Jim Hightower | Q&A | Indy Week
Pin It

Jim Hightower 

The Texas populist heads to the Triangle April 18

click to enlarge 4.16-news.q_a.jimhightowe.gif

Former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower has earned his billing as "America's No. 1 Populist" and funniest progressive commentator. To him, politics isn't about left or right, it's up or down, the elites versus the masses. The rich are stealing our lunch buckets and our jobs too, outsourcing the middle class while the masses remain "moderate." Which is why Hightower famously titled one book There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.

Hightower is the featured guest at a benefit for Common Cause N.C. Friday, April 18, 7-9 p.m. at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. Tickets are $10 ($5 students). His new book, with co-author Susan DeMarco, is Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow. It profiles 50 entrepreneurs who've created housing for the working class, health care clinics for the uninsured, and the League of Pissed Off Voters for—well, yeah. Theirs are the "new democratic models" for challenging corporate power while also living your values, Hightower said when we called him.

Yes, but why do you think that progressive activism is any more of a match for the corporate powers now than it's been over the last 30 to 40 years?

[The reason is] they've overreached. And now a majority of people—75 percent or more—think corporations have too much power. You see that in the battles against Wal-Mart, for example, which unbeknownst to most of the establishment, people are winning all across the country. But also, the rise of people in business, in politics, in health care and other areas who are blazing a new path, because the corporate form of business is not the equivalent of business. It's one form [of business], and it's the most constricted, constipated form. People are finding a much freer form through partnerships, individual proprietorships and cooperatives.

Will it translate to political or policy change, though? If so, how can John McCain be running even or ahead in the polls?

Well, you don't start at the presidential level. The change is happening in city councils, county commissions and state legislatures. And that's the pool of talent that will move on up. And the politics itself is changing as people are finding new ways to communicate—you see that up to the level of the Obama campaign.

click to enlarge 4.16-news.q_a.hightower_swi.gif

Do you have any wisdom for us now that the presidential campaign has come to North Carolina?

No wisdom. I endorsed Obama during the Texas primary, and I said the significant thing about the Obama phenomenon isn't Obama but the phenomenon—the fact that we've got millions of people, including a whole bunch of young folks and people who haven't been voting in the past, who believe that change really is possible. And not because of him. I disagree with the pundits who say, "Oh, the Obama supporters have this 'god' fixation, that he's a messiah." I find people are not fooled, and they know that in many areas he's short of their own progressive goals. But they see ... the possibility of [Obama] bringing in a new wave of people, including the grassroots force itself, that will continue to demand the change and demand that he be better on policies than he now is.

So should people put their activist energies into presidential politics right now, or look for some local—or even a business—opportunity? Or is there enough time to do both?

Yeah, I think there's enough time to do both, and that's what I urge people to do. Obviously, we're going to be focused on the presidency, because we don't need a third Bush term. But I emphasize with people that to build a long-term progressive movement you also have to invest some of your efforts in state and local races as well as be a rebel in other aspects of your life—where you feel like it. I mean, some people are inclined to business, some people want to make religious changes, or are involved in health care, so there are a lot of different ways that you can express that kind of innate rebelliousness that is, I think, down in the core of each of us. So DeMarco and I, in our book, are saying: "Turn that little sucker loose."

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Q&A

  • WikiLeaks and the right to know

    We spoke with UNC Associate Professor of Journalism Lois Boynton, a fellow at the University's Parr Center for Ethics, about WikiLeaks
    • Dec 22, 2010
  • Scott Horton

    Scott Horton

    Torture, not suicide, may have killed Guantánamo prisoners.
    • Apr 7, 2010
  • Gerald Grant on Wake's school success

    Gerald Grant on Wake's school success

    It was the 1976 decision by Raleigh and Wake County to merge and then establish the policy that every school would be racially balanced that made Raleigh the "hope" of other American cities.
    • May 20, 2009
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Comments

i was wanting to know if diebetes or omeprazole can cause a false reading for thc and are there any …

by rooster50 on Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General (Q&A)

Isn't the policy of UNC NOT to allow freedom of association repressive?As a white male can I be allowed to …

by ROBO14 on Riley Matheson, UNC's Youth for Western Civilization (Q&A)

Most Recent Comments

i was wanting to know if diebetes or omeprazole can cause a false reading for thc and are there any …

by rooster50 on Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General (Q&A)

Isn't the policy of UNC NOT to allow freedom of association repressive?As a white male can I be allowed to …

by ROBO14 on Riley Matheson, UNC's Youth for Western Civilization (Q&A)

To above: But what good is liberty without the material and social resources one needs in order to *exercise* that …

by drewk on Gerald Grant on Wake's school success (Q&A)

I was unimpressed by the yearly move of students from one school to another. That was unnecessary, to my untrained …

by debbilh on Gerald Grant on Wake's school success (Q&A)

I think what's astonishing is that Gerald Grant is clueless.

by ammcat on Gerald Grant on Wake's school success (Q&A)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation