thanks for what you're doing.

Proud to be with you.

Questions, comments, observations?

Do you have any ideas or any comments you could make about

the voting machines?

Yes, I do. I call it faith-based voting to use those machines. And

of course, obviously, we have to have a paper trail, auditable

paper trail, to every voting machine that we use. There is

legislation in the Congress to do that. California is already

requiring it in this next year's elections. Nevada did it for last

year. Maine has done it. It is coming. But keep pushing. Push it

in your state. You don't have to wait on Congress to do it. Insist

on it in your local community, that Diebold and the rest of these

things cannot come in here. Because they're nothing but ATM

machines, where you get a receipt. It's not like the technology is

anything difficult. The technology is available right now.

Is Pat Robertson helping or hurting our country?

Well, he's helping our side. Mama Bush, of course, I think her

pearls are a little too tight. You need to loosen her up there

somehow. The more they make these just absolutely idiotic

statements, it's just marvelous.

How to convert the inconvertible? I think with those folks

you do the best you can. But don't waste your time on people

who don't seem to have any likely prospect, because there are

masses of people who do have enormous prospects for you. And

have those conversations in the workplace, at your coffee

klatches, instead of at the caf? having small talk, make one day

a week to have big talk. ?What is this thing called CAFTA? Any

of you all know what that is?? Get into some topics. In the

grocery line talk to people. You're stuck. Have a conversation.

Alternative media is what the pamphleteers were at the founding

of this country. Alternative media is what the populists created

in the 1870s and 1880s when the establishment media locked

them out. They created their own magazines, a national

magazine. They created the first wire service, like AP and UPI.

They had a speakers' bureau with 40,000 members in it. They

had national, regional, state, and local lecturers, they called

them. On any given night 40,000 people could go out and give

the speech. It didn't have to all be high-tech. They found their

way around that media blockage.

That's what alternative media offers us today. We are not

without on the progressive side a powerful media. The

independent radio stations, the independent newspapers, the

weeklies, the MoveOn.org's, Public Citizen and Common

Cause. SEIU, and some of the other unions that really focus on

the Web. And then little things like my newsletter has got

125,000 subscribers, the biggest political newsletter in America

now. And just other outlets that we have. If there is not one

working for you in your community, then make one. That is the

American spirit, basically. That's how we have gotten around

media blockages in the past and what we must do today. People

say, ?Our little radio station, it's too little. It's not ABC Disney.?

Well, no, but it's part of a network of radio stations across

America that reaches millions of people every single day with a

very powerful message, and with the news you're not going to

get on ABC Disney. So we've got to take care of what we have

and try to expand it.

Where is the next group of national leaders?

You're the leaders. If we keep waiting on somebody to ride in

on some big white steed or something, then we're going to be

waiting at our deathbed. Where is that leader? We have to create

them ourselves. That's always the way it's been. You're not

going to read about it in The New York Times, you're not going

to see it on the news shows. But it's happening all across

America. There are so many progressive things that are taking

place and people that are coming up. We have to channel a bit

more of that energy now, I think, into elective political office, to

grow them, at the first getting elected?I care as much about

who is going to be state representative as I do about who is

going to be our presidential candidate next time, because that's

where you really build a movement, from the ground up.

Our Congress critters have no courage and no sense of

reality. The Democratic congressional leaders are locked in

Washington under the delusion that somehow or other they're a

part of the government, which is obviously not the case. It's

beltway-itis. And that's why what's important that's happening

that America in the Democratic Party and outside of the

Democratic Party is at the grass roots level. It's not coming from

big institutions that have been the leaders in the past. We can?t

wait on the leaders, because they're not leading. And so some

people say, ?We need a third party.? I wish we had a second

one. I want it to be mine. But that's why we have to keep

pushing. Having said that, we do have Raul Grijalva from down

here in Tucson, Arizona, we have Lynn Woolsey from

Massachusetts, we've got Russ Feingold from Wisconsin. We

have a number of people who are standing up on the war issue

and did march with Cindy Sheehan in the Washington march.

So we've got to build on what we have.

I'll just leave you with this thought. It's amusing to kick it

around and fun, over beers and stuff, to talk about who ought to

be the nominee, and that is an exercise worth playing with. But

really it's more important. Right at the grass roots level where

you are, elect your mayors and city council and state

representatives, and then to Congress. And move it up, move it

up. You don't create politics from trickle-down but by percolateup

at the grass roots. That's the importance of Western Colorado

Congress. Keep it going. Thank you very much.

For more information ?


Other AR programs ?

Cindy Sheehan ? Not One More Mother?s Child

Scott Ritter - Iraq Confidential

Zia Mian - The Project for a New American Century

Kenneth Roth - Human Rights & the War on Terrorism

Jodie Evans - Code Pink: Stories from the Anti-War Movement

Robert Fisk - War, Journalism & the Middle East

Norman Solomon - War Made Easy

Noam Chomsky - Washington's Messianic Mission

Jonathan Kozol - Education: The Shame of the Nation

George Galloway - Roots of Terrorism

Thomas Frank - What's the Matter with Kansas?

Arundhati Roy ? The Checkbook & the Cruise Missile

John Bonifaz - The Case for Impeaching Bush

For information about obtaining CDs, cassettes or transcripts of

this or other programs, please contact:

David Barsamian

Alternative Radio

P.O. Box 551

Boulder, CO 80306-0551

(800) 444-1977



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