David Sirota is an author, host of a morning show and syndicated columnist whose work regularly appears in the Coloradoan. On March 3, Strength Through Peace and the student group SERVE will bring Sirota to Colorado State University to give a talk titled "The Uprising Revisited: Lessons from the Midterm Elections."
"The Uprising," published in 2008, addresses what Sirota terms "the populist revolt" against concentrated political and economic power in the United States. He covers movements advocating state tax reform, urging withdrawal from Iraq, organizing technical workers, opposing immigration and opposing corporate malfeasance that don't always fit into neat "left-wing" and "right-wing" categories. Sirota said the only thing common to all "the activism and energy frothing today" is rage, and suggests the prospect of bringing all the different elements of the "uprising" together is a long shot at best.
I would suggest that the choke-hold maintained on U.S. politics by the Democratic and Republican parties is a major barrier to the effectiveness of populist organizing. Two examples illustrate this point: the way both the Iraq "war" and immigration have been used to advance partisan interests with little promise of addressing the underlying issues.
Groups closely aligned with the Democratic Party, including Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and MoveOn, used the occupation of Iraq as a major organizing tool in the 2006 elections. However, once the Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate, the opposition of these groups to war funding became strangely muted. Four years later, the U.S. military and its contractors still are heavily involved in Iraq, they are more deeply involved in Afghanistan than ever before, and the U.S. military budget is at a historic high. Democrats in Congress appear to have no intention of addressing the demands of the independent peace movement either for ending our country's occupations in the Middle East or for making significant cuts to the military budget.
Representatives of the tea party, which is closely linked to the Republican Party, used the issue of illegal immigration as an organizing tool in the 2010 elections. They targeted Republicans and Democrats who advocated insufficiently harsh measures against impoverished people who cross the southern border from Mexico and Central America in search of employment. Yet tea party activists offered little criticism of the role played by the North American Free Trade Agreement in driving mass immigration to the United States. Republicans in Congress have no intention of repealing NAFTA or helping Mexico and Central American countries pursue policies that would provide jobs for their residents.
Populist rage was channeled for partisan purposes. Unfortunately, neither Democrats nor Republicans in the U.S. Congress will address the root causes of militarism or uncontrolled mass immigration in the absence of a populist revolt that is far more conscious and independent than the disparate movements written about by Sirota in 2008.
It will be interesting to hear Sirota's current take on "The Uprising," in light of Republican victories in the 2010 midterm elections. Strength Through Peace and SERVE invite all to attend the free event March 3. For more information, visit www.cjpe.org/stp or call (970) 419-8944.