By MARC McDONALD
In the following interview with BeggarsCanBeChoosers.com, author and political strategist David Sirota talks about his alarming new book, Hostile Takeover, which takes a look at how corporate interests have conquered American democracy. In this interview, Sirota describes how ordinary Americans have been sold out by a corrupt political system and explains what citizens can do to fight back.
Question: In a nutshell, what is your new book, Hostile Takeover about?
Sirota: It is about how Big Money interests now fully control America's government. There is no longer any distinction between these Big Money interests and the political system that purports to represent us. To really understand American politics we have to see that most of our politicians are acting as spokespeople for the Big Money interests that fund their campaign. Once we see that, we can understand why so many public policies not only do nothing to solve America's problems - but actually make those problems worse.
What was your motivation for writing this book?
Sirota: My motivation was to help educate citizens about exactly how deep corruption really runs in our political process. Most people understand that there's something gravely wrong in our political system right now. But most people are not following politics on a day-to-day basis. That's not surprising - as our economy has crushed the middle class, fewer people have discretionary time to follow politics very closely. My book is designed to cut through the B.S. and give folks a handy users guide so that when they do key in every once and a while, they can flip to the relevant section of the book and see how they are being B.S.'d.
Many Americans would argue that Big Money interests took over the levers of power in this nation long ago. If this is the case, then what would you say is any different about today's situation?
Sirota: What's different about today than previous years is how brazen the corruption is. Pay-to-play politics is no longer hidden from view. It's right out in the open for all to see. That is a sign of just how our government is more owned today by Big Money interests than ever before. That has been allowed to happen because we no longer have just one Big Money party in America. We have about one and a quarter or one and a third, and that has allowed the entire political process to shift radically.
What was the starting point for the hostile corporate takeover of America as we're seeing it today? What triggered this hostile takeover?
Sirota: It's hard to pinpoint an exact "start" of the hostile takeover. That said, I believe it came with Big Business's understanding over the last thirty years that it wasn't enough for them to own one political party (the Republicans). Over the last three decades - and particularly in the last 15 years - Big Money interests have bought a chunk of the Democratic Party. That chunk has decimated the forces that protect ordinary citizens in the political arena.
In Hostile Takeover you take the Democrats to task, as well as the Republicans. Is a third party the only way Americans can their country back?
Sirota: There are some tremendously inspiring third party movements out there, such as the Progressive Party in Vermont and the Working Families Party in New York. However, I still believe that the Democratic Party is the biggest, most powerful and most promising vehicle for real change. The party is in the throes of a battle for its soul - and I think we are seeing signs that that battle is going to be won by the courageous populists who are finally putting their feet down and saying, enough is enough, its time for our party to go back to its roots and stop selling out.
There's been a lot of speculation that perhaps the Democrats can take back the Congress in November and then start the ball rolling on impeaching Bush. Are you optimistic about the Dems' prospects in November and about the possibility that the nation could see real change for the better as a result?
Sirota: I am optimistic about Dems' prospects, but I am not as optimistic that Dems winning would bring real change because, so far, the Democratic Party has not run a campaign representing real change on major issues - only a change in who is running the show.
The likes of ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart wield vast power in our political system today. What can ordinary citizens do to stop the hostile takeover of America by these behemoths?
Sirota: There's no easy answer to this question. I spend a whole chapter in my book discussing this very question. As a preview, I will give you one idea: we need to focus far more locally. The media leads us to believe that the only place to focus our political activism is on the White House, when in fact ordinary citizens can have a far greater impact in the state, local and municipal arenas. This is why I helped found the Progressive States Network.
Overall, are you optimistic or pessimistic, long-term, that the hostile takeover of our nation can be halted or reversed?
Sirota: I tell people that if I wrote this book 10 years from now, the subtitle would not include "how we take it back" because I think there would be no way to do that. But I think right now we have a big opportunity to take our government back. The silver lining of the recent corruption scandals is that citizens are more outraged than ever about the corruption that is ruining our democracy. The question is whether any party or political movement has the guts to harness that outrage into action. I am optimistic that the progressive movement will - that's why I wrote this book.