Hightower joined Laura Flanders in studio at GritTV recently to talk about the economy, populism, the Supreme Court and Citizens United, and more.”The problem is us,” says Hightower. The problem is progressives, weak-willed Democrats, and others who have forgotten that our politics is meant to serve the people. We’ve allowed conservative demagogues like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin to seize the title of “populist” from the left.
Watching the last episode of the great PBS show “Bill Moyers Journal” was bittersweet for the Hightower staff. We were sad to see it end, but honored to see Hightower on as a guest:
Here’s a sweet story from Austin’s daily newspaper, The Austin American-Statesman:
“Whither populism? Or to put it in other words: What is populism, really, what the heck happened to it and is it still alive? To hear Jim Hightower talk about it, populism most definitely is alive; it just might not call itself populism. And it has nothing to do with Tea Party activists.”
The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, Saturday May 1, 2010
1:00-2:30 pm Panel Discussion: “Populism in Texas Politics”
-Fred Harris, former U.S. Senator (D-OK) and author of “The New Populism”
-Bob Moser, editor of The Texas Observer and author of “Blue Dixie: Awakening the -South’s Democratic Majority”
-Linda Chavez Thompson, former executive VP of the national AFL-CIO and Democratic nominee for Texas Lt. Governor
-Jim Cullen, editor of the Progressive Populist
2:55 music by Jimmy LaFave, tours with a Woodie Guthrie tribute project
3:00-4:30 pm Panel Discussion: “Populism in Texas Culture”
-Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid
-Ben Sargent, Pulitizer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist
-Alan Pogue, Texas Center for Documentary Photography,
-Tom Pittman, Musician
-Dr. Bill Stouffer, moderator, Texas State faculty
4:30-5:30 pm Reception & Viewing of Exhibition: Swim Against the Current: Highlights from the Jim Hightower Archive
5:30-6:00 pm Jim Hightower
6:00-7:00 pm Live Music with:
Austin Lounge Lizards
Carolyn Wonderland (with Shelley King)
Media Advisory: For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Ehrlich 512-477-5588, ext. 1
MOYERS AND HIGHTOWER TALK POPULISM ON THE LAST EDITION OF “BILL MOYERS JOURNAL”
After years of insightful, award-winning television journalism, Bill Moyers’ final edition of his weekly PBS “Journal” will air this Friday evening, April 30. For his concluding show, Moyers features a discussion about “America’s real populism” with longtime populist agitator, Jim Hightower.
Hightower — a Texas-based author, radio commentator, nationally-syndicated columnist, and former statewide elected official — has spent the past 40 years carrying the banner of progressive populism across the country, battling the corporate powers that are running roughshod over working families, consumers, small business, and our environment.
In Friday’s “Journal,” Moyers draws on Hightower’s experiences and well-honed wit to draw the line between the real thing and what Hightower calls “the faux populist posturings” of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and other corporate-funded mouthpieces for America’s economic elites. In the hour-long broadcast, Moyers and Hightower highlight some of the current efforts that folks around the country are making to break the iron grip that big corporations have on our economy, environment, media, and government. One of the featured groups is Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a feisty and successful grassroots organization working to empower and unite people from all walks of life to take control of their communities.
To see what time Moyers’ final show will air on a PBS station in your area, and to get more information about the program, go to www.pbs.org/moyers/journal.
NOTE: On Saturday, May 1 (the day after the Moyers show on populism airs), Hightower will host a day-long festival of talk, music, art, and food at Texas State University in San Marcos. Titled “The Living Spirit of Texas Populism: In Our Politics/In Our Culture,” the lively forum is presented by the university’s Wittliff Collections, which is the official repository for Hightower’s career archive. With two panel presentations, live music, a talk by Hightower, a reception featuring local food, and an open exhibit of the archive, the event will address the meaning and celebrate the future of true grassroots populism.
The event will run from 1 to 7 pm, and admission is free. For a list of panelists, musicians, and for other information about the event, contact: Laura Ehrlich at 512-477-5588, ext 1, [email protected] or Michele Miller at 512-245-2313 or [email protected]
On the seventh floor of the Alkek Library at Texas State University in San Marcos, in a quiet, unassuming room with a long study table, visitors find a unique exhibit — even by the standards of the storied Wittliff Collection. Ostensibly cataloguing the life of a single individual, it captures the history of a force in Texas politics that once was composed of many people. But that was then.
‘Swim Against The Current: Highlights From the Jim Hightower Archive’ runs through the end of July 2010 with a day of panels, musical performances and food on May 1. ‘It’s fairly rare for us to have an exhibit dedicated to one particular individual,’ says Steve Davis, assistant curator in charge of the Wittliff’s Southwestern Writers Collection, ‘but in this case it seems very appropriate.’
The Texas Tribune recently joined Hightower at Texas State to talk about the exhibit with the guy who knows it best.
Beginning in Denison in 1943, the story of Hightower is that of a Texas-style progressive populist movement that peaked before the young Texans of today can even remember. Hightower first heard the word ‘populism’ in a history textbook while attending the University of North Texas. ‘For the first time, I knew what I was,’ he says. The day he graduated, he packed up and drove to Washington, D.C., where, under the wing of Texas’ U.S. Sen. Ralph Yarborough and populist presidential candidate Fred Harris, he learned: ‘Be true to yourself. Try to say what it is you believe in. Even those who disagree with you will appreciate the fact that you’re standing for something.’
He returned to Texas to take over as editor of the left-leaning Texas Observer. He converted that position into a successful stint in politics, serving as agriculture commissioner from 1983 to 1991 and rising to prominence along with Texas’ other leading progressive voices, such as Molly Ivins and Ann Richards. Today, he’s one of the — maybe the only — remaining member of that school. But though he remains the leading voice of populism in Texas, he says he can’t even get an invitation to speak at the Democratic State Convention.
The Democratic Party, he says, has changed from its (and his) political heyday, now confined to the shelves of history along with Hightower’s old campaign materials. ‘The powers that be within it made a political calculation that we Democrats could raise corporate money and compete with the Republicans, because they were fast becoming the power in Texas,’ he says. ‘The problem is, when you start taking those corporate checks, on the back is written the corporate agenda. So our party began speaking in different languages.’
In the 16 years since Democrats won a statewide office, Hightower says, consumers, environmentalists and workers quit hearing themselves in the party’s message. ‘It’s all vague gibberish that’s sort of Republican-light, really. So it’s not that Texas turned conservative or even Republican — it’s that Texans quit voting.’
On a personal level, Hightower says, ‘I wouldn’t say that the party abandoned me, they just went on to other people.’ Recently, he has been sensing a hopeful change. He’s begun receiving invitations to speak to more county parties and regional groups in the state. He lists state Reps. Lon Burnam, Eddie Rodriguez and Elliott Naishtat as ‘bright stars’ in his movement and has high hopes for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White and Linda Chavez-Thompson, a former labor organizer now running for lieutenant governor.
Meanwhile, Hightower has spent the last several years focusing his efforts outward and upward, transforming himself into a national figure through a series of bestselling books, a weekly newsletter and a two-minute radio program aired each weekday on 175 stations throughout the country.
National politics has not been any more kind to Hightower’s worldview in the last two decades than Texas. ‘I started out as a punk challenging Lyndon Johnson,’ he says. ‘I spent my youth trying to get Lyndon Johnson out of office because of the Vietnam War, without realizing he would be the most progressive president of my lifetime.’
Hightower — who barnstormed with the likes of Steve Fromholz and Willie Nelson and has always occupied the nexis of Texas’ culture and politics — had more than just political differences with President Bill Clinton. ‘I knew Bill Clinton was going to be a problem when he said Elvis was his musical hero,’ Hightower says. ‘By the time Bill Clinton was listening to Elvis, he had the Jordannaires behind him, and the strings, and he was a major corporate production, really. My man was Little Richard. He knew how to scream and piss off the establishment.’ Hightower’s notoriety only grew under President George W. Bush, a fellow Texan, if nothing else.
Hightower worries that there’s less and less room for his style of screaming and pissing off the establishment in today’s media landscape. ‘Public television and radio have become so corporate that it’s almost impossible for someone of my viewpoint to get any airtime at all on either one,’ Hightower says. ‘And that’s a shame, because if you can’t get it on public television or radio, you’re certainly not going to get it on Clear Channel or that sort of thing.’
When it comes to television, he says, ‘Bill Moyers is the last that we have [who] really takes a populist view. And now we’re losing Moyers.’ The Texas-raised PBS host will take his Bill Moyers Journal off the air at the end of the month. His second-to-last episode will feature a discussion of populism. Hightower will be his guest.
It will not be the kind of discussion often heard in the national political media, where the word ‘populist’ still gets tossed around — erroneously, Hightower says. ‘Sarah Palin is not a populist,’ he says. ‘Defending oil companies and backing insurance giants is not a populist theme, quite the opposite. Newt Gingrich, who’s a corporate lobbyist, is not a populist. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are just blowhards in defense of corporate order; there’s nothing populist at all about them. In fact, they are anti-populist. We have to let that word have actual meaning again.’
Hightower hopes the exhibit at the Wittliff might be a means to that end. ‘The reason I’m so thrilled with it is not to say, ‘Here’s Jim Hightower!’ Who the hell cares?’ he says. ‘Here is a voice in a period and an expression of politics that is strongly Texas and pro-little people. We want to say to the media as well as the young people that there is a thing called populism and it actually began in our state. And it has real meaning. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s not just being angry and screaming. It’s connected to ordinary people being able to take on the moneyed interests and win.’
To read the article and see the photos and video visit www.texastribune.org and don’t forget join us on May 1st.
(HINT: JOHNNY CASH WAS A POPULIST. SO WAS MOLLY IVINS. GLENN BECK ISN’T. RACHEL MADDOW IS. SARAH PALIN — NOT SO MUCH.)
“Populism is a historically grounded doctrine and movement that supports ordinary folks in their ongoing democratic fight against the moneyed elites.” — Jim Hightower
THE JIM HIGHTOWER ARCHIVE: A POPULIST’S LIFE IN POLITICS
Exhibit reception, lively panel discussions, great Texas music, local food, and other populist-related festivities–plus Jim Hightower speaks–on May 1, 2010. Exhibition on view in San Marcos, TX at Texas State University’s Wittliff Collections now through the end of July 2010.
AUSTIN — Jim Hightower is considered America’s #1 populist, a man admired as a radio commentator, syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and sought-after public speaker. Hightower believes the true political spectrum is not right-to-left, but top-to-bottom. He is dedicated to battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the ‘Powers That Ought To Be’: working families, farmers, consumers, environmentalists, small business owners, and ‘just plain folks.’
In December 2008, Hightower named the Wittliff Collections as the official repository for his archival legacy, and now his papers are the focus of the next exhibition from the Southwestern Writers Collection at the Alkek Library on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos. On May 1, Hightower will be the featured speaker for a full day of festivities celebrating the gift of his archive and the exhibition. Participants discussing our populist past and future include such grassroots champions as Fred Harris, Ben Sargent, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Carolyn Mugar, and Alan Pogue. In addition, the event will feature live music, food, and more–all open to the public. (See full schedule below.)
The exhibition traces the life and work of Hightower, from the beginning with his experience in the 1960s as an aide to the U.S. Senator, Ralph Yarborough (D-TX) to his first organizing efforts on behalf of family farmers and farm workers in the early 1970s to his statewide campaigns for office in the 1980s, to his successful post-government work as a syndicated daily radio commentator, speech-maker, prolific best-selling author, and all-around populist agitator. The collection will continue to grow as Hightower’s career moves forward.
One of the earliest pieces among the papers is a small document from 1964: a Certificate of Exemption From Poll Tax issued to a 21-year-old Hightower, then a junior at the University of North Texas, because he was a first-time voter. Finally abolished in Texas in 1966 as unconstitutional, the poll tax was designed to deter poor people, especially blacks and Latino Americans, from voting, an issue in the Civil Rights Movement that inspired the young Hightower to set out on a populist political path.
The archive also includes:
* A wealth of paper documentation (draft copies of his radio commentaries, speeches, and The Hightower Lowdown — his monthly political newsletter)
* 1,964 photographs and 4,613 audio/visual materials.
* Various awards, including his 2009 Puffin/Nation prize.
* Papers from his work as the national campaign coordinator for U.S. Senator Fred Harris’ crusade for president in 1976.
* Numerous campaign photos and memorabilia from Hightower’s own runs for office, including his eight years as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture where he implemented many of his populist ideas including consumer protection, worker safety, organic production and direct marketing by small farmers.
Contact: Laura Ehrlich
Executive Director, Hightower & Associates
512-477-5588, ext. 1
MAY 1, 2010
The Wittliff Collections present JIM HIGHTOWER and
‘The Living Spirit of TEXAS POPULISM: In Our Politics, In Our Culture’
from 1:00 to 7:00 pm
Jim Hightower is the featured speaker for this day of festivities celebrating the gift of his archive to the Wittliff Collections.
The first of two panel discussions, ‘Populism in Texas Politics,’ will feature former Senator Fred Harris, Jim Cullen, editor of the national newspaper Progressive Populist, Linda Chavez-Thompson, former executive VP of the national AFL-CIO, and Bob Moser, editor of the Texas Observer, who will serve as moderator.
Discussing ‘Populism in Texas Culture’ will be Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid, editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent, photographer Alan Pogue, and Tom Pittman, lead man for the Austin Lounge Lizards and host of KUT’s ‘Folkways.’ The moderator will be Dr. Bill Stouffer, Texas State professor of Political Science.
A public reception and talk by Jim Hightower will follow, then performances by Jimmy LaFave, Carolyn Wonderland (with Shelley King), and the Austin Lounge Lizards add live music to the mix.
There will be local food and drink throughout the day, sponsored in part by St. Arnold’s Brewery and the Cool Mint Caf, whose staff works to support area growers whenever possible. The Wittliff Collections are located at the Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos. Directions and parking instructions are online: www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. To secure admission, attendees are asked to RSVP early to 512-245-2313 or [email protected]
This is not judicial activism, it’s judicial radicalism — a
black-robed political coup over America’s historic democratic ideals. Five
men have just overthrown the power of the people’s vote, enthroning
corporate money as supreme in all of our country’s elections. Jefferson,
Madison, and the other founders of our democratic republic are not merely
spinning in their graves — they’re trying to claw their way out and throttle
these shameful usurpers.
Remember their names — Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and
Thomas. Corporate whores.