This program with Bill Moyers talks to Americans in San Antonio, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., about why they don’t vote, and to citizens who are trying to increase voter registration and turnout. Featured in the program are Father Andrew Greeley, author, priest and sociologist; and Michael Franti, a rap artist.
DENIS LEARY: One word – vote, capital V-O-T-E. Rock the vote, rap the vote, pop the vote, eat the vote, mix it up with some mayonnaise and suck it down like a huge tuna sub!
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: I’d like to talk to those of you out there who have never voted in your entire young lives.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: We’re not going to tell you who to vote for, but we’ll do our best to convince you to register and vote.
MADONNA: I’m going to vote.
ROBIN WILLIAMS: Ho! Yo-Yo, go in the booth and do it!
MARTIN SHEEN: Have a voice in your future. Register and vote.
ORVILLE REDENBACHER: Get involved, register, because your one vote can make all the difference in the world.
QUEEN LATIFAH: [rapping] It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and vote.
“SPIDERMAN”: Have a voice in your future. Register and vote.
DENIS LEARY: Vote hard, vote soft, vote up, vote down, vote in, vote out, vote right, vote left, just vote, OK?
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: Because if I don’t vote and you don’t vote, the people who do vote are going to get what they want.
ROBIN WILLIAMS: Vote!
SPIKE LEE: So if you’re young and black, you want to change the future, remember the past.
Senator AL GORE (D-TN) : Vote your gut! Vote your heart! Vote for this country! Let’s take back our future!
BUSH SUPPORTERS: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
BILL MOYERS: Vote or don’t vote, so what? Join us for more of campaign ’92 on Listening to America.
I’m Bill Moyers. Welcome. Listening to America this fall, you hear a lot of new and different voices stirring the political dialogue. Tonight we’ll hear from the rap artist Michael Franti and from Father Andrew Greeley, parish priest, social scientist, professor and novelist. We’ll also have a field report on the hunt for new voters -That’s not a movie.
First, though, Kathleen Hall Jamieson is back. The Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania is here every week to analyze what we know about the campaign and how we know it.
Kathleen, what we now today is that a terrier has Bill Clinton and George Bush by the seat of the pants and won’t let go.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, Dean, Annenberg School for Communication: And what we saw when he gathered the Clinton and Bush forces to present to his volunteers was one of the most artful demonstrations I’ve seen of an ability to control both campaigns and the news agenda. At one point, Teeter, a representative of Bush, is speaking, answering a question, and Perot just marches right into the environment, takes control and then walks right off again.
BILL MOYERS: Let’s look at that.
QUESTIONER: It seems that both you and the Democrats, both the Bush campaign and the Clinton campaign, seem to have lots of nice things to say and very positive things to say about the Perot program. It seems that maybe that’s the one thing the two campaigns agree upon.
ROBERT TEETER: Well…
ROSS PEROT: I’ve been telling you guys for months, to know me is to love me.
ROBERT TEETER: That’s right. That’s right. That’s exactly how we feel!
ROSS PEROT: No, here’s the key.
ROBERT TEETER: It’s…
ROSS PEROT: Excuse me one second. Here’s the key. I just think it’s terrific that we’re off personalities and onto issues and I think it’s a great thing for the American people that we’re onto the issues. And everybody in this room can have an enormous impact on this country’s future if, in the last days and weeks of this campaign, day after day after day, you go into saturation bombing on the issues with great precision so the American people know where each candidate stands. Then they can make a great decision.
BILL MOYERS: The irony is, we actually saw and heard very little of the issues in that performance because the discussions were off the record, behind closed doors.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And what Perot is basically doing is suggesting that he has now moved the campaign to a substantive discussion of the issues when he’s done no such thing. The campaign’s discussion didn’t change because of what was presented, you know, to his followers. Basically, he’s trying to suggest that he is making a difference that he hasn’t at this point made.
BILL MOYERS: Is this a con game?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: When Perot says, “I’m basically following the will of the people and of my volunteers,” and, in fact, what you have are 50 people selected by him, not by his volunteers, a large percent apparently on his own payroll, that looks to me like an elaborate rhetorical charade. When he told people if they put him on 50 states he’d give them a first-class campaign and then, without consulting any of them, pulled out of the race, I think what he established was what we have is the rhetoric of ruse here, a rhetoric of participatory democracy that’s actually the rhetoric of autocracy.
BILL MOYERS: What it says to me is that money and the media dominate in democracy and that we wouldn’t even be paying any attention to Ross Perot if he didn’t have $3 billion and Larry King.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Larry King’s been very important in this year and when Mike Wallace from CBS called into the Larry King show and rather plaintively asked whether Ross Perot wouldn’t like to come onto 60 Minutes on Sunday, what we saw was a clash between what scholars are calling the “old news” – the investigative journalism and “new news” – Larry King – which is a very different format. It’s a softer format. It’s more personality-driven. The questions are different kinds of questions. The end of that Larry King Live 90 minutes on Monday was an extended commercial for Perot and his wonderful family.
BILL MOYERS: I think it could only happen in America, the cult of personality, the absence of any organized set of principles and the decline and impotence of the two major parties.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, the other thing that’s happening is, Perot has managed the most sophisticated book tour that I’ve ever seen because every time he appears on one of these shows, right when you least expect it, out comes the little book and he notes that it’s become a best seller and implies strongly that if you want substance, you should simply read his book. He’s a publisher’s dream.
BILL MOYERS: These other two guys, Clinton and what’s-his-name, Bush, they were also around this week and they came out with some new commercials that you couldn’t see if you were watching national television. Let’s take a look.
President GEORGE BUSH: [Clinton campaign commercial] [On screen: “Read My Lips Alert”] Read my lips!
ANNOUNCER: Another broken promise from George Bush. Bush promised 30 million new jobs in eight years. He’s 29 million short. In Texas we’ve lost over 160,000 jobs in the energy industry alone. Mr. Bush, you said you’d do anything to save your own job, but you’ve done nothing to save ours. Can Texans really afford four more years of this? [on screen: “Paid for by the Clinton-Gore ’92 Committee”] .
ANNOUNCER: [Bush campaign commercial] To pay for his increased spending in Arkansas, Bill Clinton raised state taxes, and not just on the rich. He increased the sales tax by 33 percent, imposed a mobile home tax, increased the beer tax. He assessed a tourism tax, created a cable TV tax, supported a tax on groceries. And now, if elected president, Bill Clinton has promised to increase government spending $220 billion. Guess where he’ll get the money.
BILL MOYERS: The Clinton attack on Bush ran in Texas. The Bush attack on Clinton ran in about 18 states?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: As far as we know. Neither campaign this year is releasing the time-buy strategy because they don’t want the other side to learn from the media where they’re purchasing time. This is a very interesting year because you can live in some states this year and not be getting any advertising from the candidates except that one national Bush ad that we showed last week, which means that the digestion that comes from ads, the abbreviated form of the speech, the message of the campaign – most ads, by the way, simply digest the substance of the campaign, which most people don’t know – that substance isn’t getting through to large parts of the United States that aren’t being contested by either candidate because either Bush has got them locked up or Clinton’s got them locked up. We’re seeing the demise of a national campaign.
BILL MOYERS: What did you think about those two ads? What did you really see there?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON:In the first ad, the Clinton ad, whatís interesting is that you don’t see the face of unemployment. Television had moved us toward highly personal, very symbolically evocative images, particularly in the 1984 and ’88 race. This is, in fact, much more traditional discourse. It’s putting print up on a screen. Print invites us to analyze things dispassionately. That’s an interesting move for Clinton. I’m surprised we’re not seeing some of the suffering and pain of unemployment.
BILL MOYERS: There’s exaggeration in both ads. I mean, Bush accuses Clinton of raising – putting a sales tax on groceries, but in fact, Arkansas’s had a tax on groceries since the 1930s. And in the Clinton attack on Bush in Texas, he implies that the 160,000 lost jobs in energy are Bush’s fault, but those go to economic forces far beyond George Bush’s control.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And the – that’s the norm for advertising. Essentially, what advertising is not going to ever do is give you a complete picture. Although ads do digest the attacks and positive statements made in speeches, what they don’t do is offer a complete and accurate statement. They tell the truth, usually, but not the whole truth. And occasionally they tell anything but the truth.
BILL MOYERS: What is the language of these two ads?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The ads are very different in language, although they have one element in common. What the Democrats are trying to do is make Bush’s lips symbolic. This is going to be a campaign in which we’re going to see George Bush’s lips more often than any other symbol. In 1988 it was the police and flags more often than any other symbol. And Bush’s lips are being taken as a sign of hypocrisy, a sign of betrayal. What the Republicans are trying to say is the Democrat has done things that hurt Democrats. You usually don’t see Republicans saying the Democrat has hurt ordinary working folks.
BILL MOYERS: Last week the media took a hard look for the first time at George Bush’s role in the Iran-contra affair and they pinned Bush to the arms-for-hostage swap of Ronald Reagan. Here’s a report just today in U.S. News & World Report. “Bush played a key role in ensuring that the arms shipments to Iran were continued,” despite what he has denied in the past. And we have a little excerpt from what happened on the networks.
Governor BILL CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Nominee: [“CBS Evening News”] I’ll say this. I’ve answered 100 times as many questions on the draft as he has on Iran-contra.
REPORTER: A new challenge came today to President Bush’s adamant claim that he was “out of the loop” when it came to the last administration’s secret sales of arms to Iran.
Major General RICHARD SECORD (Ret.) : Well, I think it’s fair to say that I believe that he was in the loop and I’m not going to go beyond that right now.
REPORTER: The White House today called any such allegations untrue, but for the President, Iran-contra became stickier recently with the release of notes of a 1987 phone call between then Secretary of State Shultz and then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. The call followed an interview in which Mr. Bush said he hadnít known they opposed the arms sale. ìCap called me,î Shultz wrote, “said, ‘That’s terrible. He was on the other side. It’s on the record. Why did he say that?’ ”
ANTHONY LEWIS, “New York Times” Columnist: [“Nightline”] In November, 1985, Vice President Bush wrote a personal note, a handwritten note, to Oliver North, thanking him, expressing appreciation for all he had done about “the hostage thing” and Central America. He was not unaware of what was going on.
CRAIG FULLER: And it didn’t matter in ’88 and it won’t matter in ’92.
BILL MOYERS: What about that? Craig Fuller, Bush’s man, says the public doesn’t really care about this.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The way the issue is being framed invites the pub-lic to ask, “Is this lying?” about the draft for Clinton, about arms for hostages for Bush. It’s not inviting you to ask – and I don’t mean to suggest that whether candidates lie is an irrelevant question or not. It is a relevant question, but in the process, we’re missing a larger set of questions. Do we see patterns of behavior here that are relevant to governance? For example, Bush, an anti-terrorism expert, now, apparently we have evidence, advocated the arms-for-hostages trade. Bush now claims he was out of the loop in that environment, says he was out of the loop on what’s being called Iraqgate, the skimming of agricultural subsidies in order to provide arms – by Saddam Hussein in order to provide arms that ultimately were used against U.S. soldiers. Is Bush a laissez-faire leader who is, in fact, out of the loop chronically? Does he make decisions only when someone else strongly advocates a position? He didn’t know what Shultz and Weinberger had said. Only if they’d argued it he would have taken another position? “How does he make the decisions that he makes?” is not being asked here. And about Clinton, we’re not asking a comparable question. Is Clinton a chronic compromiser or is he the ultimate insider who will maneuver within the system any way possible in order to get the draft clearance that he needs to stay at Oxford?
BILL MOYERS: Do you think the media did a pretty good job of finally getting this issue on the agenda?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I think it’s interesting that it took so long for the issue to get there. David Broder basically propelled it in by taking a memo that had not gotten much press play and pushing it into his column. But ultimately, the reason it’s gotten into the news agenda was that Clinton stood back and said, “Why do you keep asking me about the draft when you’re not asking George Bush about Iran-contra?”
BILL MOYERS: Many of our colleagues think this whole discussion is irrelevant anyway because they think, for all practical purposes, the race is over and that it’s just become a death watch for George Bush. Here’s an excerpt.
DAVID BRINKLEY, ABC News: [“This Week With David Brinkley”] Well, we have heard from both campaigns here today. Both profess great optimism. The polls, however, and other evidence are that George Bush is having a hard time, is behind and maybe gaining, but it may be too late. Is it possible now to save him? George, what do you think?
GEORGE WILL, ABC News: Barely, I think.
COKIE ROBERTS, ABC News: All the Republicans have started saying that this is over, it can’t be won. You started hearing Republicans on the Hill basically running for their lives, saying, you know, “The President’s lost. We’d better just do what we can to save our own necks.” I don’t think that’s true, but it starts to become a self-fulfilling prophecy at some point.
SAM DONALDSON, ABC News: With all due respect, there’s nothing they can do. This ad, that ad, this town, send this bit of scheduling, play it this way – doesn’t work. People are out of jobs. They think the economy is not only going to “H,” but is in “H.” And George Bush is it. And I just think unless Clinton does something stupendously dumb…
Ms. ROBERTS: But he’s not going to. That’s the thing they’ve already –
Mr. DONALDSON: – that’s right, or new revelations come out that it’s over.
NEWS ANCHOR: [“Today”] But in the polls, it doesn’t seem as though the President is going anywhere. Jim Miklaszewski joins us now from the White House with the tales on this. Good morning, Jim.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC News: Good morning, Ann. You know, despite the train trip over the weekend, the Bush campaign just can’t seem to get up a full head of steam.
ANN COMPTON, ABC News: [“Good Morning America”] President Bush has only five weeks to make up a daunting gap and he does not have a big enough lead in any state to give him any margin for error. Ann Compton, ABC News, Grand Blanc, Michigan.
BILL MOYERS: Is this fair?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It’s not. It’s not fair to President Bush. It’s not fair to the country. What elections do is really two very different things. First, they elect someone and that they do predictably. But secondly, they can provide a basis for governance by giving people a clear set of choices. But predictably, when the polls show a wide gap that holds over time, the press just walks off a cliff and dismisses the candidate who’s behind in the polls. The candidate who’s ahead in the polls begins to ride his lead, ducks the press, minimizes the likelihood that he’ll have to answer tough questions. Clinton’s been doing that. His speeches are more cautious. He’s been avoiding press contact. Meantime, the candidate behind, who tries to get his message through, gets “death watch” coverage. We’re at a very dangerous point in this election which has overall produced a lot of substantive discourse and a lot of good press commentary. We’re in danger of having the press call it over and thereby minimize the likelihood that we actually provide a mandate for either candidate to effect change.
BILL MOYERS: Well, I don’t by any means think this election is over.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I think we’d be well served if reporters would stop paying any attention to the polls and instead ask, ”What are we examining as alternatives that will affect our lives after the election?” and, as a result, to scrutinize the positions of both candidates, the irony is, we’re just now hitting the point at which most people are paying attention to politics. Reporters don’t realize that because they’ve been paying attention for a year and a half and at this moment when the public begins to pay attention, as it anticipates debates, what do we hear? “Bush is so far behind he can’t possibly close the lead.” We basically get vultures circling over what ought not to be treated as a carcass.
BILL MOYERS: If I were George Bush, I would like to be portrayed as the underdog. That gives me permission to run against the press, to say, you know, ”You folks, don’t let the press make up your mind for you.” And it would also make my attacks seem a little more fair.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It’s useful to be the underdog, as long as your message is able to get through, but if the press is engaging in death watch coverage, you don’t even get the advantage of getting your anti-press message out.
BILL MOYERS: You brought some ads with you this week that I find absolutely intriguing. Tell me about them.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The Democrat National Committee wanted to try to involve young people in the campaign this year, and so sponsored a competition the end of this summer. The people who submitted the ads are aspiring film-makers, aspiring Democratic campaign consultants. And they – none of these ads have aired anywhere, but what I think they give you is a different perspective on politics. These ads do not look at all like the ads produced by either candidate.
BILL MOYERS: Let’s take a look at them.
ANNOUNCER: [“30 Seconds Over Washington” Winning Entry, “Easy Street” by Michael Kovnat] They said we were on Easy Street. [on screen: typical American family struggling to push a limousine uphill] For 12 years George Bush and the Republicans have promised us good schools, good jobs and a strong economy just around the corner. For 12 years they’ve told us how they’d get crime off our streets, cut taxes and make life easier for our families. Twelve years of promises and now they want four more. Americans are pretty generous people, but we know when we’re being taken for a ride.
ANNOUNCER: [Honorable Mention, “The Crusher” by David Story] This is your country. [on screen: soft drink can painted with American flag] This is George Bush. [on screen: can crusher with a picture of George Bush] This is your country under George Bush. [on screen: soft drink can is crushed] It’s time to recycle. Vote Democrat in 1992.
BILL MOYERS: This is the new grammar of politics, right? And these kids are learning it.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: These kids are learning it. And in the process, what they’re showing is how powerful the Republican rhetoric of the past decade has been because of what you notice at the end of that. What you notice at the end of that ad is, they say, ”Vote Democrat” not “Vote Democratic.”
BILL MOYERS: And that’s significant because?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Because the Democrats have been fighting off Republican efforts to take the “ic” out of Democratic now for more than a decade.
BILL MOYERS: Why?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: If you can stand for being Democratic, you stand for God, mother and apple pie – democracy, Democratic. The Republicans want to say, ”We’re Republicans. You’re Democrats. We, as Republicans, are democratic, just as you are.”
BILL MOYERS: Have the Republicans solicited ads from young people like this?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: No, they haven’t. We called the Republicans to say we’d like to see what it is young people have produced for you or produced for them. They haven’t yet. When they do, I hope we’ll show them.
BILL MOYERS: If any of you young Republicans out there are producing a video commercial, send it to us. We’ll pick the best and air them on some future edition of Listening to America .
Kathleen and I will be joined soon by Father Andrew Greeley and the rap artist Michael Franti to talk about popular culture and the language of politics.
But we have a report now on some efforts at voter registration. This is the last week in several states for you to register to vote. If you aren’t registered, you can’t vote in November. Voting turnout in the U.S. is among the lowest in the industrial democracies and has been declining continuously since 1960. One reason for that is that we don’t make it as easy to register as other democracies do and that’s just OK with some people. Last week Congress failed to override President Bush’s veto of legislation that would have allowed people to register when they apply for driver’s licenses or government benefits, the so-called “motor voter” bill. Even so, some citizens press on to register voters against this week’s deadline. Here’s our report.
San Antonio, Texas
ANDY HERNANDES: Hola, come estan? Ustedes si? How about you, sir? Are you registered to vote? Well, we can do it right now. Why not?
MAN ON PORCH: Makes no difference if I vote or not.
ANDY HERNANDES: Well, why don’t you – why don’t we register you to vote and then you don’t have to vote, but you may change your mind. [crosstalk]
MAN ON PORCH: I won’t change my mind. If I don’t vote, it will still be the same thing.
ANDY HERNANDES: Hi. We’re registering people to vote. Is there anybody else in the house that we can talk to?
WOMAN ON PORCH: There’s people out there, if you want to go back there.
ANDY HERNANDES: You don’t mind? I don’t want to make – I don’t want to invade on-
WOMAN ON PORCH: No, we’re just having a birthday party. That’s all.
ANDY HERNANDES: OK. All right.
BILL MOYERS: Andy Hernandes is president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project based in San Antonio, Texas.
ANDY HERNANDES: We’re registering people to vote. Are you registered to vote already? OK, good. How about you? Are you registered to vote?
[to interviewer] You need to start building from a grass roots level, literally neighborhood by neighborhood, family by family, individual by individual, the sense that they can make a difference in the political process.
[to people at barbecue] Bueno. Bueno. We’ll let you go back to having your party.
BILL MOYERS: In the last 20 years they have registered more than two million new voters, but it hasn’t been easy. The “motor voter” bill would have registered 60 million new voters, making drives like this one less crucial. In vetoing the bill, President Bush cited high costs, infringement on states’ rights and the potential for voter fraud.
ANDY HERNANDES: They were concerned there would be too many people voting too many times. The problem is not that we have too many people voting too many times in this country. The problem is that we have too many people not voting at all.
1st WOMAN IN STORE: I ain’t never voted. I told you, my family votes. I will not vote for him and I’m 57 years old.
2nd WOMAN IN STORE: We feel, and I’m not just speaking of myself, we feel that it doesn’t count. I mean, they’re going to do what they’re going to do anyway. They’re going to still keep us down.
WOMAN IN STREET: Well, I got a registration card and then we moved. We moved to a different part of town. And then it just – we just had a –
MAN IN STREET: Because you’ve got to redo it.
WOMAN IN STREET: Right.
MAN IN STREET: You’ve got to redo it when you move in a different address and we’ve moved about three times, just finding where we’re going to settle down in town and it’s a lot of trouble.
1st CONCERT-GOER: Most of the people here aren’t going to vote. Most of the people here don’t care, so-
INTERVIEWER: Why do you say that?
1st CONCERT-GOER: Most of the people in America don’t care. I mean, why should these people be any different?
ANDY HERNANDES: If the election’s being talked about issues that have no relevance to their lives, it means nothing them, then why should anyone vote, not just minorities, but anyone? So if -We ain’t going to bring new people into the process unless we talk about the issues that concern those folks that don’t participate.
REGISTRATION WORKER: Are you registered to vote?
MAN AT STREET FAIR: Yes, I am.
REGISTRATION WORKER: Good! Don’t forget to vote.
Do you want to register? You do? Right here!
ANDY HERNANDES: Because the campaigns are so focused and so obsessed with just winning, they’re only going to those people that vote. And naturally, only those issues and those concerns are being reflected in the debate because that’s the only folks they want to talk to. Sometimes we get resistance. People will tell us things like-
1st YOUNG MAN: When the outcome come, it’s going to be the same thing. We’re still without jobs. We’re still without – you know, it’s like we’re without hope. So why vote?
1st YOUNG WOMAN: It doesn’t matter what the people say anyway. The people in office are going to do what they want to do anyway.
ANDY HERNANDES: Or people say, “Look, I don’t have time. I’m just too busy.”
2nd YOUNG WOMAN: I never have time.
2nd YOUNG WOMAN: Because of my baby and then the other kids and-
3rd YOUNG MAN: I didn’t really have the time, I guess. I’ve worked a lot and-
4th YOUNG MAN: I just got out of high school and, boom, right into the Marine Corps. I was worried about my career, what I was doing. So, you know, I really didn’t think about voting.
ANDY HERNANDES: But if you go to someone’s home and you’re able to talk to them about the importance of voting, you have a foot in the door to be able to really get them thinking about how their vote can make a difference.
REGISTRATION WORKER: We’re trying to find out if you’re registered. We’re trying to register people in the neighborhood.
WOMAN AT DOOR: Oh, fine.
REGISTRATION WORKER: Can I register you to vote?
WOMAN AT DOOR: Sure.
REGISTRATION WORKER: Great. And were you born in San Antonio?
WOMAN AT DOOR: Yes, ma’am.
[to interviewer] It was just like, “Oh, you know, it’s not important anyway. Everybody else votes.” But, I mean, people coming to your doorstep – that means a lot.
ANDY HERNANDES: We’ve gone from communities where only 20 percent of the registered voters participated to – in those same communities where 70, 80 percent now vote.
Senator PAUL WELLSTONE (D-MN) : There’s an enormous economic bias to voting turnout and the people who are hurting are the ones who don’t turn out and therefore they’re not represented well in the politics of our country.
BILL MOYERS: Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, a former professor of political science, won the 1990 Senate race in Minnesota by registering over 15,000 new voters.
PAUL WELLSTONE: If you’re comfortable and you’re in office and you have your sort of coalition that you can count on, why would you want to see a new constituency emerge in your district? Why would you want to see new people making new demands, visible, active, speaking out, putting pressure on you? That’s right. All too often when the people in office have a real vested interest in nonparticipation in American politics. And the sad thing is, we don’t have a real democracy right now, It’s a mini-democracy, at best.
Senator MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY) : In this country, you have a right not to participate if you don’t want to and I think we’ve sort of overstated the depth of the problem, I’m not happy with the low voter turnout.
BILL MOYERS: Republican Senator Mitch McConnell led the fight against the “motor voter” bill, which would have reduced the role of political parties in voter registration.
MITCH McCONNELL: [on Senate floor] Our problems with low voter turnout are caused by lack of voter interest.
BILL MOYERS: The Senate vote was split virtually along party lines.
MITCH McCONNELL: Well, the parties will be interested in registering people that vote the way they want them to vote. That’s the way the competition works. That’s the way the two-party system works. And so the Democrats will be intensely interested in registering people they believe will vote Democrat. The Republicans will be intensely interested in registering people they believe will vote Republican. That’s the way the two-party system works.
ANDY HERNANDES: I think there’s a political calculus at work. I think the Republican Party believes that if you bring more people into the system, more poor, more minorities, more working class, that these folks won’t vote for them. And I think they decided to sacrifice democracy on the high altar of self-interest and partisan politics. I think that’s the bottom line.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Metrodome for the Guns ‘n Roses, Metallica, Faith No More concert.
DEEJAY: Hey, here we are, on the island with the Rock Rover at the corner of Chicago and Sixth Avenue. All these people getting ready to rock and roll!
2nd CONCERT-GOER: I don’t like either candidate. I don’t know if I’m going to vote for either, or.
3rd CONCERT-GOER: You can’t really trust the government, you know. I don’t want to vote for something that I don’t trust, you know?
BILL MOYERS: The largest group of non-voters are between the ages of 18 and 24. Just half of those 27 million Americans are registered to vote. Only 36 percent of them cast ballots in the last presidential election.
Since 1971, when Congress passed the 26th Amendment giving 18-year-olds the right to vote, there’s been a steady decline in youth participation.
MIKE DOLAN: Wherever there is a lot of unregistered, uninvolved, potentially apathetic young people, that’s where we’ll go. You go to a Guns ‘n Roses stadium concert, you’re going to have a lot of young people there. They may have, you know, tattoos. They may have long hair. They may have high school diplomas, maybe they don’t. But one thing they – most of them don’t have is voter cards.
BILL MOYERS: Mike Dolan is field director of Rock the Vote, a non-partisan effort to get voters under 30 involved in the election.
DEEJAY: Make sure you stop by here and rock the vote. Get registered to vote for this fall’s election.
REGISTRATION WORKER: Have you ever done it before?
4th CONCERT-GOER: No.
BILL MOYERS: Founded two years ago by the record industry, Rock the Vote attempts to make younger people feel included in a political system that has often left them out.
REGISTRATION WORKER: Can’t complain unless you vote. I mean-
5th CONCERT-GOER: No, I agree. I agree. If you didn’t vote to change it, you can’t bitch because you accepted it as it was, man.
BILL MOYERS: Through radio promotions, TV specials, print ads and a bombardment of MTV spots, the message goes forth. Sometimes it takes on a “We against them” tone.
1st RAMONES MEMBER: A lot of you aren’t even registered. If you think that keeps the politicians up at night, forget it.
2nd RAMONES MEMBER: A lot of them don’t want you to vote.
MIKE DOLAN: You make it exciting. You can almost describe it as a form of rebellion.
1st L7 MEMBER: The powers that be don’t want things to change.
2nd L7 MEMBER: If we don’t start making choices for ourselves, someone else is going to make them for us.
MIKE DOLAN: Take back the system! Our message to young people – get involved and don’t be ignored anymore as a demographic.
1st CORROSION OF CONFORMITY MEMBER: You are being conditioned to condemn politics as petty and boring.
2nd CORROSION OF CONFORMITY MEMBER: Thus granting all the more control to the powers that be.
MIKE DOLAN: I mean, if the idea is to make it cool to vote, if that works, great. We’ve done our job.
6th CONCERT-GOER: I was registering to vote.
INTERVIEWER: How come?
6th CONCERT-GOER: Because I don’t want a bunch of boneheads running my country.
REGISTRATION WORKER: Register to vote here! Are you registered to vote?
7th CONCERT-GOER: When you got to vote, you don’t got to register no more?
REGISTRATION WORKER: No, you can register here and they’ll send you a card.
Baldwin Park, California
BILL MOYERS: In Baldwin Park, California, Fidel Vargas proved that young people can be brought into the process. By reaching out to a group usually excluded, he was elected mayor of the city of 70,000.
Mayor FIDEL VARGAS: The young people in my campaign did everything – I mean, from blowing up balloons and putting up the streamers and cooking the pancakes for our opening kick-off breakfast to walking precincts, knocking on doors.
1st CAMPAIGN WORKER: He invited me into his house and he was asking me questions, getting me involved, and that really made me feel – that really put my whole heart into it.
2nd CAMPAIGN WORKER: Fidel, you know, he really reached out to us and, you know, he wanted us to be involved in his campaign and that really appealed to me that he wanted our help.
FIDEL VARGAS: And hopefully that’ll have a – you know, a domino effect on down the line with their families, with their friends, so that they get involved in the process. I remember election night the only thing that I was worried about – it wasn’t winning or losing, OK? It was if I lost, how that would affect all those young people that have helped me. But knowing that I won, you should have seen the faces of those young people, those high school students.
2nd CAMPAIGN WORKER: It was our victory, you know, with his – it was, like, “All right! We won!” [crosstalk]
3rd CAMPAIGN WORKER: We actually did something and contributed in a positive way to the community and helped put this man here – you know, helped – he’s in that seat.
FIDEL VARGAS: Those kids believed, those young people believed that we could get it done and not – that’s really important. I mean, just before you can do anything, you really have to believe, I mean, honestly believe that you can do it, that it’s possible, that it’s something tangible. And the young people really, really did that for me and – I mean, what – I’m talking about young people. I’m 23 years old.
ANDY HERNANDES: Why should young people get involved when we have the lowest participation rates? How could a young man of 23 years old actually win the mayorship? So if you put that on paper, you would have to come up with nothing, a big zero. But what they can’t put on paper is commitment, is grass roots organizing, is a community effort that builds in its movement this connection between what people care about and their vote on Election Day.
BILL MOYERS: With us now is Father Andrew Greeley. As the Chicago Tribune noted recently, depending upon which of his more than 100 books was under review, critics have identified him variously as “priest-novelist,” “priest-sociologist,” “priest-philosopher” or “priest-journalist.” Father Greeley answers, “I’m just a priest, pure and simple.” Not quite. His novels and detective stories have sold 14 to 16 million copies, giving him a vast parish of readers the world over. His latest is called The Wages of Sin.
Michael Franti is a rapper, a political activist and co-founder of the group The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Here’s a sample of some of their work.
MICHAEL FRANTI, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy: [rapping] TV – There’s a reason why less than 10 percent of our nation reads books daily / why most people think Central America means Kansas / socialism means un-American and apartheid is a new headache remedy. / Absorbed in this world, it’s so hard to find us. / It shapes our minds the most. / Maybe the mother of our nation should remind us / that we’re sitting too close / to the television, the drug of the nation / breeding ignorance and feeding radiation on television / the drug of the nation / breeding ignorance and feeding radiation on television / the drug of the nation / breeding ignorance and feeding radiation –
BILL MOYERS: Michael Franti, are these people you’re singing for really politically awake?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, that’s the point, that people out there aren’t politically awake and what we need really is inspiration and not education.
BILL MOYERS: What do you say to them about voting?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, I say to them that, you know, basically what the guy said in the video, that some bonehead is still going to get elected and that if we choose to sit back, there’s two things that politicians look at, and that’s people who vote and people who give them money. And for people who really are listening to what I’m doing, we don’t have the money to be giving out, so we have the other choice, which is to seize the power of the vote.
BILL MOYERS: Father Greeley, a lot of people say, just as Michael suggested in that video, that part of the trouble is television. You’re a man of words and yet the popular culture, we’re told, actually drowns out the language of politics, turns it into a language of entertainment so that people, including young people, who hear and watch this popular culture don’t feel compelled to go and vote because they’ve already been entertained.
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY, University of Chicago: Well, I think that may be true up to a point. I think in this election that the state of the economy is so important that – that the campaigns may be about something more than just entertainment. It’s about jobs. There’s an awful lot of jobs being lost. A lot of people are worried about their jobs. That seems to me to be – to transcend entertainment. You can’t fool all the people all the time. You can fool them with Willie Horton ads when the economy is good, but you can’t fool them with that sort of ad when people are hurting, as they’re hurting today probably more than since the great Depression.
BILL MOYERS: Popular culture’s all around us, from cartoons about politicians to Bill Clinton on the cover of Spy to a campaign disc, a CD about Ross Perot speaking out, to your CDs. Is this political language taking the place of the old political rhetoric about citizenship and civic duty? What do you all think about that?
MICHAEL FRANTI: I think, you know, especially in terms of rap music – rap music is about communication and rap music speaks to a particular audience by way of its form and a lot of people don’t understand it. And one of the things that the politicians have done is have stayed with their particular form, which has kept their own constituency of voters very small and has not reached out. And I feel that one of the reasons that they haven’t reached out and expressed their ideas through other forms is because that would – if you include other people, that means that you’re going to have to share the power with other people.
BILL MOYERS: I hear it said often, I’ve said it myself, that the kind of videos we see on MTV and other places are actually corrupting political discourse. The young people who work with me say, “Shame on you. It’s not. It’s really just a form of artistic commentary on politics.” What do you think?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: I think rap is a powerful means of participation. One of the things that interests me in our focus groups is the extent to which people who are not necessarily identifying as part of that culture can actually recite back lyrics to you. This is a form that invites you to participate in it and the movement and the energy, I think, are powerfully energizing. I also think that what you see in MTV is a whole range of issues that do not get into the campaign dialogue, the formal dialogue. If you want to ask, “Where are we still talking about hunger and homelessness and about racial tolerance?” you’re seeing those kinds of messages on MTV with pretty direct political appeals attached to them.
BILL MOYERS: It engages you in the music and the lyrics and the emotions of the experience, but does it actually motivate you to go out and do something about homelessness and about joblessness?
MICHAEL FRANTI: A lot of people feel, you know, really left out. And one thing that rap music does is it inspires people, like, for instance, at a concert. People often ask me, “Do you feel like you’re preaching to the converted?” and I say, first of all, not everybody who comes to our shows believes in what I’m saying. Secondly, you bring people together in a room and you talk about ideas and you discuss ideas and you see other people who are around you, you don’t feel like you’re so isolated. You don’t feel like you’re the only person in the world who feels the way that you do. And whether you take that out into your life and vote is something that we still have to see what’s going to happen in this election, but I know that rap music has inspired a lot of young political groups. We work with a lot of groups when we tour that come out to our shows and homeless – groups on homelessness, groups that are working with AIDS and needle exchange projects. And we try to use what we do through the music both as a vehicle to raise funds for those groups, but also as a way of popularizing the issues.
BILL MOYERS: But even though we live in an ocean of images, voter participation among young people, as we heard a moment ago, is actually dropping. You’re not only a man of words, but of statistics.
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Well, I kind of agree with the Republican Senator, which I think I’ve only done once before in my life. It’s a privilege. It’s not an obligation. I mean, I would like to see more people vote, but if they don’t want to vote, that’s their – that’s their privilege, too.
BILL MOYERS: You’re saying this music is not reaching them, then, not engaging them in the process?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, look, I – you Know, 1 think music and popular culture are terribly important because of the impact they have on people’s lives. That’s one of the reasons I write novels. But candidates are important, too. I mean, there’s been a tremendous increase in voter registration in Chicago, mostly in the black neighborhoods, in the last several months. Why? Because the state of Illinois is about to elect a black woman from Chicago to the Senate of the United States. And that – that is also a powerful motivation to get people to vote one of your own, a candidate with whom you identify is running for office and-
MICHAEL FRANTI: People aren’t voting because rap music is not reaching them. People aren’t voting because they’re pissed off. Frankly, they’re – they’re-
BILL MOYERS: At?
MICHAEL FRANTI: They’re upset. They don’t feel like there’s any options, you know? Like, word on the street is that George Bush or Clinton is slightly to the left of George Bush, who is slightly to the left of Adolf Hitler, you know? And people feel like – people feel very frustrated that if Clinton gets into office, what good is it going to be, because he’s just representing the needs of the rich people in this country.
BILL MOYERS: Does Perot, then, appeal to you, one of the richest men in the country?
MICHAEL FRANTI: No, and that’s the thing that I – that’s the – you know, for me, Mr. Perot, you know, is, like – I don’t – I don’t really get how he has been able to appeal to so many people as somebody who is so rich. He’s very demagogic, you know, and he’s – he speaks like this sort of – like you were saying earlier, that he’s bringing – making the focus on the issues, but the thing about him is that he’s a very clever candidate and he’s very fun to watch and he is like a talk show – he’s perfect for talk shows, you know? He’s ready-made.
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: In 1968 people were saying, young people espe-cially, there was no difference between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. They could not have been more wrong. I think there’s lots of difference between George Bush and Bill Clinton and it is simply a lack of perception, a lack of intelligence to think that there is no difference.
BILL MOYERS: Convince him that there’s a difference.
MICHAEL FRANTI: I don’t think it’s a lack of intelligence. I think that there may be a difference between – between Clinton and Bush, but the difference to get to a point that it’s going to help us, help the needs of the people who are young, help the needs of especially people who have been left out is – we have a long way to go from Clinton to get to somebody who is really going to be representing our needs. I’m not going to, you know, say that there’s no difference between the two.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Aren’t you arguing for not voting?
MICHAEL FRANTI: No. I think that everybody needs to vote because, like I said, there’s two things that politicians look at and that’s people who vote and people who spend money on their campaigns-
BILL MOYERS: But if there’s no difference between-
MICHAEL FRANTI: – and in order to seize the power, we have to be able to go on as a demographic that votes.
BILL MOYERS: But if the choice is between, as you said earlier, two boneheads, are you not deceiving the people you’re urging to vote? Now, he says that that’s not the case.
MICHAEL FRANTI: Because I’m not advocating that anybody vote for anybody. I’m saying – I’m not endorsing any candidate. What I’m saying is that it is important that we go on record as being a group that votes and that that’s part of our seizing of political power. You know, if we have to do other things, if we have to go into the street and protest, if we have to do – demonstrate and if we have to organize and get into the city halls, if we have to get into the state legislature and make our voice heard, that’s something that we do the rest of the four years in between.
BILL MOYERS: Can you-
MICHAEL FRANTI: But on that day in November, we’ve got to get to the polls.
BILL MOYERS: Can you convince him that there is a difference that matters substantially?
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Well, there’s a difference in health care. There’s a difference in education. There’s a difference in more jobs. There’s a difference in reconstructing infrastructure of the United States, which means all kinds of jobs, entry level jobs. I mean, these strike me as being very important things that are going to have an effect on everybody in society and probably a substantial effect on the people at the lowest levels of society.
BILL MOYERS: It seems to me that all of this popular culture – the music, the cartoons, everything else – diminishes the distinctions by making every candidate an appropriate target of ridicule and sarcasm. Here’s a piece we want to show you.
JAY LENO: [“Tonight Show] Ross Perot says he’s in, then he quits. Then he says he’s coming back, then he says he may not. Then he says he might. You know, the way things are going, the only presidential debates we’re going to have are going to be between Perot and Perot. You know. What did he say today? Oh, today – today Perot said the country would be better off if more politicians were like him. You know something? He’s right. They’d be too short to see, too rich to bribe and they’d quit before they did any real damage. You know?
KEVIN NEALON: [“Saturday Night Live,” as news anchor] Under pressure from the Democratic Party, Kentucky Fried Chicken has discontinued its “Family Value Pak.” It will be replaced by the “Single Parent Meal” and the “Alternative Lifestyles Bucket.”
DANA CARVEY: [as Ross Perot] You know, Roy, about 7:45, over my grapefruit and eggs, I was back in the race, 100 percent. About 10:15, I was out again. I’m sure glad I didn’t hold that 10:00 o’clock press conference.
KEVIN. NEALON: [as Perot supporter] Good thing.
[as “subliminal man”] Well, the Gallup poll shows that 78 percent of American voters feel that the media manipulates too many people into believing what they want them to believe. I would have to disagree with that. I mean, you can’t tell someone who to vote for – Clinton -[on screen:Subliminal Editorial”] The media simply covers the day’s events – Iran-contra – whether it’s Bush’s proposed economic plan – big joke – or whether it’s Perot deciding whether or not to enter the race – don’t bother – or the feud between Hollywood and Dan Quayle – Idiot – I do think, however, that the media should back off of Mr. Quayle – Big wedgie – No, I would definitely say that voters make up their own minds – Clinton – I really do.
DANA CARVEY [as Ted Koppel] : The lady behind has a question for Governor Clinton.
JULIA SWEENEY [as 1st woman] : Yes. I’m Beverly Timco and actually my question is more for Hillary Clinton.
JAN HOOKS [as Hillary Clinton] : Oh, no. No, no. Really. I’m not here for questions. I’m here to support Bill and to do this. [gazes at him adoringly]
BILL MOYERS: Kathleen, what does humor do to the political culture? I
mean, more people watch Saturday Night Live than watch the Saturday night newscasts on all three networks.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yeah. The – What humor basically does is digest the punditry of the week and also provides a relatively accurate sense of what’s in the news agenda. You know, we tend to assume that this form of communication is demeaning, but that these strange programs in which four experts sit around and make predictions about what’s going to happen, present company included, that’s somehow serious political discourse. There’s not a great deal of difference between the two forms. Here we’re invited to step back to gain some distance on some of the silliness of this process. I think it’s positive. It helps us take perspective.
BILL MOYERS: Father Greeley?
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Well, there’s a great American tradition of it, isn’t there? I mean-
BILL MOYERS: Mark Twain-
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Abraham Lincoln raised it to its height. I do think, though, there is a danger in the destructiveness of the media, when it begins to work on a person early on in the campaign. I don’t think most Americans had any idea about Bill Clinton until they saw him at the Democratic convention, except that he may have been unfaithful to his wife, he may have dodged the draft and -What was the third thing? And he might be a womanizer. Now, then we saw him at the convention and we also realized he seemed to be an intelligent and compassionate man. That image of Clinton never, never was permitted to get through the endless assault on him through the primaries. And the danger of that is, it reinforces what a lot of young people think, that – or a lot of alienated voters, that all politicians are alike and they’re all crooks and that they all have character defects. We all have character defects, but that doesn’t disqualify us from seeking public office or even from doing a good job in public office. The programs last week about the Kennedy family – well, they both were men with terrible flaws, but they were good leaders and we would have had a much better country, I think, if they had lived to fill offices.
MICHAEL FRANTI: My first political memory is of hearing Richard Nixon resign on radio. That’s my first political memory. And so everything for me in terms of politics has been based upon “Politicians are greedy crooks,” period, the end, and that they’re not there to represent the needs of the people. They’re there to get votes and they’re there to get back in office and they’re there for their own interests.
BILL MOYERS: Where are you getting that message from? Is that – isn’t that from popular culture?
MICHAEL FRANTI: It’s – well, I don’t think it’s from popular culture. I think popular culture points that out. I think that, you know, especially growing up during the Reagan era, you know – you know, when I was – I was – like, in high school, all I heard was there was going to be no more money for education, there was going to be no more everything was being cut back at – for the Pell grant. And meanwhile, we’re building more and more prisons.
BILL MOYERS: But there were more and more jobs, 18 million new jobs, according to the Reagan administration.
MICHAEL FRANTI: Not where – not for the people that I hang out with, you know, and that’s why you see – you know, it’s, like, what are you going to do, work at McDonald’s or are you going to do something that you can make some real serious money at quick. And, you know, people today, young people today – one thing I think that popular culture does is it makes everything immediate. And young people today do not have the patience to wait for, like you say, Bill Clinton is going to bring in entry-level jobs. Well, I know people who are getting out of college who were told when they were growing up that if you have a college degree, you’re guaranteed a job in a middle class lifestyle. I know people today who are graduating from college who can’t find jobs at all, who are bright, you know, gifted people.
BILL MOYERS: You really want a – you really think society can guarantee a job?
MICHAEL FRANTI: I don’t know if society – I don’t know if this society can guarantee a job, but I know that there should be the opportunity for everybody to have a job and there isn’t today.
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Well, our society can certainly do better than an 8.5 percent unemployment rate. It can certainly do better than the firing of hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers, as our giant corporations have done in the last couple of years. I mean, we may not be able to provide a job for absolutely everybody, but we can provide jobs for a lot more people than we are.
BILL MOYERS: And do you find your young people wanting but not getting inspiration today?
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Well, you certainly didn’t get much inspiration from your top political leaders during the Reagan and Bush era. I don’t-
BILL MOYERS: Many young people felt they did. There were a lot of conservatives brought into that movement by Ronald Reagan’s eloquence.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: In fact, the young people who registered during that time were registering overwhelmingly Republican.
It was not a time when there was any appeal to generosity. The secret of John Kennedy these many years ago was the he challenged – one of his secrets – he challenged the country and the young people to generosity. Clinton is trying to do that. Again, it doesn’t get through the media. His Notre Dame speech, for example, which was a marvelously moving piece of campaign rhetoric – the country doesn’t know about it. But perhaps when he becomes president and he has the bully pulpit, then perhaps the appeal to generosity and enthusiasm will be heard again in the land.
BILL MOYERS: Who’s inspiring you?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Who’s inspiring me? I get a lot of inspiration through people that I meet. You know, frankly, as opposed to-
BILL MOYERS: For example?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Oh, just people on the street, you know?
BILL MOYERS: Ordinary people?
MICHAEL FRANTI: A taxi driver. Ordinary people is where I get my inspiration from, you know. I don’t get my inspiration so much from any leaders. I’ve always read about leaders when I was young. Biographies are my favorite thing and I love to read about the lives of people – Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, you know, and a lot of the heroic leaders for young people today, especially for young black people today, have been wiped out. And so by the time the 1980s came about, it was very easy for the Reagan administration to enact out its sweep of social spending that was aimed at our communities. And we started to see, you know, like, 60 percent unemployment for black men under 25. And at the same time, you have TV bombarding you with images of how life can be and how your happiness can be created by buying a car, by getting this, by getting that. We have a lot of young people today who are desperate and who want those things and who don’t see these leaders who have been wiped out.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Part of the difficulty with transmission of information through the popular cultural channels and through advertising is that it’s telegraphic. And if you’re going to inspire, it’s going to take some time. It takes a speech. It takes an extended biography. It takes an essay. It’s very difficult in telegraphic forms to either lay in place a philosophical – philosophically-based alternative or to uplift an audience because you don’t have time to involve the audience in some higher sense of self, some sense of community. It’s much easier in these forms to ridicule and appeal to fear.
BILL MOYERS: Well, that’s what I was going to ask, Michael, because even some of your own work, in a sense, debunks political leaders. And how can you get inspiration and leadership from people whom you make the object of ridicule?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Well, a couple things happen in my work. One is that I do try and dispel a lot of the myths and it’s a thing that most young people know about when they hear about it in the song. They go, “Yeah, I’m down with that,” you know? But the other thing that I try and do is, I try and write songs that are just about my life, you know, things that happen to me, things that other people who are young can identify with. And so my work is not just about trying to put down or trying to discredit other people or trying to make observations and I find that in many ways lately, I’ve come to appreciate just the naivete of people who are going in and just being passionate about things, as opposed to being cynical about everything. And that’s what I think-
BILL MOYERS: You’re not a cynic?
MICHAEL FRANTI: No.
BILL MOYERS: When you were reading those biographies, which one inspired you?
MICHAEL FRANTI: I think the autobiography of Malcolm X.
BILL MOYERS: Because?
MICHAEL FRANTI: Because it showed the transformation of his life from somebody who was a very gifted young person who is told, ”You can’t become a lawyer. You have to do some kind of manual labor” to getting involved with this underbelly of life, to going into prison, to studying in prison, coming out speaking on behalf of the Nation of Islam and then having – going and – going to Mecca, returning to Mecca and speaking out on behalf of – understanding that a revolu-tion has to be inclusive of more than just one particular group of people and at the same time, all this had a higher vision. He was always looking for a higher morality and that’s one of the things that I don’t see today from the leaders, that they have a higher vision that includes all people. I hear this talk about “family values,” you know, and I hear all these things and at the same time, I see people discriminating against the gay community, discriminating against people who have different lifestyles other than their own. And if it’s really about compassion, if it’s really about caring for people, shouldn’t we be inclusive of all people, regardless of what they choose to do in their own lives, in their own home?
BILL MOYERS: Father Greeley, last word to you. I’ve often wondered who inspired you.
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Who inspired me to –
BILL MOYERS: When you were a young man.
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Politically it was certainly Franklin Roosevelt and then the two Richard Daleys more recently. And we are going to have a black woman Senator, who is Catholic, from Chicago in the Senate of the United States.
BILL MOYERS: You’re saying that as if the race is over.
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Oh, yes. That race – take it from me, Bill Moyers. That race is over. She’s even going to carry everything south of I-80.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And I-80 is what?
FATHER ANDREW GREELEY: Well, I-80 is where downstate begins. It’s about 10 miles south of Chicago.
BILL MOYERS: Thank you very much. We’ll see later if you’re a prophet as well as a priest. And thank you, Michael Franti. And Kathleen Hall Jamieson, as usual, thank you.
And we’re glad you could be with us for Listening to America. Next week we take a look again at the money trail. I’m Bill Moyers. Good night.
View more about the Listening To America series here.
This transcript was entered on April 7, 2015.