The time to reclaim America has come, declares blogger and political columnist Sirota (Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government—and How We Take It Back, 2006).
He starts at the 2006 YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas, then moves on to a dozen other places where people are “mad as hell” about the monied elite’s domination of government. In Albany, Sirota zeroes in on the Working Families Party, which has exerted clout over Democratic politicians through a quirk in New York State’s electoral system known as “fusion voting” (cross-endorsing another party’s candidate), enabling disgruntled progressives to pull the WFP lever without throwing an election to a Republican. In Southern California, he spends an evening with the Minutemen who patrol the Mexican border looking for undocumented immigrants. This right-wing militia group, Sirota argues, shares the economic anxiety that motivates left-wing activism against corporate consolidation, outsourcing and tax cuts for the wealthy. In Washington, the author checks on two branches of antiwar activism: the anti-establishment “Protest Industry,” a ragtag group largely outside the political system; and a bunch of insiders he calls The Players, who try to change that system from within. Sirota hopes to demonstrate that the ingredients for a cohesive populist movement are all around us, if only those who would benefit from the demise of the American political establishment would join forces and make it happen. He damages his case with too many wide-eyed, faux-naïve asides—it’s especially unconvincing when Sirota, a former Senate employee, is shocked to “discover” that lobbyists have massive influence over the Montana state legislature. Winking bad-boy references (a hangover-induced vomiting spell halted by an epiphany that “it’s all connected”) don’t enhance his credibility either.
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.