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Jim Hightower looks at the election results and says people are tired of getting the “shaft”

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MATTHEW PALEVSKY, JOURNALIST: I’m sitting in Texas, where we saw an electoral draw on Tuesday. It looks like Clinton took the popular vote by a couple of percentage points. Obama is likely to take the caucus vote and perhaps pick up a couple more delegates than Clinton. What we saw was a divide labeled by the campaigns as hope versus experience. I’m here with Jim Hightower. He’s the former agriculture commissioner of Texas, radio commentator. What do you think this divide was that we saw in Texas?

JIM HIGHTOWER, AUTHOR, and RADIO COMMENTATOR: Well, people are for change. And we have two tremendous candidates offering really different qualities, but essentially still talking about a new direction for the country. So, you know, Clintons have been known here in Texas, active here in Texas for decades, so she came in with a very big advantage and good organizational structure. And then Obama came from out of nowhere, if you will, because of the excitement that he’s generated around the country, and then people began to turn to him as well. I was at my caucus on Tuesday night. It’s in a Baptist church up on South Congress Avenue, across the street from a bar—that’s very Texas. And it’s a very big church, but we had such a turnout that we couldn’t do it in the church. So we had to go out in the parking lot and divide up. Probably had, well, more than 400 people. And just to give you a contrast, four years ago in the presidential campaign, that precinct had 16 people at its caucus. Obama, as you indicated, represents sort of the future, a progressive vision, even hope. And I’ve heard some pundits try to trash hope. Well, that’s kind of an un-American thing. You know. America’s built on hope. It’s not a real good political strategy to try to stomp on hope. Whereas Clinton has a long record of progressive activism, and so she’s got natural support sitting there as well.

PALEVSKY: And you know the farmers of Texas quite well, I’m sure. How do they feel about this election?

HIGHTOWER: I think they’re mixed, you know, on all sorts of issues. Frankly, there’s no candidate talking about the agricultural issues, about the needs of the family farm, who continue to be squeezed out of business by the monopolies that buy their commodities and then buy the high-input companies that charge them gouging prices. So we need a farm policy that is entirely different than what we have, Democrat or Republican.

PALEVSKY: Did farm subsidies become an issue at all in this election?



HIGHTOWER: No. And they shouldn’t, because the farm subsidies are very misplaced. I think we should have a level of farm subsidy, but it ought to be an investment in something that the public actually gets something back from, such as organic and sustainable production.

PALEVSKY: And you’ve even said elections aren’t about left and right, but they’re about the bottom and the top.

HIGHTOWER: Exactly, ’cause left or right is ideology. That’s speculation, really. It actually separates us. But top to bottom, that’s experience. That’s where people actually live. And if you start talking about those fundamental economic issues of who’s getting what out of the growth that we’ve all contributed to over the years, then people who might consider themselves conservative will say, “Yeah, you know, I’m one of those down here on the bottom, and I want to see a change too.” People are mostly concerned about the cost of their utility bills, and the price of gasoline, and the low wages, and whether their kids are going to have an economic future at all that doesn’t involve a hairnet. The American people know that the rich people, they’ve got the goldmine, and we’ve got the shaft over the last not just eight years, over the last thirty years, and people are looking for a change in that policy to bring the economy back to a grassroots level again. The swells are doing swell, but the rest of us are having a hard time making ends meet. And people are mad about that, and they want to know whose side are you on.


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Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the new book, "Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow." (Wiley, March 2008) He publishes the monthly "Hightower Lowdown,"