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Why Am I in This Hand Basket?

Texas best-selling author and radio commentator Jim Hightower swung through Southern California this past week to ruffle a few feathers—“kick a little ass,” is what he actually said—and spread a little sunlight as the long night of the “theocratic, plutocratic, kleptocratic” Bush Administration comes to an end. Speaking to a mostly white-haired audience at Pasadena’s Neighborhood Church, Hightower bemoaned the fact that so many leaders nowadays “have abandoned the idea of the common good, replacing it with ‘adios, chump.’”


Although he reserved his tartest barbs for the Bush-Cheney regime, Hightower placed the blame for the country’s direction—“so many of us wonder where we’re going, and why am I in this hand basket?”—elsewhere. “Corrupt corporate money controls politics; that’s the problem,” he says.

“Clean Money totally changes politics—84% of Maine’s legislators are elected with public money,” he said, then told of a waitress who used public funds to get elected and now is serving her third term. “She brings a different perspective to the table, something that just wasn’t there before.”

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With coauthor and “long-time coconspirator” Susan DeMarko, Hightower has written Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow to highlight stories of groups and individuals like the waitress-legislator around the country who have found ways to escape corporate tentacles in finding richer lives that contribute to a better America.

As another example, Hightower described how a group of Wisconsin progressives have managed to do what progressives typically have so much trouble doing—organize. To put the “party” back in politics, Ed Garvey—the lawyer famous for representing the professional football players union—created what he called the “Fighting Bob Fest” in 2001. Named in honor of famed Progressive Robert La Follette of Wisconsin from the early 20th century, this daylong event teaches progressive activists how to network and organize to win elections without kowtowing to corporate fat cats. Now in its seventh year, Fighting Bob Fest has seen attendance grow form 1,200 the first year to 6,000 last year, with the next Fighting Bob Fest slated for September 6th in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Hightower, who also publishes the Hightower Lowdown newsletter from his home in Austin, Texas, cited similar efforts in Camp Wellstones, which former aides of beloved Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, put on around the country, as well as the Granny Peace Brigade—“let’s unite while we’re still upright”—who regularly picket outside the Times Square recruitment office, protesting the immoral, unjust, and unnecessary war foisted on the world by the current Republican Administration.

Before stepping down from his delightful presentation to sign copies of his books with partner DeMarko, Hightower explained the need for his cowboy boots and ten-gallon hat in latte-rich Pasadena by quoting Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."