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Why Today’s Populist Uprising Could Be Great for Progressives

sirota-chart.jpg[Editor’s note: Please welcome David Sirota to Firedoglake. He’ll be posting irregularly over the next several weeks as part of an ongoing blog series from the national book tour of The Uprising. I’ll be posting these at OpenLeft and Firedoglake for the next few weeks as the tour continues. You can order The Uprising at or through your local independent bookstore. — dn]

WASHINGTON, D.C. – What you see here is a slide from the audiovisual presentation about THE UPRISING that I unveiled yesterday at a Campaign for America’s Future event in Washington, D.C. It is a graph showing Gallup’s survey that documents Americans confidence in different institutions – and, as my new newspaper column today shows, it is an image that should give us hope that today’s populist uprising is, in fact, a progressive opportunity…if we seize it.

In my presentation (which you can come see at many of the events I am doing all over the country in the next month), I make the case that today’s political topography resembles that of the late 1970s – just like back then, we are facing a Mideast crisis, a financial crisis, a potential inflationary crisis and an energy crisis (incidentally, the Washington Post’s front-page this week actually noted some of the similarities).

As you can see from the Gallup polling graph above, Americans had little confidence in Congress in the late 1970s – and that helped the Right use an anti-government message to take the uprising of that age channel it into the full-fledged conservative movement that has now dominated our country for the last generation.

Today, Americans have lost further confidence in Congress, which would seem to bode well for conservatives and their anti-government ideology. Except other factors have also changed – namely, Americans’ confidence in Big Business and the financial system. While in the late 1970s Americans were relatively confident in those economic institutions, today we are not, meaning progressives critique of corporate power and economic inequality can compete against the Right’s anti-government rhetoric.

But that’s only the beginning of why today’s populist uprising – though occurring on both the Right and Left – favors progressives.

Republicans have spent the last three decades handing over the government to Big Business, while making the GOP synonymous with those economic interests that the public is outraged at. Put another way, the graph suggests that progressives’ argument against BOTH corruption and unfair economic policies is precisely where the public is at this populist moment.

As I say in THE UPRISING, it remains unclear whether progressives will seize this moment and transform it into a moment of historic change. Today, the Democratic Party still hasn’t fully decided whether to cast its lot with the Bob Rubins and Wall Streeters who ran the country into the ground, or with the mass public that wants an end to money politics. That goes for Barack Obama as well.

As I told the New York Sun today, Obama has one foot firmly planted inside the establishment and has presented himself as having one foot outside the establishment, and the question remains whether he is a candidate who used the pretense of insurgency to be another establishment stooge or whether he is the real deal? I think he’s the real deal – but we will need a full-fledged social movement to make sure of it.

You can read the whole column at Creators Syndicate, Denver Post, Ft. Collins Coloradoan, In These Times, TruthDig or Credo Action. The column relies on grassroots support, so if you’d like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site. Thanks, as always, for your ongoing readership and help contacting local editors. This column couldn’t be what it is without your help.

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David Sirota

David Sirota

David Sirota is a political journalist, New York Times bestselling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver. His newest book, THE UPRISING, was released in June of 2008.