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The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washingtonby David Sirota
Synopses & Reviews
An All-Access Pass to the Populist.
Insurrection Brewing Across the Country. Job outsourcing. Perpetual busy signals at government agencies. Slashed paychecks. Stolen elections. A war without end, fatally mismanaged. Ordinary Americans on both the Right and Left are tired of being disenfranchised by corrupt politicians of both parties and are organizing to change the status quo. In his invigorating new book, David Sirota investigates whether this uprising can be transformed into a unified, lasting political movement.
Throughout the course of American history, uprisings like the one we are seeing now have given birth to powerful movements to end wars, protect workers, and expand civil rights, so the prospect of today's uprising turning into a full-fledged populist movement terrifies Wall Street and Washington. In The Uprising, Sirota takes us far from the national media spotlight into the trenches where real change is happening — from the headquarters of the most powerful third party in America to the bowels of the U.S. Senate; from the auditorium of an ExxonMobil shareholder meeting to the quasi-military staging area of a vigilante force on the Mexican border. This is vital, on-the-ground reporting that immerses us in the tumultuous give-and-take of politics at its most personal.
Sirota also offers a biting critique of our politics. He shows how the uprising is, at its core, a reaction to faux "bipartisanship" in the nation's capital — the "bipartisanship" whereby Republican and Democratic lawmakers join together in putting the agenda of corporate interests above all those of ordinary citizens.
Ultimately, Sirota reminds us that the Declaration of Independence, "America's original uprising manifesto," says that governments "derive their powers from the consent of the governed." Irreverent and insightful, The Uprising shows how the governed have stopped consenting and have started taking action.
"Sirota (Hostile Takeover) chronicles how ordinary citizens on the right and the left are marshaling their frustrations with the government into uprisings across the country and analyzes the effectiveness and longevity of their efforts. Citing developments as disparate as progressive political victories in the Montana state senate and the rise of the California Minutemen militia, the author weaves entertaining case studies, keeping his tone conversational, the narrative fast-paced and the content accessible. Sirota hits numerous high notes, including a fine elucidation of continuing Democratic support for the Iraq War, a breakdown of the 'echo chamber' qualities of beltway television shows like Hardball and salient observations of how and why the Democratic Party severed ties with the liberal uprising of the '60s era. According to Sirota, 'The activism and energy frothing today is disconnected and atomized. The only commonality between it all is rage.' It remains to be seen whether this rage will snowball into something large enough to upset entrenched political systems, but for the time being, this book presents a rousing account of the local uprisings already in effect. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This is a book in search of a movement. David Sirota, a 32-year-old progressive activist and journalist, spent a year on the road chronicling what he thinks are the stirrings of a mass revolt against the wealthy and the powerful. He may not have the Establishment quaking in its Guccis, but his always energetic, often ironic reporting certainly made the quest worthwhile. Sirota spent... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) most of his time getting to know grass-roots organizers and a few celebrities who think like organizers, all of them strong-willed Americans who like to rattle icons and challenge the comfortable. Near Puget Sound, he discovered a band of left-wing tech workers struggling to organize a union of part-timers at Microsoft's headquarters. In Dallas, he marveled as a group of shareholder activists, led by an eloquent nun named Pat Daly, faced down the CEO of ExxonMobil. In Manhattan, he met with true-believing staffers for "Lou Dobbs Tonight" as well as with the TV cynosure of anti-corporate, anti-alien fury himself. On the border between California and Mexico, he rode, cringing, with patrols of Minutemen who scoured the desert for illegal immigrants. Finally, Sirota ended up at a convention of left-leaning bloggers, whom he sees as "the connective tissue that ties all of the outposts to each other — the electronic version of the underground newspaper that has glued past uprisings together." What he witnessed on his cross-country journey is an embryonic movement that might transform the country, just as a broad stream of populist radicals and reformers including Eugene Debs and Jane Addams, W.E.B. Du Bois and Teddy Roosevelt did a century ago. Or, at least, that's what Sirota hopes he found. Though he wears his ideology on his sleeve, Sirota's writing has none of the severity that stains much partisan prose. He makes fun of an Iraq war demonstrator who dresses as the Grim Reaper and carries a sign thanking Vice President Cheney "for keeping death in business this year." "The guy seems to have solid theme park experience," Sirota notes, "as he is actively posing for pictures with people much like a Disney mascot at Epcot Center." At CNN, he finds that Dobbs' lead producer is "married to a former illegal alien," a Brazilian who "overstayed her visa." Waiting in a Senate reception room, Sirota glances at a portrait of John C. Calhoun, the great defender of the indefensible institution of slavery, and observes, "Calhoun had Elvis' pompadour about a century before Elvis did." Alas, Sirota is a better reporter than political analyst. He gets some of his history wrong. For example, the Bonus Army that marched on Washington in 1932 demanded cash, not "medical benefits," and neither Canada nor Finland is now or has ever been a "socialist" country. Nor can one have much confidence in Sirota's claim that a variety of popular discontents may soon be converted into one big populist movement. He reports solely on projects dominated by white people, and he avoids the hard question of what an avowed communist who's trying to organize Microsoft employees has in common with a Minuteman who believes impoverished Mexicans are a dire threat to the nation's security. Some valiant members of "the uprising," such as Sister Pat and her allies, have been working on the same issues since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Others, including the Iraq war protesters and the angriest man at CNN, were roused to action only by President George W. Bush's multiple debacles. Their prospects, individual and collective, depend largely on the outcome of this fall's election and on how U.S. policymakers and corporations navigate the whitewaters of the global economy. That Sirota chose to call these rebels "populist" only adds to the confusion. Populism is a notoriously promiscuous concept. Conservatives use the term as a cultural weapon to bash academics, liberal movie stars and Democrats who don't wear flag pins. Progressives wield it as an economic cudgel against financiers and anti-union bosses. Commentators muse about politicians playing the populist card, as if it were nothing but a rhetorical tactic, available to any candidate at almost any time. Rooting for certain kinds of self-declared populists while accusing all the others of committing terminological fraud is no way to understand the phenomenon, either historically or now. Still, "The Uprising" is a hard book to dislike or dismiss. Sirota reports cleverly and in pleasing detail about a complex world of political conflict that the journalistic throng obsessed with presidential candidates and their handlers seldom notices. But his book opens with the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, evoking a revolutionary purpose his narratives don't support. It may have been more appropriate to omit Thomas Jefferson and quote Stephen Stills instead: "There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear." Reviewed by Michael Kazin, who teaches history at Georgetown University and is author of 'A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Sirota has insider access to major players and has fun critiquing politicians' genuflecting to populist sentiment to garner votes." Rocky Mountain News
"After so many decades of fake populism — of revolts by the wealthy, red-state fantasies, and stock-picking grandmas — could we finally be looking at the real thing? In this compelling book, rooted in history but as contemporary as this morning's newspaper, David Sirota gives us reason to hope." Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas? and The Wrecking Crew
"David Sirota is honest, uncompromising, passionate, and a brilliant communicator. He is the most important progressive voice we have in this country. The Uprising should be read by anyone who wants to understand exactly how the ordinary person has been sold out by the political system." Matt Taibbi, national political correspondent for Rolling Stone and author of The Great Derangement
"This book engages in the nearly lost art of reporting to tell us what's going on in the many places that the elite media can't be bothered to look. It chronicles just how fed up Americans have become, and nominates a few heroes for them to turn to: that great senator Bernie Sanders, or the activist nun Pat Daly, for instance. It cheered me a good deal to read how many Americans are finally starting to fight back against the rule of greed that has been our lot for too many years." Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy and The Bill McKibben Reader
"With a historian's and a journalist's storytelling gifts, David Sirota describes the populist tide that so many elites fear and ignore at all our peril: multinational corporations that rip off local communities as if they were resource colonies, a national security state that manipulates our young to bleed for that same empire, and a political elite more concerned with preserving its power than empowering citizens to become self-governing. Since leaving the Beltway behind, David Sirota has become a must-read chronicler in the populist tradition." Tom Hayden, author of The Tom Hayden Reader and Ending the War in Iraq
"A disparate collection of tales about Americans fighting against the economic and political tide that Sirota never succeeds in drawing together to make a compelling case that the populist uprising is upon us." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
David Sirota is a political organizer and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who has worked in state and national politics all over America. His first book, Hostile Takeover (2006), was a New York Times bestseller, and his column runs weekly in the Denver Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Seattle Times, as well as in other newspapers. Sirota blogs at credoaction.com/sirota. He is a senior fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and the founder of the Progressive States Network — both nonpartisan research institutions. He lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife, Emily, and their dog, Monty. Visit DavidSirota.com
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