Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

David Sirota – Really? How Did This Guy Make It This Far?

David Sirota has built his own personal celebrity in recent months – getting more column work, raising his visibility as a blogger, and appearing as a contributor on such broadcasts as the Rachel Maddow Show. It is with gleeful irony that I found his latest, perhaps worst and most intellectually dishonest and insulting piece of work, “Obama Ate the Left, And We Shouldn’t Blame Him At All. But What Do We Do Now?”

If anyone took him seriously before this mind-numbing rant, then please, be convinced – as I have been for a long time – that he is not someone with the intellectual heft, let alone the maturity, to be considered a legitimate analyst. Yes, tough words, but I have had enough encounters with him on DailyKos and read enough of his junk to last a lifetime.

He frames this discussion with the question, “Why hasn’t Obama appointed any movement progressives?” Now, let’s first take a step back. I have long taken issue with David and others’ definition of progressive, since they seem to have a very strict, iron-clad way of viewing it. So, the other day, I got into it with him on a DKos thread and asked him this very question – how does he define “movement progressive?”

His response?

Someone who has been involved in movement building, not spending their career inside of Washington and corporate law firms.

He cited examples of movement progressives in the past as…FDR and LBJ. FDR and LBJ not spending their career inside of Washington? These were the very definition of institutional candidates! FDR (besides being the cousin of a former President), served in Washington in the Dept. of Navy, was governor of NY and a long-time member of the Democratic institutional elite. LBJ – I mean, where to begin – LBJ spent the majority of his career in Congress, particularly as the Senate Majority Leader!

So, let’s acknowledge that Sirota either (a) has no idea about history or (b) is making this “movement progressive” stuff up as he goes along.

But in this most recent post, he explains how so many of us cult-ists got bamboozled by Obama: the answer? Celebrity! (thanks John McCain):

And the answer to the question, in my opinion, is because Obama effectively ate a huge chunk of the left. And really, Obama didn’t eat a huge chunk of the left, celebrity did.

What I mean to say is that we live in a culture that now organizes around celebrity – and Obama knew it, and knew that lots of left organizations aren’t really ideological – they are, if anything, organized around the Democratic Party and Bush hatred. So he basically figured out that if he could become a celebrity – and a Democratic Bush-hating one – he could swallow up a huge part of the “progressive infrastructure” and organize it around him (and all the hateful “if you question Obama, you hate Obama” comments that will inevitably be at the bottom of this diary actually confirm this!). And we shouldn’t blame him for being a “celebrity” – it’s not an epithet. And we shouldn’t blame him for seizing his moment. Not at all.


So now, because of this, you have a large majority (though not the whole) of his 10 million-person email list overarchingly organized around the celebrity Barack Obama – not really around issues (though certainly people can like Obama and support specific issues). That means he feels no real obligation to appointing “movement progressives” because he has his own movement – one that’s about helping, aiding and defending Barack Obama. Again, I say that not derisively or in anger at Barack Obama – I say it just to note an important fact.

Even as he later grudgingly realizes that Obama may ultimately be a progressives who gets these appointments to subscribe to his vision (sort of the only real point, isn’t it? I mean, who cares about personnel – the only thing that matters is policy), Sirota spends most of the post passive-aggressively telling us that people who supported Obama didn’t do so on issues, but based on the cult-of-celebrity of the person that is Barack Obama.

Let’s be fair, part of his has a point – Obama did indeed build a movement that isn’t tied to any particular institutional wing so he really can do whatever he wants now. But notice that Sirota, as always, relies on the extremely childish, straw-man argument that Obama supporters were “cultists” who can’t take any “criticism” of their hero.

It’s in this post, but also look back at some of his writing on DKos and the way he responds to comments – he keeps falling into this trap, continually calling Obama supporters blind supporters, insulting our intelligence with broad generalizations that include the notion that any criticism of David’s critiques of Obama MUST therefore come from cultists who can’t stand hear any criticism at all. In other words, Sirota isn’t ever wrong, and if we take issue with his analysis we are guilty of “blind worship” of Obama.

This is an adult. A columnist. A contributor on TV. Someone who uses this juvenile and pathetically insecure construction to ward off criticism. Look, he even populates his posts with pre-emptive attacks:

So he basically figured out that if he could become a celebrity – and a Democratic Bush-hating one – he could swallow up a huge part of the “progressive infrastructure” and organize it around him (and all the hateful “if you question Obama, you hate Obama” comments that will inevitably be at the bottom of this diary actually confirm this!).

Aha! See – criticism of Sirota’s posts are (a) automatically “if you question Obama, you hate Obama” types of criticisms, and (b) reinforce his essential argument that it’s all just a cult of celebrity!

When, later in my conversation on DKos with him, I said that some people I considered “progressive,” (although note, not “movement progressive,” whatever that means), Sirota wrote the following:

OK – thank you for this. If you believe Eric Holder, Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle are movement progressives (and I like some of them personally), then you and I aren’t living on the same planet. And I suspect you aren’t living on the same planet as most other people as well.

There, ladies and gentlemen, is David Sirota in a nutshell.

So, to re-cap:
1) Someone not that aware of history.
2) Someone who pre-emptively accuses his critics of being Obama cultists.
3) When push comes to shove, insults people childishly (but note how much he decries “personal insults” in his posts).

Criticism of Obama is more than welcome. But make it smart and relevant. David’s Sirota’s writings are neither.


November 24, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized |


  1. […] the most amusing figure to emerge in this post-election period has been David Sirota.  Now, I have slammed him previously for his shoddy work, his historical ignorance, and his intellectual dishonesty.  But I have to […]

    Pingback by Is the Left-Wing Netroots (As We Know It) Dead? « Strategy For Progress | January 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] railed against him before, so my feelings are nothing new. I’ve always felt like Sirota is an intellectually […]

    Pingback by The Sheer Idiocy of David Sirota, and How Sirota-Ism Is Ending the Netroots « Strategy For Progress | January 16, 2009 | Reply

  3. David Sirota is a tool. I can’t believe AM760 gave him his own show, acting like a vulture because Jay Marvin fell ill. He is sour, uncompassionate and loves to rail against those who support Obama, and whittle them down to Obamaworshippers.

    I can hear Holden Caulfield calling him by his proper name, “Phony”.

    Comment by DenverGirl | December 9, 2009 | Reply

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