James Allen “Jim” Hightower, a well-known radio personality, speaker, and writer, also stands out as the rare contemporary example of a populist commentator whose political orientation is liberal rather than conservative. Notably, Hightower, who has often been regarded as “America's number one populist,” views politics less in terms of left against right than in terms of the top versus the bottom. Nonetheless, Hightower has in recent decades become increasingly regarded as a progressive spokesman for ordinary Americans against the elites of both Wall Street and Washington.
Jim Hightower was born on January 11, 1943, and grew up in Denison, Texas. He was raised in a family whose occupational backgrounds range from small-business owners to tenant farmers. Hightower worked his way through college, attending the University of North Texas, and after graduation he began his long career in progressive politics, first working as a legislative aide to Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough. His subsequent career has included work as a political activist with the Agribusiness Accountability Project, as editor of the Texas Observer, and as director of the Texas Consumer Association. He has also successfully run for, and served, two terms as the Texas agricultural commissioner between 1982 and 1991.
During the last couple of decades, Hightower has also become a popular radio commentator, with his daily “Common Sense Commentaries” syndicated on more than 150 radio stations nationwide. He is also a public speaker who has given more than 100 speeches per year. He has remained a popular political figure and media personality into the early twenty-first century, even as populist media commentary has increasingly been associated with conservative pundits such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
Susan Roth Breitzer
See also: Bush, George W., Populist Rhetoric of ; Neo-Populism ; Obama, Barack, Populist Rhetoric of ; The Press and Populism ; Tea Party
Hertzke, Allen D. Echoes of Discontent: Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson, and the Echoes of Discontent. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1993.
Hightower, Jim. http://www.jimhightower.com . Accessed January 4, 2013.