Book review: ‘The Uprising’ |

Book review: ‘The Uprising’

Alex Miller
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to DailyBook: "The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington"

Appearing on a recent “Colbert Report” show, author David Sirota was asked by host Stephen Colbert if he was a revolutionary.

“Are you going to be like Che Guevera?” Colbert joked, “So college students can have your face on their shirts and not know who it is?”

Silly as that may sound, Sirota is serious about exploring what ails America with his new book “The Uprising.” It’s a disturbing series of portraits about what’s going on almost behind the scenes in America. While we focus on Barack Obama’s lapel pin and John McCain’s health records, angry white guys are camped out at the border on the lookout for illegal immigrants entering from Mexico. As the national media squabble endlessly about red states and blue states, people who don’t care much for either color are staging high-tech revolts through shareholder resolutions at ExxonMobil, while others sow the seeds of unionization at such unlikely places as Microsoft headquarters. The doings of Obama’s former preacher may consume many hours on shows like “Hard Ball,” but the most eyes are on populists like Lou Dobbs.

It’s no easy task identifying, categorizing and making some sense of the populist anger simmering in America, but Sirota does a nice job of it. “The Uprising” is not a polemic; it’s a piece of journalism that took the author across the U.S over the course of a year. He inserted himself with the Minutemen on the border, with the programmers angry at Microsoft for sketchy labor practices, with political operatives trying to get some steam behind an effective third party in New York. What he came back with is a portrait ” albeit incomplete ” of what Americans are really concerned about.

And it isn’t necessarily who inhabits the White House next January.

Sure, there are Republican and Democrats in Sirota’s story, but what really interests him are the efforts of those trying to effect change both outside of and in spite of the two parties. What Sirota taps into is the populist anger bubbling over among the vast swaths of the population who truly believe Washington represents the interests of big business rather than those of the people.

Sirota, whose syndicated column appears Saturdays in the Vail Daily, is relatively new to writing. Formerly, he worked as a spokesman for socialist U.S. Rep Bernie Sanders and later on the campaign of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer. While his credentials plant him firmly in the liberal camp, Sirota has no trouble skewering Democrats and Republicans alike, focusing his aim on those in either party who ignore their constituents in service to big business and their own selfish ends. In Sirota’s view, the U.S. Congress is a vastly dysfunctional entity that was gerrymandered into irrelevance long ago. Equally critical of the mainstream media, he portrays an America so angry at its leadership that people feel compelled to patrol the border as vigilantes just to feel they’re doing something. The people leading the “uprising” work outside the two-party system, trying in small ways to gain entry to the halls of power and make a difference.

Sirota’s conclusion appears to be that some small strides are being made, and that they’re coalescing into a broader groundswell that’s making a mark. The populist campaign of Ned Lamont, who beat Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) in 2006, is one example. Another is the formation of New York’s Working Families Party, which mostly supports Democrats but isn’t afraid to cross the line to support its populist agenda.

Since “The Uprising” fits on an already full shelf of political books, Sirota tries to differentiate himself by taking a first-person, feet-on-the-ground approach to his writing. Sort of a Hunter S. Thompson lite, Sirota is funny at times, self-deprecating and bordering on vicious in places. He’s only 32, so look for him to improve on his style, sharpen his aim and continue to expose abuses of power in subsequent books and columns.

“The Uprising” is a quick, fascinating read that succeeds in what it sets out to do: make your blood boil over the level of corruption and indifference that exists among those who are supposed to be leading the way.

This book is available at the Bookworm of Edwards.

Vail Daily Editor Alex Miller can be reached at

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