Bill Moyers: Grassroots Pro-Democracy Movement Must Rise to Challenge Corporate Control

In late September, veteran journalist and public television host Bill Moyers, now eighty-years old, announced he was finally retiring (and yes, this time he means it) after more than forty years as one of the nation’s most trusted voices in news, politics, and culture.

Though he briefly left television in 2010 after his show Bill Moyers’ Journal came to end, he and his team returned to public television with a new show, Moyers & Company, in 2012. Alongside a new web platform, BillMoyers.com, the show became a weekly assessment of current events with Moyers interviewing some of the leading voices and experts on economic, political, environmental, and social issues.

“Either we reverse Citizens United and insist democracy is about equal representation, or we might as well close up shop.” 

However, in his note to viewers on September 29, Moyers wrote that as the end of the third year of Moyers & Company approaches “it’s time finally to sign off.”

He will do so, he said, “as the luckiest fellow in broadcast journalism for having been a part of public television for over half of my 80 years. I never expected such a full and satisfying run at work I could love so much, and I am deeply indebted to everyone with whom I have been associated on this long and rewarding journey.”

Though the final show is scheduled to air on January 2, Moyers took time on Thursday of this week to participate in an online Q&A with his viewers to discuss the nature of his work, plans for the future, and his current take on the key political issues that have been at the core of so much of his journalistic work.

The Q&A’s lead-off question got straight to the point, with a participant asking Moyers to identify the three most important issues now facing the nation and to explain their significance.

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Moyers responded: “(1) We have to figure out how to have a morally-based conversation about politics and economics.  If it’s all about money and return on investment and stock shares and all that, instead of what kind of society works best for those who don’t have such “goods”, we’re finished as a democracy,  because some people will be able to buy anything they want and vast numbers of others will be unable to afford what they need.  (2) The corruption of power and money is so pervasive and systemic that we have to take it on at every level, which requires that (3) There has to be a broad-based movement for democracy that mirrors and exceeds what Bill McKibben, 350.org and kindred spirits like Naomi Klein have built to reverse global warming.”

A follow-up question targeted the familiar question among many progressives, asked if it was time to do away with the two-party system that dominates U.S. domestic politics.

“Even if it were time, it’s not going to happen,” Moyers wrote. “The two parties are too entrenched in the rule-making process that enables them to make their own elimination impossible.  Both parties have lost their footing, however, in the everyday experience of real people and they have to be challenged without remorse or retreat.  Someone has said Left and Right have lost their footing, but the Right is more certain about what it wants. It wants control of the Republican Party. The Left is too content just to rent space in the attic from the Democrats.  Until that changes, the Republican Party is going to be too extreme and the Democrats too enfeebled.  Neither will change voluntarily because the people in charge have too great a stake in the status quo.”

“The Left is too content just to rent space in the attic from the Democrats.  Until that changes, the Republican Party is going to be too extreme and the Democrats too enfeebled.  Neither will change voluntarily because the people in charge have too great a stake in the status quo.”

Moyers acknowledged the reality that a majority of people simply are not paying attention to these key political issues, but that this fact should not dissuade those who are paying attention from continuing to push for the necessary changes.  “The fate of society—especially democracy,” he said, “depends upon the minority of people who care enough to engage and stay engaged.” He urged those viewing the conversation to engage with their neighbors and create what he called a “Committee of Correspondence” in order to foment local discussion and action. Moyers invoked the 20th century Wisconsin progressive Robert “Fighting Bob” LaFollette  who said that “democracy is a life” and one that “requires constant struggle.”

And in a final word, Moyers offered this message:

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What follows is a sampling of some of the other questions submitted and the responses offered by Moyers:

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