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David Sirota Headshot

"Corporate Interests Have Literally Taken Over This Government"

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Some folks have asked me why I have written so much about John Edwards in the past few months. The answer can be seen in this short clip.

I have spent my career in politics working against what I have called the hostile takeover of our government by Big Money interests, whether it was working for people like Bernie Sanders, Brian Schweitzer and Ned Lamont; building the Progressive States Network; helping build non-corporate, independent media institutions; scratching and clawing to get a populist voice onto the op-ed pages of newspapers; or writing a book that's actually called Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government - And How We Take It Back.

When I came to the fork in the career path that everyone eventually comes to, I chose to take the harder path, as more and more progressives in politics are fortunately choosing to take. I didn't choose to sit in the peanut gallery and bitterly snipe at those in the arena, nor did I choose to become a part of the invisible culture of corruption - that culture in Washington which sees politics as a sport and ignores the immorality of the revolving door between business and government.

John Edwards, as shown by this clip, is speaking out on what I believe is the fundamental issue of our time - an issue that my book shows is at the core of every other issue, whether it is Iraq, wages, health care, retirement security, trade, immigration, global warming, you name it. That issue is what my book is all about - the hostile takeover of our government, or, as Edwards says, the fact that "powerful interests, particularly corporate interests, have literally taken over this government." And Edwards hasn't just been talking about it - he has made a crusade against this, the issue of our day, the centerpiece of his campaign. He has, in short, made it the very reason he is running (which also fits with his impressive career as a plaintiffs attorney going after corporate abusers).

Is he a perfect candidate? No. Are there other very impressive candidates out there? Absolutely (Aside: I was actually watching Barack Obama on Tavis Smiley last night and was reminded of just how impressive a person he is when he is unshackled from the Wall Street folks and D.C. insiders that surround him on his campaign - I can't help but like Obama, which is perhaps why he so disappoints me at times - I just know he has so much more in him).

However - and you can call me a cynic - I believe all of these candidates are, in some way, professional opportunists (And I say that about ALL politicians, even the best of them - Being a successful politician means seizing opportunities - that's just a fact). And in believing that, I then judge the candidates on what they decide their opportunity rests on. I don't really care why they came to see the opportunities they see. The only thing that really matters is what they see their opportunities grounded in - that is, what they see their political base as and who they believe they rely on for their current and future political survival and advancement.

These are the factors that tell us how politicians will behave in office, who they will act on behalf of, and what constituencies they think they answer to. Beyond all the gossip and the horserace and the pundit-driven chatter about which candidate has "charisma" and which doesn't, the only thing that really matters is what any of these people will DO once in office - and knowing what they perceive to be their opportunities and their keys to success is the best way to find out what they will do. Remember, Howard Dean was the longtime DLC-ish, NAFTA-supporting governor of Vermont, and then ran a populist campaign for president. Some of at first questioned the conviction of his conversion - but it became very clear that he had, in fact, gone through a real conversion in 2003 and 2004, and decided that his opportunity was to be a populist. We shouldn't question that - we should applaud it.

Some candidates believe their opportunities are grounded in triangulation, capitulation and appeasing Establishment power. Others believe their opportunities are grounded in bashing the powerless and scapegoating the voiceless so as to distract from real issues. Edwards clearly sees his opportunity in crusading against what, again, I believe is far and away the most pressing crisis of our time: the hostile takeover of our government by Big Money interests.

Though I clearly like certain candidates more than others, I haven't officially endorsed any candidate - including Edwards - because I'd like as many candidates as possible to see their opportunity in taking up this crusade as well. And as a previous column of mine shows, I mean that for both Republicans and Democrats.

You can say the whole "endorsement" designation is semantical. But I make the distinction because (and I know its hard for some folks to comprehend this) I don't see this presidential election as some juvenile high school popularity contest between individual candidates. This election - the first open-seat presidential election in years - should be about issues. In my view, the more candidates taking up the fight against the central criss of our time, the better.

So watch the short clip, and if it sparks your interest in reading more about how significant this hostile takeover of our government really is, pick up a copy of Hostile Takeover in paperback - and then join the fight in whatever way you think is most effective, whether that be working on a local campaign, running for office, starting a union drive at your workplace or writing a letter to the editor. Join the fight - because we need you.