Google “America’s #1 populist,” and you will find the name Jim Hightower at or near the top of the resulting list. Yesterday, Hightower spoke at Ithaca College; and at a Q & A session before his talk to a larger audience, he was asked about William Greider’s claim in The Nation this week that Bernie Sanders is not a populist because he is “working within the established order.” If anyone is qualified to put that assertion to rest, it’s Jim Hightower.
Hightower “has spent four decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.” He has written seven books including including, Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back and If the Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates. He said that he has previously campaigned with Bernie Sanders, so it’s safe to assume that God now means for us to vote.
Greider’s article in The Nation, “Bernie, Donald, and the Promise of Populism,” takes issue with George Packer’s column in The New Yorker, “The Populists.” Greider reviews 19th Century populism and frames it as a rebellion against the ”federal government [that] was an active accomplice in their economic destruction.” He notes that “most Americans are reduced to the passive role of spectators, fans, groupies. Or they are persuaded not to bother with politics.” Apparently, he is not aware of the revolutionary army Senator Sanders’ campaign is organizing. His supporters or not merely “feeling the Bern;” they are registering voters, asking voters to re-resister as Democrats in some states and throwing themselves into a massive organizing effort.
Responding to the question, Hightower noted that he usually agrees with Greider, but not this time. Bernie Sanders “is a populist because populism is what you stand for.” He went on to explain that Senator Sanders would not have had a chance running an independent campaign. The mainstream media would have ignored him, and Sanders did not want to repeat the “Nader problem,” when Ralph Nader’s Green Party candidacy is believed, correctly or not, to have caused the Democrats the election in 2000. Hightower believes that Sanders will either “change the Democratic Party” or it will lead “to something else.”
Hightower was not aware of Revolt Against Plutocracy’s strategy to create a “Nader problem” for Democrats next year. RAP has garnered over 11,000 of the planned 1,000,000+ pledges by voters to write-in Senator Sanders if he is not the Democratic Party nominee. Unlike 2000, their website notes, “Democratic primary voters will have the choice next year to unite the broad, American liberal/progressive left behind Senator Sanders or risk putting another Republican in the White House. The Bernie or Bust campaign puts the burden of unity on them.” Hightower was given one of their flyers to read “on the plane going home,” so by now he should know that RAP is building a movement for an American political revolution.
Greider wrote, “If the original Populists could organize millions to overcome their handicaps, people should be able to do the same now. After all, the Populists didn’t even have telephones, much less e-mail.” Like Hightower, he is also unaware of Revolt Against Plutocracy’s effort. They are collecting email addresses and arranging them by state to help build a populist movement to support Sanders’ agenda if elected and foment resistance to the corporate order if he is not. Time will tell if Greider or Hightower take notice of this budding grassroots revolutionary movement which will, if Bernie is elected, lead “to something else,” i.e., “genuine political equality” for all citizens. If Sanders is not the Democratic Party nominee, then it’s just going to take longer.