Badges of Honor in Fighting the Hostile Takeover

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET
  • David Sirota Newspaper columnist, radio host (AM760), bestselling author

The Washington Post today reviewed Hostile Takeover. The piece notes that "The concept behind Hostile Takeover is praiseworthy," says the book "is filled with facts along with the invective" and says "From the first chapter, no one will have any doubt that Sirota is no fan of lawmakers and regulators who in his view have been bought off or who have sold out." Reviewer Jeff Birnbaum then goes on to huff and puff about how awful it is that politics has become filled with such outrage and how the influence of Big Money in Washington supposedly isn't a black-and-white affair. His message is pretty clear, and pretty predictable coming from the Establishment: the public should just shut up and realize that the way things work in politics are way too complicated for ordinary citizens to understand and get angry about.

In the opening paragraphs of my book, I make clear that Hostile Takeover was not written to please the Washington Establishment. Our political discourse is teeming with books for the insiders, the lobbyists, the pundits and the politicians who view the public as "the great unwashed" - an odious throng that's unworthy of a voice in its own political system. Hostile Takeover is different - it seeks to show citizens how deep the rot is in our political system and how the anger in the heartland at that political system is justified. The book rips the veneer off those in Washington who tell us the pay-to-play culture they encourage is somehow nuanced and complicated and thus acceptable. It's neither of these things - it is crystal clear, and it is an outrage.

To those in Washington, it's just "business as usual" when energy legislation is written by oil lobbyists, health care legislation is written by HMO lobbyists and bankruptcy legislation is written by credit card companies. To those in Washington, it's no big deal that those lobbyists then reward politicians with tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions for that kind of access. To them, that's just the way things work, and anyone who complains about it or wants to change that system - even if it is the vast majority of Americans - is tarred and feathered by the Establishment's vast propaganda system designed to make us think this is just the way it should be.

Yet, suddenly, as all of these corrupt policies begin to crush America's middle class, people outside the Beltway are standing up and saying enough is enough. That popular anger, as we have seen, is then attacked as somehow "bad" or "wrong" by an increasingly threatened Establishment. We are essentially told that we, the public, shouldn't be angry, no matter how brazenly our politicians and political system are selling us out. This propaganda comes out in all sorts of nefarious ways. We see Wall Street factions within the Democratic Party form "think tanks" to attack organized labor and those who want our economic policies reformed. We see insulated pundits like the New York Times' David Brooks use his platform to demand the populists stand down. And we a corporate-funded apparatus in Washington continue to pass more and more policies designed to crush ordinary citizens.

Thus, the criticism of Hostile Takeover from Birnbaum today (and earlier attacks on the book by the Democratic Leadership Council) isn't surprising. This is a book that Washington doesn't - and shouldn't - want folks to read, because it actually tells the truth about the things that we're never supposed to even ask questions about, much less debunk.

But as I travel across the country, it is obvious that something fundamental is changing. I can see it in how well the book is selling (it made The Book Standard's political bestseller list again this week), and more importantly, in how people are no longer swallowing the Establishment's propaganda. That means the very real potential for change not just of party control of Congress, but of the public policies that shape what kind of society we live in. I make no apologies for writing a book that tells it like it is - no matter how many people in the Beltway don't want to hear it. The attacks on Hostile Takeover from the Establishment are a badge of honor. This is a time of optimism for the progressive movement and for all Americans who are interested in reclaiming our small "d" democracy. It is a time of optimism because we are finally openly fighting back against the hostile takeover.