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.