Hightower: Grassroots democracy-building in Iowa

“As Henrik Ibsen said: “You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.”

Democracy is never given to us, but has to be won through constant struggle against the elites who keep scheming to siphon ever more of society’s money and power into their own hands. A Woody Guthrie song about outlaws tells this story in one stanza: “As through this world I’ve wandered / I’ve seen lots of funny men / Some will rob you with a six-gun / And some with a fountain pen.”

American democracy is the gritty story of workaday folks who get fed up with the fountain pens, get organized and get moving to stop the thievery. Indeed, not only does such gutsy grassroots confrontation work; it is the only thing that really succeeds in reclaiming, maintaining and advancing our democratic values.

To see an uplifting example of organized people-power in action, look to the heartland, where a coalition called Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has had its democracy-building work clothes on since 1975, uniting and empowering people of all ethnic backgrounds to push back against the avarice and arrogance of big-money corporations.”

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