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FEATURE The Mess We’re In BY JIM HIGHTOWER Editor’s note: Radio host and Observer columnist Jim Hightower gave the keynote speech at July’s national Green Party Conven tion, held in Denver. The following is excerpted from his remarks. ‘m proud to join you rowdy and raucous, grassroots agitators of the growing and the glowing Green Party. Here tonight at your historic convention at this Mile-High city, as. you dare to say “No” to politics as usual, “No” to the non-choice of Tweedilee-dum and Tweedilee-dumber – and “yes” to giving our great American democracy a fresh start in this millennial election year. And what could be fresher, than to build a new political movement from the ground up, of, by; and for the people, of, by, and for we the people? Organizing side by side with a man who has never taken a dime in corrupt corporate cash. A man who has, for thirty-five years, been unafraid and unintimidated to go right into the face of abusive, arrogant, and avaricious corporate power. A man who personifies both personal and political integrity, and who is the lanky, and somewhat disheveled, but always true embodiment of economic and political reform, that the people of this country cry out for. You know Kermit the Frog is famous for saying, “It ain’t easy being green.” But it is, when Ralph Nader leads the way. There are those who said, “Who cares what the Green Party is doing? Who cares about Ralph Nader, this minor, trivial candidate over here? He’s marginal.” Now, suddenly, they’re attacking us. What happened? Senator Harry Reid out in Nevada actually a pretty good guy, a guy I know, I’ve worked with over years but I think he had a bowl of Fruit Loops a couple of days ago. For he suddenly jumped up, and in The New York Times was quoted as saying, “Ralph Nader is a very selfish person.” Now you can say a lot of things about Ralph Nader, you know, but “selfish”? This is a guy who hasn’t had a car since 1959. He’s got a twelve-inch black and white TV. He rents an apartment. Selfish? Harry Reid goes on to say, “Ralph Nader has no respect for the process.” Well. Of course, neither did Thomas Jefferson. Neither did Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass they had no respect for the process. Neither did the abolitionists and the suffragists; neither did the populists and Wobblies. Neither did John L. Lewis or Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez they had no respect for the process. They dared to stand up as ordinary citizens and say, “It ain’t working. And we want a different system we want a different process.” I referred to you as “agitators.” Now the powers that be try to make that a pejorative word in our society, don’t they? “Our workers were perfectly happy over here in this factory, until those union agitators came in, and began to mess with ’em.” “None of those poor people on the other side of the tracks were upset about that toxic waste dump until the environmental agitators came in and started stirring ’em up.” Well hogwash and horse-hockey to all that. Agitation is what America is all about. Were it not for agitators, we’d all be sitting here SEPTEMBER 8, 2000 tonight wearing white powdered wigs and singing “God Save the Queen.” Agitators. The agitator is the center post in the washing machine, that gets the dirt out and it’s about time, I say. It’s no longer enough for us to be progressive in this country we’ve been progressive a long time. We’ve gotta become aggressive again, because the powers that be have become radically regressive. They’re running roughshod over working families, roughshod over the family farmers, roughshod over our air and our water over the middle class as well as the poor over our communities, over the very concept of sovereignty. Over the very idea of self-government. They get to thinking they’re the top dogs, and we’re just a bunch of fire hydrants out here. Well, that’s why we’ve gathered together, to forge a new politics that is not based on right-to-left -political spectrum. That’s the old dichotomy. That’s theory. That separates and divides us. The real political spectrum in America is not right to left, it’s top to bottom. That’s where people actually live. That’s experience. And the vast majority of the people in this country today know that they’re no longer in shouting distance of the powers at the top, whether those powers call themselves liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans. So we’re here to forge a blue-green coalition, that unites working people with farmers, unites farmers with environmentalists, the middle class with poor folks. As my friend Jesse Jackson put it years ago, “We might not have come over on the same boat, but we’re in the same boat now.” I come to you as somebody who has been a proud Democrat. I was elected in the state of Texas they’re still laughing about it down there. I was elected to two terms as State Agriculture Commissioner. Not only have I been in Texas politics, I’ve been elected, so I come to you as no virgin here tonight. But I look now at my national party, and I see that they’ve taken off those old Sears Roebuck work boots and strapped on the same Guccis and Puccis that the Republicans are struttin’ around in. In my book, If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, I’ve got a section called “Clinton’s Last Erection.” We’re not talkin’ about Monica and the mess-on-the-dress, or any of that. We’re talking about that tower of money that Clinton helped to erect, and to move our Democratic party essentially on to Wall Street. That money has hopelessly corrupted my party, and separated it from its populist principles and its populist people. If it won’t stand for us, why should we stand for it? It’s a pretty basic concept in American politics…. What’s at issue in America today is the fundamental question of whether we’re all in this together. That’s the social glue that holds us together. The notion of a common good. The privileged few are separating themselves from you and me from the well-being of the community. They have gated and guarded compounds in which they live. They have private academies in which they can send their children. They have Lexus lanes on the public highways, so they don’t have to be in the traffic jams. They have luxury sky boxes in the public stadiums, paid for by you and me, but they THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13