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or those of the representatives from a broad range of sponsoring organizations. But the headlines belonged to Granny D. By the time it was Granny’s turn to talk, the crowd had been ebbing and flowing with the police for well more than an hour, and even the spring-like conditions were beginning to produce a little sweat, a little impatience, and a growing murmur. On the grass to the side of the stairs, people were lounging and smoking and picnicking and even sleeping. It was evident from the organizers’ faces that the rally had gone on longer than anticipated, and it was evident from the participants’ faces that it had gone on longer than advisable. Off to the side, Jim Hightower was trying mostly unsuccessfully to broadcast his radio show live from the rally. He had a cell phone attached to each ear, and he spent most of his time looking down, then removing a phone from his ear to look at it, then listening again. Under the brim of his trademark cowboy hat he looked nearly as glum as the members of Congress, trapped in the crowd on the stairs, unable to slip unnoticed \(as is the custom once they finish conditioning to politics as usual. But then Granny D stepped up to the microphone. Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold introduced Granny, spending most of his time waxing semieloquent about his good friend John McCain \(at that moment off gallivanting in the “Straight Talk Express” and attempting to slay the dragon of big money was listening, at least until Granny D’s voice captivated the crowd. “Before the days of the Civil Rights Movement,” she began, in an arresting voice, light and airy, and a trifle singsong in an aristocratic Katherine Hepburn kind of way. She spoke slowly, almost metronomically, like a high school literature teacher patiently demonstrating poetic rhythms: “Our ballots [beat] are our brooms [beat] and we come [beat] a-sweepin’ .” Granny D’s words were as surprising as her voice. Her speech, also published on title “Senators, How Did You Dare Think We Would Not Care?,” was full of fabulous one-liners; it was also thoroughly stern, spoken with the authority of a disappointed elder, and with the cheering support of all those in attendance even, at times, the mildly-stunned Senators still behind and beside her. She chastised the Senate for using Byzantine procedures to keep campaign finance reform legislation from facing a vote \(though it has majority supinattention to the will of their constituents. What might we call the selling of our government from under us? What might we call a change of government from a government of by and for the people, to a government by and for the wealthy elite? I will not call such a change of government a treason, but those more courageous shadows standing among us, whose blood runs through our flag and our history, and whose accomplishments are more solid beneath us than these stone steps, why they might use such a word in angry whispers…. Shame on you, Senators and Congressmen, who have turned this headquarters of a great and self-governing people into a bawdy house. In her lilting, almost meek voice, so at odds with her words, Granny D continued her tirade: “[Senators,] if I have offended you speaking this way on your front steps, that is as it should be; you have offended America and you have dishonored the best things it stands for. Take your wounded pride, get off your backs and onto your feet, and go across the street to clean your rooms. You have somewhere on your desks, under the love letters from your greedy friends and co-conspirators against representative democracy, a modest bill against soft money. Pass it. Then show that you are clever lads by devising new ways for a great people to talk to one another again without the necessity of great wealth. If you cannot do that, then get out of the way go home to some other corruption, less harmful to a great nation.” Hearing her, and the chants of the crowd watching the energy she elicited, it was possible to believe that the great grassroots movements of the past were not all in the past, that another such movement which Granny D predicted in her remarks could come to pass. Indeed, when sixteen people, demonstrating their conviction to this cause, went directly from the rally into the Capitol Rotunda to commit non-violent acts of civil disobedience, that sense of history in the making was underscored. But there was also a troubling sense of absurdity in the air, a sense of Granny D’s tone as refreshing and inspiring as it was being somehow inappropriate, or at least hardly up to the task it would so boldly take in hand. It didn’t come t6 me until later: Granny D had lectured the Senators as though they were naughty toddlers, and she a stern nanny. That’s fine for most of the Chamber, certainly that handful of Congressmembers here to kiss her cheek. But what about Strom Thurmond, one-time Presidential candidate \(against Harry Tru1954, fourth in line for the presidency, a virulent opponent of campaign finance reform and perhaps most significantly, Granny D’s elder. No matter what Granny D says, Strom Thurmond won’t be ordered to clean his room. And like any group of kids, many of the Senators simply seek a ringleader, an excuse not to do as they’re told at least as they’re told by Granny D and her ordinary fellow citizens. These Senators have their ringleaders sides Thurmond, to cite only the most distinguished few: there’s Mitch McConnell \(who refuses to admit the Supreme Court doesn’t believe money and free speech are who demands smoking-gun proof of direct, quid pro quo whose drawl sucks in the bucks and protects the who runs the Senate in time-honored, campaign-funded deof these hirelings has the least interest in “cleaning his room” and they’ve bullied enough of their peers to keep the place littered with cash, at least for the near future. Still, there’s nothing quite like the first nice day of the new millennium and someone brave and dedicated enough to insist, again and again, that even Senators can be grounded and that no one ever gets so old or so powerful as to escape the chance of a sound electoral spanking. Three more cheers for Granny D. Jeff Mandell was not the guy wearing the giant puppet contraption of an empty suit at Granny D’s rally< THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23 MARCH 31, 2000