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I N LATE JUNE, at the Republican state convention in Fort Worth, George W. Bush stood before some 5,000 delegates and introduced Representative Rick Perry, describing him as “a husband and a God-fearing man.” That’s not exactly how Rick Perry is perceived among his peers in the Texas House of Representatives, but at political conventions, fidelity to the historical or journalistic record is usually something less than a cultural imperative. And it’s unlikely that Bush has seen Perry at work in and around the Legislature in Austin. Perry, who only 10 months earlier had left the Democratic Party, then did what he was expected to do and spent about 10 minutes assailing his opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. According to Perry, Hightower is “the most dangerous person on the Democratic ticket.” Perry also mentioned that Hightower’s office is under investigation by the FBI. The Republicans’ preoccupation with Hightower has turned what is normally ‘a little-noticed, down-ballot state office race into something of a national crusade. Dan Quayle did a Perry fundraiser in San Antonio. Clayton Yeutter sponsored one in Washington. Republican primary gubernatorial candidates Tom Luce and Jack Rains are involved in the Perry campaign, as -is Texas Rangers pitcher and off-season rancher Nolan Ryan, and former Dallas Cowboys owner and former A&M regents chairman H.R. “Bum” Bright. Karl Rove, the political consultant who usually hires out to Phil Gramm, Bill Clements, or Kent Hance, is directing the Perry campaign. Chicken magnate Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, who last year was caught handing out $10,000 checks to state Senators attending a committee hearing, is contributing to it. As is McAllen Mayor and transnational agribusinessman Othal Brand. Surely this broad base of opposition is inspired by something more than George Walker Bush’s anger over Hightower’s describing George Herbert Walker Bush as “a toothache of a man who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.” Until January of 1989, Republicans were not so intensely interested in Hightower. They assumed he would end his political career by throwing himself in the path of Phil Gramm’s $20 million U.S. Senate campaign, after which the Republican Party, the Chemical Council, and the Farm Bureau would have a go at Hightower’s deputy, Mike Moeller. As House Ranching and Agriculture chair Dudley Harrison said, the Republicans believed “they’d elect somebody else and everything would go back to the way it used to be and we’d all get complacent again.” But in January of 1989 Hightower backed away from the Senate race, announcing that he intended to run again for agriculture commissioner. He also said that he would work on building a populist alliance a statewide grassroots organization that will work to define and promote a progressive political and economic agenda. “Campaigns are necessarily egocentric, leaving little behind in the way of a cohesive base that can elect not just me but others who ultimately can form a populist majority and produce populist policies,” Hightower said. And to raise the $10 million needed to go after Gramm, Hightower would have been required to “spend more time in the living rooms of the wealthy, raising money, than I could out in the communities raising issues, raising hopes, and raising hell.” The populist alliance that Hightower envisioned is not so capital intensive. It would, rather, be built by and upon people working to put forward a progressive agenda, recruit and finance candidates, organize speakers’ bureaus, smalldonor programs and policy-development and campaign-training centers the same sort of mechanisms that Chuck Robb’s Democratic Leadership Council has provided for the right wing of the Democratic Party. Bill Clements had his own concerns about Hightower and his plans, complaining at an impromptu press conference during the last regular session that “the man has announced that he’s using his office to build a political organization.” NOW, 18 MONTHS after its conception, the Texas Populist Alliance is about to take its first tentative steps. On September 7-8, political activists from across the state will meet at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel South in Austin. The two days of meetings are characterized as a “talk around the kitchen table” and will focus on the future of progressive politics in Texas. Congressmen John Bryant and Craig Washington are scheduled to attend. As are state Representatives Ernestine Glossbrenner and Juan Hinojosa; Larry Goodwyn, historian and author of Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America; Larry Zwick of Clean Water Action; Democratic National Corn rob .. TEXAS server AUGUST 31, 1990 VOLUME 82, No. 17 FEATURES The Other Summit Ray Reece 5 Jo Clifton 6 Tom Schlesinger 7 Jo Clifton 8 Brett Campbell 9 The Chairman’s Stances By Dan Carney 13 Dismantling the INS By Emily Schwartz 14 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorials 3 Political Intelligence 10 Social Cause Calendar 19 Books and the Culture Thin Men By Pat LittleDog 20 The Cutting Edge By Bryce Milligan 21 Bland Ambition By Steven Kellman 22 Afterword A History Lesson By Ramiro Casso 23 mitteewoman Billie Carr; and Andres Sarabia of Communities Organized for Public tion that lately has been the only thing stand CORRECTION The subject on the far right of the cover photo of our August 17 issue, incorrectly identified as Robert Dedman, is actually University of Texas Dean of Natural Sciences Robert Boyer. And on page three, Frank Erwin was incorrectly described as university chancellor. Erwin was Chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents. EDITORIALS Building a Texas Populist Alliance THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3