The Uprising: Now Taking Place in a Community Near You

David Sirota’s The Uprising takes the reader inside several pockets of change across the country, and gives us a fuller understanding of those who are working to build a stronger nation from the bottom up by acting on their anger at ineffective government, rather than just trying to tune it out. Whether it’s the perennial “permatemps” of Microsoft who are still trying to unionize or the small business owners who are volunteering as “Minutemen” to call attention to illegal immigration, Sirota portrays a country of people who are feeling screwed and are joining the “subjugation psychology.” From left to right, these activists are not an angry mob, but an organized group of individuals concerned about their economic security and supporting a new breed of politicians who promise to do something about government corruption and corporate influence.

Sirota’s first chapter shows him “drunk” on the cause — literally passed out on the bathroom floor at Yearly Kos 2006. As a writer of his talent, I can imagine the literal intoxication he must have experienced at seeing how politicians were glomming on to bloggers, desperate to tap into the mouthpieces for their subjugation psychology messages.

After this disarming introduction, Sirota sobers up and tells it like it is, with stories of how the uprising has been successful, but also where there have been disappointments, such as Moveon.org playing “Washington games” and anti-war organizations preferring to create “astroturf” demonstrations rather than real grassroots organizing.

The successful uprisings, as Sirota describes them, are the smaller scale movements that push toward a definable goal. He shows how in Montana, for example, Democrats finally managed to break through the Republican stronghold on their government, fighting off regressive tax policies protecting corporate and moneyed interests, and passing tax relief legislation for the middle class.

I see our movement here in Cranston to preserve good-quality neighborhoods by refusing to allow industrial or commercial encroachment as a prime example of a Sirota-esque “uprising.” Like other successful stories in the book, people in Cranston organized, attended meetings, discussed the issue on blogs, and managed to push for real change.

But it cuts both ways — there are examples of uprising-mentality movements in Rhode Island that are not so progressive. A small vocal “uprising” might be seen in the bloggers at Anchorrising.com who continually point to state and municipal unions and benefits for low-income people as the primary reason for our state’s financial troubles.

Uprisings of all political stripes face many challenges, but they also have new tools to wield in their battles. For example, in his tour of the labor unions trying to organize the high-tech employees of Microsoft, he describes a blog called Mini-Microsoft which provides a place for employees to rage against the unfair labor practices of their employer. He noted that Microsoft keeps a close eye on the blog and responds to issues raised there.

The Uprising is a must-read for people concerned with politics at every level. In particular, Sirota lends credence to local activism and helps define the movements that are challenging the establishment and finding new and better ways to strengthen our nation.

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14 thoughts on “The Uprising: Now Taking Place in a Community Near You

  1. The description of anchorrising as “not so pregressive depends on what one means by progressive.It is a loaded term and has various meanings depending on the venue where it is applied,i.e.education or politics.

    Anchorrising allows all comers to contribute without a political vetting process,which occurs in other blogs(I’m not necessarily speaking of local ones here)and it appears Kmareka does the same.Such an open give and take attitude is certainly not regressive.

    On the other hand, certain “progressive” politicians like Art Handy,submit proposals for new taxes that are at their core very regressive,such as the expansion of sales tax into areas like clothing and services.People of modest income utilize such things as clothing and services.

    My point is that “progressive” is in the eye of the beholder.An organization like RIILE is politically progressive because it is a grass roots, non-party affiliated reaction to the utter and irresponsible inactivity of government with regard to the issue of illegal immigration.I expect to get flamed for this,but so what?Citizen initiative to me is a progressive way of getting things done without having to suck up to careerist politicians.

  2. For those who don’t know, RIILE is Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement.

    Joe, You should really read Sirota’s book. He spends a lot of time on the immigration issue and looks at it from the “spin” level of people like Lou Dobbs all the way down to regular folks, like a lawn service business owner who kept seeing his business undercut by services hiring illegal immigrants.

  3. Kiersten-I spent 21 years as an INS agent and I have very definite impressions of what has been going on in that area.There is way too much uninformed off-the-cuff rhetoric flying around.
    I recently discussed the issue with two people I would say are self-described “immigrant advocates”and I know they were surprised by some things I told them,altough they weren’t letting on directly.I mentioned RIILE specifically because I know they are civic-minded people who are not racists and are more angry with the government than with individuals who may be violating the immigration laws.It is a subject which makes politicians into cowards and panderers,neither of which is desirable.
    I have heard Sirota on radio,specifically NPR(yes, NPR)and he makes some interesting points which I don’t necessarily agree with.I like to read divergent points of view because in the end I make up my own mind.
    I think Rhode Island government is self-interested like most government.Politicians are most interested in obtaining and retaining power and most want to do it with the least amount of commitment they can manage on tough issues.
    I once got to speak with Jack Reed on the radio and I had sharp differences with some of his positions(long before the Bush administration)-he seemed very annoyed that I didn’t care for the way he represented the state,almost as if I had no right to say so.The nice thing about the USA is you can do that without fear of repercussions.There are so many “civilized” countries where you can’t.
    Trying to keep up with good books to read is really like shovelling sand against the tide.

  4. A couple of things.

    Not trying to quibble, but “progressive” usually means favoring policies that benefit the great mass of the people as opposed to those of business or economic elites. There is a very strong sense of economics in the term.

    E.G., in the early part of the 20th century, TR and his trust-busting was a progressive policy, as were policies to allow unionization, shorten work weeks, and women’s suffrage.

    As such, I would strongly disagree that Anchor Rising pursues anything resembling “progressive” policies. Admittedly, I generalize, but, generally speaking, the policies advocated there are pro-business and elitist at the expense of the working individual.

    And, as for them “welcoming” other opinions, I must respectfully disagree on that one, too. I used to comment there regularly, only to be “rebutted” by individuals who called me names–stupid, socialist, stupid socialist–and pretty much ignoring the content of my comments. These individuals included those running the site.

    Back to topic: immigration politics cuts across traditional conservative/liberal lines. Far-left liberals and far-right businesses tend to favor large numbers of immigrants.

    It is important to remember that people would not hazard the risk of illegal immigration if there were no economic payoff for doing so. They come here because companies give them jobs. Period. So-called “liberal” (or Liberal) policies have little to do with it. Attempts at interdiction will not work because mose illegals enter legally, and overstay their alloted time. They do not sneak across in the dead of night.

    So, if you want to reduce illegal immigration, you have to enforce the laws that prevent businesses from hiring illegals. There are far fewer businesses than there are illegals. This has not been done over the past 7 years because the current administration would not go against the wishes of its biggests financial supporters.

    However, I do heartily agree with Joe that a lot of so-called “Democrats” in this state are not at all Progressive. RI has a one-party system, and one-party systems are inherently and inevitably corrupt. People now become “Democrats” because that is the way to get inside the system. It often has little to do with ideology or outlook. Now that the Dems are the ruling party, they protect their interests by aligning themselves with the monetary elite. Hence the ludicrous tax cut for those making more than $200,0000.

    BTW, Joe, I find your comments thoughtful and considered, even if I don’t always agree with what you say. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  5. PS. Check out this link to Economist’s View.

    link to article

    It’s a discussion of the effect of immigration on low-wage workers. Especially, there is a link in the first comment from Elliot from IA. It’s a news story about a raid on an agribusiness in Iowa that employed large numbers of illegals.

  6. Klaus-I actually found that Mexicans and central Americans were more likely to enter illegally,and people from other parts of the world tended to overstay or violate terms of admission.
    These are generalizations of course-many Chinese aliens entered from ships or through Mexico.The biggest smuggling case involving non-Mexicans I worked while in Chicago involved Kosovars entering through Mexico surreptiously(this was in 1981-82!!)and in Rhode Island in 1985 we broke up a cross-border smuggling operation that brought about 10,000 Central Americans into southern New England over a 12 year period.It was headquartered in the Elmwood neighborhood.We indicted 13 people and convicted 10.
    Visa violators from places like Nigeria for example are seldom poor or uneducated,because to afford a plane ticket to the US and qualify for a visa,one has to be making way over the average income to begin with.
    In the case of Chinese aliens and with the Kosovars payment for being smuggled often involves indentured servitude.
    Just a few things I learned along the way.Here I was,raised in NYC and hadn’t a clue about the whole issue until I was hired by the Border Patrol.
    I’m glad you enjoy my comments-agreement is strictly optional.

  7. “But it cuts both ways — there are examples of uprising-mentality movements in Rhode Island that are not so progressive. A small vocal “uprisingâ€? might be seen in the bloggers at Anchorrising.com who continually point to state and municipal unions and benefits for low-income people as the primary reason for our state’s financial troubles.”

    These folks are NOT part of an Uprising. They are defenders of the corporate class looking for scapegoats– that is not populism– it isn’t even the Minutemen.

  8. I would agree with you, Pat and klaus. But I do think that the anchorrising crew and politicians like Laffey try to present as having an uprising-mentality. They are tapping into a similar anger to the type of anger that the minutemen tap into. Perhaps I should have said a small vocal “faux-uprising.”

  9. You know what we all share?A distrust of government-and that is a good thing according to the founders of the country.I don’t mean a paranoid”everything is a conspiracy”attitude either.Although there have been conspiracies.The destruction of electric mass transit was the result of collusion between the oil barons,auto makers,and tire companies.The re-introduction of “light rail” has become very expensive and slow to come to fruition,because of all the red tape these days.I say lay some track and string the wire and save billions on diesel fuel costs.The power for the electricity can come from many sources and reduces localized air pollution.The streetcars are MUCH more durable than buses and can run for fifty years with no problem.Check out the Ashmont-Mattapan Line in Boston to see what I mean.The destruction of mass transit between inner cities and the suburbs led to massive unemployment when industries re-located to the “ring” zones.How did I digress like this?
    BTW I regularly post on Anchorrising and I own no stock and I’m not wealthy,although I have nothing to complain about either.I don’t get the impression that there are many tycoons posting there.Most voter initiative “uprisings’depended on the middle class,including blue collar high wage people.I’m thinking of the original “Proposition 13″movement led by Howard Jarvis in California.
    I find it interesting that Common Cause has steadfastly opposed voter initiative because they think it’s dangerous.Does anyone beside me find that elitist?

  10. Kiersten,
    The book sounds interesting, probably because you brought the Cranston examples into the mix. I have to admit that I don’t usually read non-fiction, but I may have to check this one out.

  11. Joe, thanks for the input on immigration. Since you’re the one who worked for INS, I won’t argue. But I have read that it’s from overstaying more than once. Next time I’ll note the source a little more carfully.

    As for your comment on gov’t, I have to disagree somewhat. Yes, “gov’t” killed electric (and regular) trains through overregulation, but it was at the behest of the industries you mentioned. And the “red tape” that prohibits the transfer back from cars to transit is often spun from lobbyist’s money. If you look at the history of this country, the only entity large enough to stand up to big business is the federal gov’t.

    And it has to be the Fed. Most states can’t afford to risk losing the jobs, so they cave to business interests more often than not. Although now businesses are doing to the US what they’ve done in the state: threaten to move to another location.

    I’m sorry, but economic elites scare me much, much more than so-called “liberal elites” (whatever they are). Why? Because money is power. By concentrating money in the hands of a few businesses, or a small percentage of the population like we’re doing is to concentrate power.

    Take $4 gas. How many oil companies are there now? 3? 4? 6 at most? IOW, we have a de facto cartel. It’s not in their interest to lower prices, so prices stay high. There is no effective competition. And the cost of entry into the oil refining business is $10B and about 10 tens, so don’t count on any “upstart” companies appearing to drive down the price thru competition.

    So “elitists” like Common Cause can take a position. Big deal. But the real elitists–the ones with money–can do things. They can buy politicians, they can buy influence, and they can stack the deck even more in their favor.

    Why is Common Cause a problem, but an oil cartel isn’t?

  12. Oil is a complex example because of national ownership. In fact, 80% of the world’s current oil production is from national companies in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, etc., where the government owns the oil production companies. “Private” companies such as Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, Exxon, etc. The U.S. based private companies are pumping “old” U.S. oil, since they are preluded from drilling for new oil, and must purchase oil on the market to provide product beyond what the old wells produce.

  13. Klaus-I put the blame for the decline of public transit squarely on big business.Maybe my sentence structure seemd to blame government,but that wasn’t my intent.
    The red tape is frequently involved with “environmental impact” but for the life of me I don’t see how electric transit hurts the environment.In Europe they build light rail/streetcar lines constantly with little delay.asia is going that way also.There is an “everything old is new again” feel to the whole move to electric transit.
    There isn’t much one can do against oil cartels and I won’t spend my time being envious of rich people living an extravagant lifestyle.
    If you think “Mr.Hope and Change”won’t be bought off by the big power brokers you may be in for a surprise.
    I know McCain got his hands a little dirty with the S&L scandal,but on balance I trust him to some degree.
    The elites I referred to are those in academia.They are cushioned from reality by the milieu of campus life.
    This doesn’t apply to the science and medical disciplines where empiricism rules by necessity.
    There is really little to be done about the economic elites.I refuse to waste my time envying the extravagant lifestyles of the super rich.The oil cartels have a life of their own.
    The elitism of Common Cause is of the”we know what’s best for you dear,we can’t just let you have voter initiative,you might be irresponsible”variety.
    just because of my experience in INS doesn’t mean I am always right on the subject.I mean I’ve been retired about 12 years,so I am out of the loop.However,measuring illegal entries and overstays is difficult.The only precise measurement is apprehensions,which doesn’t allow for the ones not apprehended.Visa overstays can theoretically be tracked by comparing entries and departures by individuals.Very hard to do with the current technology and its application.The latter word being more meaningful in the context of the discussion.

  14. How did I repeat myself like that?I never got the hang of this computer stuff :).

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